Cardinal Zen, U.S. legislators commemorate Tiananmen Square massacre

Tiananmen vigil People light candles at a Tiananmen vigil at Victoria Park in Hong Kong, June 4, 2020 | Yan Zhao/AFP via Getty Images

Cardinal Joseph Zen, the bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, on Friday prayed for the victims of the Tiananmen Square massacre on the 32nd anniversary of their deaths.

He also called for justice in his homily at a memorial Mass on Friday, reported by AsiaNews. 

“We refuse to be pessimistic,” Cardinal Zen said. “We will not be disappointed. In the remembrance of the dead – those killed 32 years ago, our prayer is also for the Lord to lead the rulers to walk on the path of justice and peace.”

On June 4, 1989, Chinese protestors were killed by the government after nearly two months of pro-democracy protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. The Chinese government killed the protestors with tanks and gunfire. Although the regime claimed that 241 people died and 7,000 were wounded, a diplomatic cable from the British ambassador to China at the time said that at least 10,000 people were killed.

Authorities in Hong Kong for the second year in a row have curtailed planned events to commemorate the massacre, purportedly for pandemic-related reasons. In 2020, thousands defied police to take part in commemorations. Seven churches in Hong Kong had planned candlelight vigils to commemorate the massacre.

Chinese mainland authorities have seized greater power in Hong Kong, after the imposition of a national security law on the region in 2020.

Cardinal Zen said on Friday that the massacre may “gradually go far from us, but it seems to reappear before our eyes.”

U.S. politicians from both sides of the political aisle also spoke out on the anniversary of the massacre. 

“These individuals had a noble and simple request: Recognize and respect our human rights, which are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said of the Tiananmen demonstrators. “Instead of meeting this request with dignity and open debate, PRC authorities responded with violence.” 

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) issued a similar sentiment, saying that “June 4 is a date that is, and must always be, seared into the consciousness of all freedom-loving people.” She referred to the massacre as “horrific.”

“While China has changed over the past generation, its government’s appalling human rights record has not. The international community must continue to speak out strongly, with one voice, in defense of all persecuted by Beijing: the Tibetans, whose religion, culture and language Beijing is brutally trying to erase; the people of Hong Kong, whose basic rights are crushed daily; the Uyghurs, subject to a campaign of genocide; and the countless innocent human rights activists languishing in prison cells on the mainland,” she said.

Pelosi has called for a diplomatic boycott of the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympics, scheduled to be held in Beijing.  

“The world cannot proceed as if there is nothing wrong with holding the Olympics in a country perpetrating genocide and committing mass human rights violations,” she said. “Silence on this issue enables China’s abuses.”

Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Memorial Hall of the Victims of Communism, said that Americans must recommit “to the freedom of every man, woman, and child living in China.”

“We must dare to hope, never grow weary in doing good and tenaciously work for that better day—utterly convinced that the Chinese Communist Party’s cruelty, depravity, and selfish governance need not be forever,” said Smith. 

Smith said that “the United States must be a leader, advocating for greater freedom and democracy, levying sanctions for those complicit in corruption and abuses including expanded use of Magnitsky Act penalties.”          

“A democratic China—one that respects human rights and is governed by the rule of law—poses no threat to its own people, the region, or the world,” said Smith. “I believe someday China will be free.”

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