It's hard to believe that it has been twenty years since the Tiananmen Uprising that lead to the brutal crackdown by the Chinese government that resulted in the deaths or imprisonment of thousands of Chinese citizens. Many of the people gathered in the Square were college students and others who were staging a demonstration calling for greater freedom and democracy in China. Over a million people gathered in Tiananmen Square in an effort to be heard by government leaders in their plea for greater freedom.
I remember this day well, back in June 1989, because I was watching CNN report on the growing protests. At that time, CNN had a news bureau in Beijing and was reporting live on the demonstration. As I watched I hoped that this massive demonstration would lead to some real reforms and more freedom for the Chinese people. It felt like what I imagine the early days of the American Revolution may have been when a small group of dedicated men risked their lives to throw off the oppressive rule of a despotic King George III. At one point, the students even raised up a replica of the Statue of Liberty, right there in Tiananmen Square! I stayed up all night, until about 4 AM Eastern Time, not wanting to go to sleep until I knew how this would turn out. Chinese authorities then cut off all outside news sources and CNN was forced to turn off its direct broadcast from Beijing.
It wasn't until the next day that the true horror of the massacre began to be known.
Many people today were either too young to remember this event and even those who were old enough seem to not be concerned since it happened so far away in a country they knew little about.
Below is a video made as a tribute to and reminder of the Tiananmen Massacre:
BBC News has an excellent timeline of the events in Tiananmen Square here.
This is a very significant historical event and needs to be studied and remembered for a number of reasons. The most important being that all people on this planet have the right to be free from oppression and live their lives as they choose.
Throughout history there have been governments and so-called "leaders" whose lust for power and control over others has lead to horrible oppression , wars and the death of millions of people.
Second, but equally important, is being aware of the nature of governments to restrict the rights and freedom of its' citizens and to insure that it does not happen. As Thomas Jefferson said, "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance."
At the time of the Tiananmen Massacre, George H. W. Bush was President, and I keep expecting him to come forward and make a speech, perhaps warning the Chinese government against a violent crackdown on the demonstrators, but he said nothing, until after the brutal slaughter was over. Perhaps it would have made no difference, but I felt that a strong word of protest from an American President might have at least made the Chinese government temper its response to the protesters.
Most Americans don't think that such a thing as this brutal assault on the citizens could ever happen here....in the "Land of Freedom". But just take a long look at some of the things that have happened in recent years, right here in the United States. An undeclared war, started on the basis of lies and propaganda, illegal unwarranted wiretaps and spying on peoples' phone calls and emails, the torture of "suspects", held without benefit of legal counsel or trial, and many other violations of the Constitution.
Most of these unconstitutional infringements on the liberty of Americans was instituted under the Bush/Cheney regime, under the guise of protecting us from "terrorism", all the while restricting or eliminating the rights of the people. In the last election, we were promised "change", but our new President, Barack Obama, has done nothing to reverse these abuses of power and unconstitutional laws. He has supported the use of unwarranted wiretaps, protects those who used torture by refusing to even investigate those responsible, and continues wars of aggression, even expanding those wars into neighboring countries, such as Pakistan.
Maybe its time for the American people to take to the streets, as those brave Chinese did 20 years ago, and demand that their government and their leaders restore the rights guaranteed to them in the Constitution of the United States.