News Articles

30 years: Tiananmen rally promotes religious freedom

WASHINGTON (BP) — Human rights advocates including Christians marked the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre with a rally in Washington yesterday (June 4), calling the U.S. to hold China accountable for past and continued human rights abuses.

As many as 10,000 died and 28,000 were injured in the massacre while the Chinese government maintains it killed no more than 300, speakers said at the event held by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation (VOC) with many co-sponsors, including ChinaAid, the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice, the World Uyghur Congress and the International Campaign for Tibet.

The persecution of house Christians, the detention of as many as 3 million Uyghur Muslims, the mutilation and organ harvesting of Falun Gong and other prisoners of conscience, forced abortions, imprisonments, harassment and brainwashing are among current atrocities, VOC Executive Director Marion Smith said at the midday event on the U.S. Capitol’s west lawn. China mandates worship of President Xi Jinping.

“Here in the United States more and more Americans are beginning to see the Peoples Republic of China for what it is, an unreformed Communist dictatorship that tramples on human rights inside of China and threatens the peace of the world,” Smith said. “To sit by in the face of such travesties is to betray the memory of Tiananmen’s victims and our own national interests as Americans. Instead, we must continue their fight, serving as their voice and applying maximum pressure on Beijing for reform and accountability.”

ChinaAid President Bob Fu offered hope through Scripture.

“I want to read one verse from the Scripture in Psalm 10:17 to encourage us that those who are persecuted, those who are afflicted by the oppressors, your voice will never be forgotten, your fight will never be isolated,” Fu told an estimated 350 rally attendees. “We are with you. So you Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted, you encourage them and you listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed, so that mere earthly mortals will never again strike terror.” He read the Scripture in both English and Chinese.

Fu is also a key organizer of the newly formed Coalition to Advance Religious Freedom in China, a multifaith action group urging the U.S. to impose sanctions and otherwise pressure China to eliminate human rights abuses.

The Washington rally was designed not only to honor Tiananmen victims, ChinaAid English Editor Brynne Lawrence told Baptist Press in advance of the event, but also to “draw the conversation on China’s human rights abuses into the modern day.

“The Chinese government’s resolve to suppress freedom of religion and speech has only strengthened in recent years, resulting in thousands of victims,” Lawrence said. “Because of this, we cannot afford to let the Tiananmen Square murders fall out of the public eye, as they serve as a symbol of the Chinese people’s ongoing struggle for freedom and as a conversation starter for what that struggle looks like today.”

U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) said the crimes against women, including forced abortions and sterilization, are unprecedented. He foretold a day when China would be a land of freedom.

“We will call on Congress, it is bipartisan, and we will call on the president to be even stronger so that the next 30 years, and sooner rather than later, will see a matriculation from dictatorship to freedom and democracy,” Smith said. “Under Xi Jinping, we’ve seen a marked deterioration in the human rights situation on the religious front, whether it be the Falun Gong, Tibetan Buddhists, the Uyghurs in Xinjiang, or the Christians.

“Even the officially recognized patriotic church and Three Self movement are under a more aggressive siege by Xi Jinping,” said Smith, a ranking member of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China. Xi Jinping “has declared war on religion, and world leaders including in this Capitol need to speak out boldly and unambiguously against this attack against people of faith.”

Chen Guangcheng, founder of The Chen Guangcheng Foundation and an active student organizer at the time of the massacre, called on Congress to use the 2016 Global Magnitsky Act to force change. The act allows the executive branch to impose visa bans and targeted sanctions on individuals who commit human rights violations or acts of significant corruption.

Speaking through an interpreter, Guangcheng said the Tiananmen massacre was part of a nationwide suppression of freedom. He put the event’s death toll at 10,425 people and injuries at more than 28,000. More than 1 million people had gathered in the square by the end of May in a sustained protest.

“Ever since then, the Chinese regime has declared war on the people of China,” said Guangcheng, a rally co-sponsor. “We need to think about how we can make the Chinese regime go into the ash pit of history.” The Chinese people participate in more than 200,000 protests annually, he said, indicating continued hope for deliverance.

Among other event co-sponsors were Amnesty International USA, Human Rights Watch, the International Uyghur Human Rights and Democracy Foundation, Keep Taiwan Free and Women’s Rights Without Frontiers.