The dead of Tiananmen Square should not be forgotten
Uyghur Human Rights Project, 2 June 2017
[Press Release] The Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) stands with Chinese democrats on the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre and expresses its support for the ideal of freedom voiced by the ordinary citizens of China 28 years ago.
UHRP calls on the Chinese government to tell the truth about the killings of ordinary Chinese citizens on June 4, 1989 and to offer justice to all victims of Chinese state violence.
UHRP believes that commemorating the Tiananmen Square Massacre is as important now as at any point in recent Chinese history given the increasing authoritarianism of Xi Jinping’s administration and the other unaccounted mass killings of demonstrators in China.
“The Chinese government wants the world forget the massacre of peaceful demonstrators on June 4, 1989 on Tiananmen Square. It would rather the world conduct business as usual without testament to the loss of hundreds of innocent lives. Responsible governments worldwide should demand Chinese officials be held to account for gross human rights violations before Beijing assumes the role of global leadership,” said UHRP Director, Omer Kanat in a statement.
Mr. Kanat added: “The demand for justice and truth does not stop at Tiananmen Square. Uyghur families still do not have an honest account for the loss of their loved ones killed by Chinese security forces in Ghulja in 1997 and in Urumchi in 2009. Without proper independent investigation, these open wounds continue to create suspicion toward the Chinese authorities.”
Since the massacre of unarmed protestors on Tiananmen Square in 1989, human rights organizations have documented massacres of ethnic minorities involved in public demonstrations against the Chinese state. In East Turkestan, this includes state violence committed against Uyghurs on February 5, 1997 in Ghulja and July 5, 2009 in Urumchi.
Furthermore, credible reports of killings of Uyghur demonstrators during 2013-14 have not received proper investigation. China’s tight control of information and the extreme lack of transparency surrounding incidents of state violence in East Turkestan should cause alarm among independent observers. Incidents in Alaqagha in May 2014 merit further examination, as do allegations of state violence in Hanerik (June 2013), Siriqbuya (November 2013) and Elishku (July 2014).
Among the student protestors at Tiananmen in the spring of 1989 was a young Uyghur student, Örkesh Dölet (widely known by his Chinese name, Wu’er Kaixi). Örkesh, who had been studying at Beijing Normal University, confronted Premier Li Peng on national television about the need for the central government to listen to the people and their demands for political and economic change. Following the government’s violent crackdown on demonstrators, Örkesh’s name was the second on a list of 21 most-wanted student leaders of the Tiananmen protests.
The preamble to the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people.” It is in this spirit, UHRP calls on responsible governments to hold China to account for gross human violations committed against peaceful protestors.