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One of the most enduring images of the
twentieth century is that of a young man in a white shirt, facing down a column
of tanks rolling down a broad city boulevard. The date was June 5th, 1989, and
the incident took place in the aftermath of what is known in China as the June
Fourth Incident, but will be remembered by the rest of the world as the
Tiananmen Square Massacre. This week (today) we mark its twentieth anniversary.
The demonstrations began gradually, sparked by the death of pro-market,
pro-democracy and anti-corruption official, Hu Yaobang. Beginning on April
16th, 1989, workers, students, intellectuals and activists began to gather in
Beijing's Tiananmen Square and in other cities. Most were demonstrating
peacefully for a pluralistic political system, economic reforms and an end to
corruption. Within six weeks, some 100,000 demonstrators were encamped in
Seeing no end to the protests, the government declared martial law by the end
of May. Then, late on the night of June 3rd, the People's Liberation Army (PLA)
entered Beijing and tanks and armed soldiers crushed the barricades erected
around the square by the protesters and, using lethal force, began to clear the
streets of civilians.
The international community and ordinary Chinese citizens still do not know how
many people were killed or injured when Chinese troops and tanks entered
Beijing. The Government of China continues to suppress basic facts and all
public discussion about the Tiananmen protests and the subsequent massacre.
The United States continues to call on the Chinese Government to move forward
with a reexamination of Tiananmen, to release all remaining Tiananmen era
prisoners, and to cease harassment of the families of victims of Tiananmen.
These actions, together with steps to protect Chinese citizens'
internationally-recognized fundamental freedoms, will help China achieve its
goal of projecting a positive image to the world.