Paul de Vries: What Can We Learn from the Tiananmen Square Protests Now?

Thirty years ago, from the world stage of Tiananmen Square, the world witnessed some of the largest, most dramatic, most creative, most passionate demonstrations of support for natural human rights.  For seven weeks, April 15 to June 4, gifted university students, articulate journalists, passionate workers, compassionate grandparents, and many others expressed the longings of their hearts for liberty, democracy, a free press, other human rights, and the abolition of government corruption.  These expressions of deep human longings resonated on many days in concurrent demonstrations in as many as 200 cities in China and in the rapt attention of 100s of millions of people watching on TV news broadcasts around the world.

Then came the crackdown, starting with a martial law declaration on May 19.  At first the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) refused to move against the demonstrators.  The “people’s” army was initially dissuaded by the people – of course! – through gifts of cups of hot tea, honest conversation with citizens, and copies of news reports on the current issues, written by courageous, temporarily liberated journalists.  However, when the government leaders threatened to execute army generals who did not move with force to shut down the demonstrations, the PLA attacked, overran, and massacred thousands of their fellow citizens.

The world responded quickly.  The leaders of fellow socialist dictatorships gave open support to the Chinese government, publically “justifying” the horrific violence against defenseless citizens.  In contrast, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher expressed “utter revulsion and outrage” at the “indiscriminate shooting of unarmed people” and threatened to discontinue normal business with Chinese authorities.  The Netherlands froze diplomatic relations with China.  Universally, ordinary Americans were deeply revulsed by and profoundly angry at this brutal attack against unprotected, peaceful demonstrators and against the basic human rights of liberty and justice.

However, our President George H. W. Bush merely announced a suspension of military sales to China – even though there were no sales agreements with China at that time, anyway!  President Bush also communicated to the Chinese leaders privately that this vicious military action murdering thousands of unarmed civilians was strictly a Chinese “internal affair.”  Even the impending state visit of Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Qichen to Washington DC was neither canceled nor even postponed! It proceeded as scheduled on June 12, barely a week after the brutal massacre of thousands of articulate Chinese human-rights demonstrators. “Now is the time to look beyond the moment to important and enduring aspects of this vital relationship for the United States” was President Bush’s chilling perspective.  He considered it “realism” to effectively ignore even an enormous human-rights catastrophe!

Far more encouraging were the devoted responses of oppressed citizens suffering under eastern European dictatorships.  They were inspired first by the positive, liberty-loving messages from Tiananmen Square and then were awakened to action by their own dictators’ endorsements of the brutal murders of thousands of peaceful Chinese demonstrators.  As a result, courageous eastern European citizens soon overthrew their own socialist dictators and boldly proclaimed liberty in their nations within the next six months, as I described in an earlier essay.

So, are there any ongoing lessons from those historic 1989 events in Tiananmen Square for us now in 2019?  Absolutely!  And here are three:

First, it remains a huge, memorable sign of international hope that a love of democracy, liberty, and other innate human rights can grow, be strong, and even stimulate inspiring, creative expressions – even among people who have not yet been nurtured or enculturated into the love of liberty and other human rights.  The Tiananmen Square demonstrators gave the rest of the world a dramatic confirmation that all people are created equal and are truly Divinely endowed for life, liberty and other elemental, natural rights.

Click here to read more.

SOURCE: Christian Post, Paul de Vries