Witnesses to the Tiananmen Square massacre shared their stories in Seattle Tuesday to remind people of the Chinese government’s violent repression of the past and human-rights violations in the present.
Dozens of Seattle residents attended an event held in Westlake Park by Seattle’s Chinese Democracy and Human Rights Alliance to commemorate the anniversary of the violent crackdown. Jin Xiuhong, chair of organization, led a moment of silence before sharing her story.
“Thirty years ago today, I was in Tiananmen Square,” she said. “Millions of people were on the street.”
At the time, she was a journalist in Beijing who joined the student-led protest, driven by her desire for freedom of speech and democracy.
The seven-week-long protests ended in bloodshed. Jin was injured while organizing barricades to stop the Chinese military near the square. Once there, soldiers fired heavily into crowds of protesters. It’s not known how many people were killed by government forces in the violence, but estimates put the death toll in the hundreds, if not thousands.
Jin has organized commemorative events over the years in Seattle to remind people of the carnage, and to call on the Chinese government to tell the truth about what occurred.
In a Monday statement, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also called for accountability, urging China to “make a full, public accounting of those killed or missing.”
Speakers at the Seattle event, including Zhang Lin, who spent time in prison for organizing students during the pro-democracy movement, shared their stories of the past. But many also criticized China for its current repression, such as surveillance and restricting citizens’ access to information. In response to this year’s anniversary, the Chinese government tightened control of information.
Former U.S. Senator Slade Gorton spoke at the event, calling for a democratic form of government in China. While representing Washington state in Congress, Gorton sponsored the Chinese Student Protection Act of 1992 to allow some Chinese students at American universities to apply for permanent residency.