Tiananmen Square-A Catalyst for Democratic Reform

The lone protestor standing in front of a line of Chinese tanks at Tiananmen Square is perhaps one of the most recognizable photos in modern history. The image is over seventeen years old, but it could've been taken yesterday. That's because according to the People's Republic of China (PRC), their crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators never happened, and their citizens' calls for democratic change have gone unanswered.

In early June in 1989, Chinese authorities ordered the People's Liberation Army and other security forces to use lethal force to disperse demonstrators in Beijing, who had taken to the streets to call for those basic rights. It is believed that thousands were wounded and killed, mostly those protesting around Tiananmen Square. 20,000 people throughout China suspected of taking part in the democracy movement were arrested and sentenced without trial to prison or reeducation through labor, and many were reportedly tortured.



It was obvious to the world then as it is now - that lone protestor in the photo was not alone. That image is seared into our minds because he has come to embody the spirit of all the Tiananmen Square protestors; the passion by which the people of China desire to live in a free and democratic society. We stand still stand with them today.

Last night, we passed legislation in the House that condemns the ongoing and egregious human rights abuses by the Communist Government of China and calls on that government to, among other things:

Re-evaluate the official verdict on the June 4, 1989, Tiananmen pro-democracy activities and order formal investigations into the reported killing, torture, and imprisonment of democracy activists with the goal of bringing those responsible to justice;

Establish a June Fourth Investigation Committee, the proceedings and findings of which should be accessible to the public, to make a just and independent inquiry into all matters related to June 4, 1989;

Release all prisoners of conscience, including those persons still in prison as a result of their participation in the peaceful pro-democracy protests of 1989, provide just compensation to the families of those killed in those protests, and allow those exiled on account of their activities in 1989 to return and live in freedom in China; and

End its censorship of legitimate free speech on the Internet, and its persecution of Internet dissidents.

 

Part of the reason that the photo is so enduring is because it shows how strongly people feel about freedom. While the principle that all men and women are created equal and entitled to the exercise of their basic human rights is a belief that our founders protected in our Bill of Rights, people of other nations are not so fortunate. We must continue to help people foster democratic changes in their countries so they too can share those basic human rights.

 

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