3 Jun 2019

Tiananmen Square: China minister defends 1989 crackdown

9:35 am on 3 June 2019

China has defended the crackdown on the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests in a rare public acknowledgement of events.

China's Defence Minister Wei Fenghe attends the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue summit in Singapore on June 2, 2019. (Photo by ROSLAN RAHMAN / AFP)

Defence Minister Wei Fenghe answered a question on the Tiananmen Square protests during a forum in Singapore. Photo: AFP

Defence Minister Wei Fenghe told a regional forum that stopping the "turbulence" was the "correct" policy.

In spring 1989, students and workers occupied Beijing's Tiananmen Square in a massive pro-democracy protest. Many were killed in a brutal clampdown by the communist authorities.

Reporting on the events is heavily censored in China.

Tuesday marks 30 years since six weeks of demonstrations ended with the Beijing massacre of 3-4 June.

(FILES) This file photo taken on June 2, 1989 shows people gathered at Tiananmen Square during a pro-democracy protest in Beijing. -

Thousands of people gathered in Tiananmen Square during pro-democracy protests in Beijing in 1989. Photo: AFP

Public discussions of the 1989 pro-democracy protests and their suppression are strictly taboo in China.

But after a wide-ranging speech about trade and security at a regional forum in Singapore, General Wei Fenghe was asked about Tiananmen by a member of the audience.

Mr Wei questioned why people still said China had not handled the events properly.

"That incident was a political turbulence and the central government took measures to stop the turbulence, which is a correct policy," he told the forum.

"The past 30 years have proven that China has undergone major changes," he said, adding that because of the government's action at that time "China has enjoyed stability and development".

His remarks came after Twitter issued an apology for suspending a number of accounts posting about China ahead of the Tiananmen Square anniversary.

A tweet on their public policy account said the company was working to challenge accounts that engage in "platform manipulation, including spam and other inauthentic behaviours".

"Sometimes our routine actions catch false positives or we make errors," the tweet read, adding that Twitter was trying to correct the mistakes.

Users had criticised the platform for blocking the accounts, using the hashtag #TwitterMassacre. Republican Senator Marco Rubio accused the company of becoming a Chinese government censor.

Protesters sought greater freedom and democracy

More than one million pro-democracy protesters occupied Tiananmen Square in April 1989 and began the largest political demonstration in communist China's history. It lasted six weeks.

Protests spread to cities and universities across the country.

The demonstrators called for greater freedom and democracy and an end to what they called dictatorship - others complained about inflation, salaries and housing.

On the night of 3 June, tanks moved in and troops opened fire, killing and injuring many unarmed people in and around Tiananmen Square.

Afterwards the authorities claimed no-one had been shot dead in the square itself.

The Chinese government has never said how many protesters were killed, although estimates range from the hundreds to thousands.

In this picture taken on April 1, 2019, school students sing the national anthem at Tiananmen square in Beijing. - Thirty years after the crackdown on Tiananmen protesters, the tanks that lined Beijing's central avenue have been replaced by countless surveillance cameras

Chinese schoolchildren sing the national anthem in Tiananmen Square. The military tanks that moved in to quell protests in 1989 have been replaced by surveillance cameras. Photo: AFP


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