|Protesters in Tiananmen Square, May 14, 1989 |
You do not change authoritarian regimes by enriching them while leaving their crimes against their own people unmentioned.
Twenty-seven years ago, thousands of brave protesters gathered in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square to demand political liberalization in the People’s Republic of China. The PRC’s brutal response was clear evidence that interaction with capitalist economies would not automatically result in political reform. The Communist Party, all too happy to reap the financial benefits the West offered, nonetheless refused to relinquish its authoritarian power.
|Hu Yaobang funeral wreaths at Tiananmen Square|
The situation came to a head in the spring of 1989 when, mourning the death of reformer Hu Yaobang, the Chinese people tried to take matters into their own hands. Their demands were simple: a commitment to democracy, freedom of the press, accountability for government officials — the sorts of liberties we take for granted all too often in America.
|LINK: Photos from 1989 Tiananmen Square|
At first the PRC reacted with caution, no doubt mindful of the simultaneous breakdown of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and its satellites in Eastern Europe and recalling the strong support that Soviet dissidents had received from the Reagan administration. But there was no similar outpouring in support for Tiananmen Square — no American leadership demanding that the walls oppressing the Chinese people be torn down. Emboldened, the PRC signaled that reprisals were coming, labeling the protesters dangerous subversives. The campaign against them culminated in the terrible massacre of June 3–4, 1989.
Over the intervening decades, the PRC has continued to profit from economic contact with the West while systematically blocking any internal attempts at liberalization. In one of its most egregious examples of political oppression, the PRC has subjected the poet, author, and political scientist Liu Xiaobo to years of harassment.
|Liu Xiaobo in 1989, second from right.|
When the Tiananmen protests began, Dr. Liu, then a visiting scholar at Columbia University, raced back to support them. The PRC arrested him for his activism and sentenced him to two years in prison. In 1996, the party subjected him to three years of “reeducation through labor” for continuing to question China’s single-party system.Read the rest of Cruz's op-ed HERE.
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