Canada Expresses ‘Real Concerns’ Over Beijing’s Human Rights Record on Tiananmen Anniversary

By Margaret Wollensak, The Epoch Times
June 4, 2019 Updated: June 4, 2019

The Canadian government marked the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre by expressing “real concerns” about the Chinese regime’s human rights record.

“We have real concerns about China’s behaviour in regards to human rights and we’ll continue to advocate—both directly with Chinese leadership, as I have every time I have sat down with them, and indirectly with our allies—call for better respect of human rights on this anniversary and every day going forward,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said when asked about the anniversary during an event in Vancouver.

June 4th, 2019 marks the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, where Chinese authorities sent the army to Tiananmen Square to crackdown on a peaceful protest that called for democracy and human rights. Hundreds of thousands of protesters were gathered in Beijing, and to this day it is unknown how many of them died on that day.

The event was remembered around the world, including in Hong Kong where tens of thousands marked the anniversary with a candlelight vigil at Victoria Square to honour those who lost their lives during the protest.

Thousands of people attend a candlelight vigil for victims of the Chinese government's brutal military crackdown three decades ago on protesters in Beijing's Tiananmen Square at Victoria Park in Hong Kong, June 4, 2019. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
Thousands of people attend a candlelight vigil for victims of the Chinese government’s brutal military crackdown three decades ago on protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square at Victoria Park in Hong Kong, June 4, 2019. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said in her statement that Canada was joining the international community in “commemorating the 30th anniversary of the violent crackdown against unarmed and peaceful citizens in and around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989.”

“Canada asks Chinese authorities to break the silence on these events by openly accounting for the Chinese citizens who were killed, detained, or went missing,” Freeland said.

Freeland said that the Chinese constitution allows for freedom of speech and assembly, however she said, 30 years after the massacre, “the struggle for basic freedoms continues for human rights defenders in China, including lawyers and journalists.

Freeland called on China to uphold human rights and release “those who have been unjustly and arbitrarily detained.”

Security officials stand guard in front of Tiananmen Gate next to Tiananmen Square in Beijing on June 4, 2019. (Mark Schiefelbein/AP)
Security officials stand guard in front of Tiananmen Gate next to Tiananmen Square in Beijing on June 4, 2019. (Mark Schiefelbein/AP)

The Canadian government has repeatedly called the detentions of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor by Chinese authorities last December as “arbitrary.” Demands for their immediate release have been met with angry dismissals from Beijing.

Canada’s relationship with the Chinese regime has deteriorated significantly since last December when Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Vancouver on an extradition request from the United States. Chinese authorities then detained Kovrig and Spavor in a move widely regarded as retaliation for Meng’s arrest, and tensions have only escalated since.

The two men are being held without access to lawyers or family, and they receive separate consular visits about once a month, while Meng is out on bail in Canada, staying at her multi-million dollar home in Vancouver while she awaits court proceedings.

Canadians Michael Spavor (L) and Michael Kovrig
Canadians Michael Spavor (L) and Michael Kovrig have been detained in China since shortly after Canada arrested Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver in December 2018. (AP Photo)

Calls for Improved Human Rights in China

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the European Union’s Federica Mogherini also urged China to address its decision to kill hundreds, perhaps thousands, of pro-democracy student protesters in 1989.

“We salute the heroes of the Chinese people who bravely stood up 30 years ago in Tiananmen Square to demand their rights. Their exemplary courage has served as an inspiration to future generations calling for freedom and democracy around the world, beginning with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of communism in Eastern Europe in the months that followed,” Pompeo said in a statement Monday.

Mogherini issued a statement on behalf of the European Union, calling for the release of human rights defenders and lawyers now in custody in relation to the June 1989 events, singling out activists Gao Zhisheng, Chen Jiahong, Huang Qi, Ge Jueping, Xu Lin, and pastor Wang Yi as political prisoners the EU urgently wants to see released from jail.

“The exact numbers of those who died and were detained on 4 June and in the subsequent crackdown have never been confirmed, and may never be known,” Mogherini said. “Acknowledgment of these events, and of those killed, detained or missing in connection with the Tiananmen Square protests, is important for future generations and for the collective memory.”

Tiananmen Square massacre
An activist stands in front of an image of a tank in Paris, France, replicating the scene where an unknown Chinese man, known as the “Tank Man,” stood in front of a column of tanks during the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing, to mark the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre on June 4, 2019. (Stringer/AFP/Getty Images)

Liberal Sen. Jim Munson, who covered the massacre in Beijing as a CTV television journalist, also marked the anniversary by making a statement in the Senate Monday.

“It’s difficult to watch people die. It’s difficult to watch people being crushed by tanks. And it’s difficult to be in a hospital, in the morgue section, and taking a look at the bodies that were once, moments before, chanting slogans about democracy and talking about freedom and that sort of thing,” Munson said in an interview with the Canadian Press Tuesday.

“What bothers me immensely is the erasing of history in China by the Chinese government, and the fact that the young people of today are not aware of what took place, and if you are aware you don’t dare to talk about it.”

With files from the Canadian Press.

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