Jun 04 2009

Graham Commemorates 20th Anniversary of Tiananmen Square

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today placed this statement in the Congressional Record on the 20th Anniversary of the brutal crackdown in Tiananmen Square.

"Mr. President, today marks a somber anniversary. Twenty years ago today, months of peaceful protests throughout China culminated with the violent deaths of hundreds, if not thousands, of Chinese citizens advocating for democratic reforms. It is with sadness that we mark this occasion, but it is also an opportunity to renew our call for political reform in the People's Republic of China.

"One of the first things you see when you walk into my office is a large poster depicting the iconic image of a lone man staring down a line of Chinese tanks. This image has come to symbolize the worldwide struggle for democracy, the rule of law, and the promotion of basic human rights.

"Unfortunately, a generation of students in China can't identify the image or tell you about the events leading up to June 3rd and 4th, 1989. This is because China has failed to acknowledge or account for the actions that led up to this event.

"While the intervening years since the tragedy have seen China grow into a rapidly developing country, economically intertwined with the rest of the world, China's failure to deal with the Tiananmen events prevents the nation from making the political reforms necessary to truly become a respected member of the international community.

"In the years following Tiananmen, leaders of the Communist Party of China including Jiang Zemin, declared, "If we had not taken absolute measures at the time, we would not have the stability we enjoy today. A bad thing has turned out to be good."

"General Chi Haotian, the General in charge of the People's Liberation Army's response to the protest later stated that, "I can tell you in a responsible and serious manner that at that time not a single person lost his life in Tiananmen Square."

"Leaders of the military crackdown such as Deng Xiaoping and Li Peng, have never been held accountable for the actions of the People's Liberation Army and there has never been an official acknowledgement of the number of protesters killed or put in prison. Some accounts have claimed that more than 20,000 people were arbitrarily arrested and held without trial. A number of these people remain in prison today.

"Today would have been a landmark occasion for the Chinese government to announce that they were starting an independent and open investigation relating to the events of June 4, 1989. However, other than checkpoints set up in Tiananmen Square and efforts by the Chinese government to prevent international media outlets from filming in the square, there are no signs that today is anything other than an ordinary day in China.

"While the events of twenty years ago by the Chinese government launched a coordinated effort to prevent further unrest, it also helped crystallize a movement that continues today.

"Democracy advocates in China have built upon the legacy of Tiananmen and have led various efforts to force accountability and political reforms. All who watch China applaud the tireless work of Ding Zilin, the leader of Tiananmen Mothers, Liu Xiaobo and the rest of Charter 08, as well as countless others such as Jiang Qisheng who continue to face intimidation and imprisonment, yet persist with their cause.

"They can rest assured that ultimately their efforts will be successful. Today's world is increasingly interconnected. Communication and travel have gotten easier, and with the development of the internet, despite censorship efforts, information is becoming more readily available to the Chinese people.

"Every day it becomes more difficult for the Chinese government to keep its people in the dark. They will find out about Tiananmen, they will find out about how the outside world operates, they will demand changes at home."