In the spring of 1989, millions of Chinese peacefully seized control of their own capital and demanded democracy. After then-Premier Li Peng declared martial law on May 19th, the people of Beijing, not just students, responded by setting up bus and truck barricades to protect the demonstrators’ command post in Tiananmen Square. But on the morning of June 4th, 20 years ago today, China’s rulers sent in tanks and soldiers to regain control. The Chinese government claims only 241 people died that day, but the Chinese Red Cross puts the number at 2,600.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton released a statement yesterday calling on Chinese authorities to “provide a public accounting of those killed, detained or missing, both to learn and to heal.” As noble as Secretary Clinton’s sentiment is, America’s authority to lead on human rights in China was significantly undermined earlier this year when Clinton tabled human rights issues during her February trip to the country in favor of the Obama administration’s global warming concerns.
Clinton is not the only U.S. politician that has abandoned her past concern for human rights in China. Just this past month, Speaker Nancy Pelosi avoided any talk of human rights during her China trip, also prioritizing global warming over all other concerns. And Pelosi used to be a leader for human rights in China. In 1991 she helped unveil a banner in Tiananmen Square honoring “those who died for democracy in China.” But last week this was all she could muster: “In every country, not just China and the U.S., the global climate crisis is best surmounted with transparency and openness, respect for the rule of law and accountability to the people.”
Those who saw their friends die 20 years ago today, and still face persecution from the current Chinese regime, feel betrayed by the current leadership’s shift in focus. Wang Dan, who once topped the Chinese government’s most wanted list of Tiananmen leaders, told an audience at the Heritage Foundation Monday:
I’m really disappointed … that the whole international community has just turned their back to the human rights issue. I think that’s sad because the people inside China really had some hope from the concern from the international community because they have no other means to try to pursue democracy. If the United States really wants to keep its status as a stronger power, they cannot just make friends with the Chinese government but also make friends with the Chinese people.
- Waiting until after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton left the conference, the Organization of American States voted to lift Cuba’s 47-year suspension from the group with a resolution that Ecuador’s foreign minister Fander Falconi insisted had “no conditions — of any kind.”
- Thanks to exploding government spending, one of every six dollars of Americans’ income is now coming in the form of a federal or state check or voucher, the highest percentage since the government began compiling records in 1929. In all, government spending on benefits will top $2 trillion in 2009 — an average of $17,000 provided to each U.S. household.
- Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke warned yesterday that runaway budget deficits, if sustained, could deepen the financial crisis and choke off the economy.
- Thanks to worldwide government borrowing many countries are paying higher interest rates on their rapidly expanding debt which will sap economic growth by forcing up rates on debt held by companies, homeowners and consumers.
- The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation indefinitely postponed a central element of the Obama administration’s bank rescue plan on Wednesday, acknowledging that it could not persuade enough banks to sell off their bad assets.