Chinese dissidents are looking back at the 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.
June 4 marks the 30-year anniversary of the demonstrations. On that day, Chinese troops opened fire to break up the student-led protests. Rights groups and witnesses say hundreds or even thousands of people may have been killed in the unrest.
The Tiananmen Square protests remain one of the most politically taboo subjects in Chinese society today. China’s government and ruling Communist Party have no official plans to mark the event. The government has never provided an official description of the violence, identified how many people died or investigated officials responsible.
Wu’er Kaixi was a well-known student leader of the Tiananmen Square protests. He fled the country after the military broke up the demonstrations. He had been put on the government’s most-wanted list for his involvement in the pro-democracy movement.
Wu’er Kaixi is now 51 years old. He lives in Taiwan with his wife and children. He told the Associated Press he is still trying to keep memories of Tiananmen Square alive. “Sometimes remembrance is one of the most humble forms of resistance,” he said.
Wu’er Kaixi added: “Let’s look at what the Chinese regime is clearly. It’s a group of people who stole the position of ruling China - one of the largest counties in the world - and they’re taking advantage of that position to do one thing: loot.”
Wang Dan was another leader of the pro-democracy movement during the Tiananmen Square protests. At the time, he was a young student attending Peking University.
Wang was on the Chinese government’s most wanted list after the protests. He was arrested and served two terms in jail before being freed in 1998. He then received permission to move overseas.
The dissident now lives in the United States. Wang says he is still attempting to inform people about the need to bring democracy to China. “It is time for us now - for the whole democratic countries now - to re-recognize the true face of the (Communist Party of China) and try to learn some lessons from the Tiananmen massacre,” he said.
Wang is also calling on Western nations to link China’s human rights record to trade relations as a possible way to force change. “China becomes a threat for the free world, and in my opinion, I think it is time to relink trade and human rights issues. That might be the only way to deal with this problem,” he said.
Dissident Pu Zhiqiang was a student during the Tiananmen Square demonstrations. At the time, he pressed the government for free speech and freedom of the press.
Looking at old pictures of his younger self and others 30 years later, the dissident said he believes the aims of the protesters were mostly pure.
“We hoped that China could change for the better,” said Pu, now 54. “As a 24-year-old, presented with this chance to serve society, had I not played a role at all, not made my voice heard, I would not have been able to forgive myself,” he told The Associated Press.
Longtime Hong Kong democracy campaigner Chu Yiu-ming was in his 40s when he joined the demonstrators in Tiananmen Square. Chu, a Christian clergyman, helped get dissidents out of China after the bloodshed. He later helped lead major pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong in 2014.
Speaking with the Reuters news agency, Chu said he thinks the political situation in China seems worse today than in 1989. “Regarding China’s political situation, I feel even more pessimistic,” Chu said. “The students back then were opposing corruption… but now things are more serious than in 1989.”
I’m Bryan Lynn.
Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English. His story was based on reports from the Associated Press and Reuters. George Grow was the editor.
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Words in This Story
taboo – adj. not acceptable to talk about or do
humble – adj. not proud; not thinking of yourself as better than other people
regime – n. a system of government or other control, especially one that people do not approve of
take advantage (of something) – v. treating people badly in order to get something from them
loot – v. to steal
massacre – n. the violent killing of many people
pessimistic – adj. always believing that bad things will happen