June 4th 2018 is the 29th anniversary of the massacre on Tiananmen Square, in Beijing. We mark this event with GCRL Honorary Member Jianli Yang who has launched a petition to ask Chinese President Xi Jinping to reveal the fate of the “Tank Man”.
Jianli Yang: The photograph of the Tiananmen “Tank Man” is one of the most famous images in the 20th century, but to this day we don’t who that Tank Man was. His identity and his fate remain secret, unknown. We all know what he did on the morining of June 5th 1989, the second day of the Tianamen massacre. He stopped a string of tanks moving towards the Tiananmen Square. He became an image of a single citizen standing up to violent authority. He has become such an inspiring image, and because of China’s effort to control the truth about the Tiananmen massacre, we still don’t now who he is. So three years ago I started a campaign looking for this hero. In China those who dare to remember will face serious, severe persecution, so the work I’m doing can only be done overseas in the sense that we can mobilize people around the world to ask the leader of China one question: what happened to this man? This is what the campaign is about. I began this campaign trying to collect as many signatures as possible on a petition addressed to Xi Jinping, the leader of China. Next week we will mark the 29th anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre. I want to mobilize people around this memorial day and to gain momentum to collect more signatures on this petition. My hope is that some day we can collect millions of signatures, even tens of millions all around the world. It will mean that the whole world is asking one question: what happened to this hero? We want to know. We deserve to know what happened to him. Then the government of China will feel enough pressure to open their mouth and speak the truth. I think that will be the opening not only for the resolution of this incident but also for the opening of a political space in China.
Matteo Angioli: On the 4th of June 1989 you too were in Beijing, in Tiananmen Square.
JY: Yes, I was one of the students protesting in Tiananmen Square. I witnessed many killings, including the eleven students run over by tanks. As I said, the Tank Man photo was taken on June 5th, the second day of the massacre. In the morning of June 4th, I was with the students who retreated from Tiananmen Square when a group of tanks came to us, chased students and run over them. I’m now with one of the victims of that tragedy, Mr Fang Zheng, who lost both his legs in the killings I just described. I witnessed the killing and today I brought him from San Francisco here to the Oslo Freedom Forum. He and myself will get on the same stage to talk about the Tiananmen massacre. That day he was walking with a girl student and when he noticed that the tank was behind them, chasing them, he pushed the girl aside but he couldn’t escape soon enough and the tank run over him.
MA: Last week your friend Dolkun Isa, who is also member of the NRPTT, was almost prevented from entering and taking the floor at the Forum for Indigenous People of the United Nations. The Society for Threatened Peoples had invited him to speak and they had to appeal to the US and German Ambassadors to let him speak. It was thanks to Secretary General Antonio Guterres that Mr Isa was able to overcome China’s resistance and allowed to speak. China has now demanded the Society for Threatened Peoples be expelled from the UN. Can you comment on that?
JY: This is just another example of how China bullies in the international community, thanks to its new economic power. When China first embarked in the economic growth path, many people across the world believed that China would become automatically liberal as the economy develops. But China has thaught them a serious lesson. Through economic weigh and the support of the West with money, investments and technology China has become the second economy in the world, yet it remains the most dictatorial regimes in the world. Especially in the recent years, China has moved backwards, almost to reach the situation that the Chinese people experienced in the years of the cultural revolution. Dolkun Isa’s case is one out of many examples showing how the Chinese governments increasingly acts openly. Usually it is more subtle, in terms of bribing politicians in Western democracies, penetrating, infiltrating institutions, severely influencing the democratic wealth and lives of peoples of these countries. China also threatens the security of these countries and poses a threat to the world peace. We really need to be alerted to China’s influence nowadays.
MA: What is your opinion on the ongoing talks between the two Koreas, the US and China?
JY: I think it’s a very interesting game being played. North Korea is in serious economic diffculty and they want to have the sanctions lifted. I believe Kim Jong-un is planning to have a big economic development in his country. For that, he needs to reach an agreement with the US and with South Korea. The US insist that the complete denuclearization must be achieved and Kim is afraid that with total denuclearization his own regime could be toppled altogether. So there is no mutual trust between the two parts. China is playing a very important role in all this for in China’s best interest they want the two Koreas to control and reduce their nuclear test, but they want ths issue to resist forever so that China can benefit from the international relations stemming from the nuclear issue. China will try to sabotage the summit between Kim and Trump, but quite interstingly President Trump seems to have realized what China is doing behind the scenes and is taking a firm stance on this. I’m glad that Kim Jong-un subdued to this pressure and has not called off the summit with Trump. So I have some hope that this issue will be solved in a time-frame that we wanted. Maybe not exactly as we really wanted, but we may reach a better solution than many saw possible. However, I still want to warn the US and other countries involved: when North Korea will embark in the economic growth and economic reform, don’t believe that the country will change soon. We have to take China as example in order to prevent what has happened in China from happening in North Korea.
Please sign the petition on the “Tank Man” here