China is the largest country in East Asia and the most populous in the world, with 1.3 billion people, it equates to approximately one fifth of the world’s population. China’s importance in the world today is reflected through its role as the world’s third largest economy and a permanent member of the UN Security Council. In addition, it is a nuclear state and has the world’s largest standing army with the second largest defense budget. It is a socialist republic ruled by the Communist Party of China under a single-party system, China is commonly thought of as one of the “super powers” of the world, and for this reason its seems, often left unchallenged.
The ideals of the Chinese communist party claim the “fundamental rights” of citizens include freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the right to a fair trial, freedom of religion, universal suffrage, and property rights. But events such The Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 which culminated in the Tiananmen Square massacre tell a very different story.
A series of demonstrations in and around Tiananmen Square, Beijing, led mainly by students and intellectuals, later joined by workers and civilians were one of the only attempts ever made by the Chinese people to exercise their “freedom of speech”. The movement lasted 7 weeks, there were estimated to be 1,000,000 people camping in Tiananmen Square (which ironically translates as Gate of Heavenly Peace) calling for political reform. As the numbers grew, so did the fear of revolution.
Late in the evening of June the 3rd 1989 the Chinese government ordered armed soldiers into the square, opening fire on the thousands of peaceful protestors and innocent civilians. Survivors have described how many people stood in the line of fire, frozen in disbelief – these people had been brought up to believe that the government “loved the people” – this violent attack was in such contrast to their beliefs that it was almost impossible to take in the reality of the situation. The true number of casualties that night will never be known, although the massacre caused widespread outcry and revulsion. The government quickly took all possible measures to cover up the event and people were forced back into line through threats, beatings and imprisonment.
The protestors of Tiananmen Square were unsuccessful in gaining political reform but they did shed light on the true intent of a power hungry inhumane system. Twenty years on, the government still denies knowledge of the thousands killed that night and anyone who tries to mourn the deaths of the protestors or pay tribute to their noble cause, is immediately either imprisoned or put under 24 surveillance.
The tragic events of Tiananmen Square prove the Chinese government’s claim regarding their people’s “fundamental rights” was mere propaganda. The many individuals who were killed and injured are a testament to the people’s struggle to attain these rights. Twenty years on, China is still ruled by a communist regime, the question is; what are the rights of the people? Do their “fundamental rights” exist?
When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it–always.