China’s defence minister Wei Fenghe on Sunday defended the military crackdown on the student-led protests at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989, saying the Communist Party of China’s (CPC) decision to quell the protests have resulted in stability since then.
Next Tuesday, June 4, will mark 30 years of the pro-democracy and reform protests, which ended after the CPC ordered a crackdown by the military, allowing them to use armed personnel and tanks on the students. Wei was responding to a question on the protests from a member of the audience at the dialogue. The Tiananmen protests were “political turmoil that the central government needed to quell, which was the correct policy,” reports quoted him as saying.
It is rare for top Chinese officials to publicly acknowledge the Tiananmen protests and mention of the protests is scrubbed from China’s social media platforms.
Defence minister, Wei Fenghe, made the comments after delivering his speech at the Shangri La Dialogue in Singapore earlier on Sunday. “Everybody is concerned about Tiananmen after 30 years,” reports quoted the Chinese defence minister saying.
“Throughout the 30 years, China under the Communist Party has undergone many changes — do you think the government was wrong with the handling of June 4th?” “There was a conclusion to that incident. The government was decisive in stopping the turbulence. Due to this, China has enjoyed stability, and if you visit China you can understand that part of history,” said Wei Fenghe in Singapore.
Sporadic protests broke out after the sudden death former CPC general secretary, Hu Yaobang in April that year. Subsequently, the protests spread with hundreds of thousands of students and citizens marching, and then camping, at Tiananmen Square. They called for political and economic reforms and transparency.
The protests ended violently after soldiers and tanks pushed them out of the Square and surrounding areas. The Chinese government has never revealed the casualty figures; estimates range between hundreds and thousands.
“Thirty years after the Tiananmen Massacre, Chinese authorities have not acknowledged the atrocity or provided justice for the victims and their families,” said Yaqiu Wang, China researcher at New York-based Human Rights Watch.
“The whitewash of Tiananmen and heightened repression across China have fueled activists’ determination to fight for human rights,” Yaqiu said in a statement.
A 2019 University of Toronto and the University of Hong Kong study found that at least 3,237 keywords referencing the Tiananmen massacre are censored.
A 1990 Cantopop song, “Human’s Path,” was scrubbed from Chinese online music stores, including Apple Music, even though the lyrics only reference Tiananmen indirectly, the HRW added.