Remembering the Tiananmen Square Massacre 30 years later

China's continued violations of religious freedom

June 04, 2019

Today is the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, an event that stunned the world, and resulted in the murder of Chinese citizens, killed at the hands of their own government. Student-led protests began in Beijing, as they called for greater social freedoms, after the death of Hu Yaobang, a former Chinese Communist Party leader. Yaobang was viewed by the public as a champion for liberalization, and students petitioned for more democratic form of government.

Their protests were held in Tiananmen Square, the public space in the middle of Beijing, which faces the Forbidden City. On the evening of June 3, 1989, armed troops entered Tiananmen Square, with the purpose of removing the protesters, using whatever means necessary. Civilians took to the streets to protect the students, but the Premier had declared martial law, and sent soldiers to Beijing. The Chinese citizens fought back, but the soldiers opened fired on the people. Witnesses to the massacre tell stories of tanks driving over protesters.

Thirty years after the Tiananmen Massacre, Chinese authorities have not acknowledged the atrocity, and there will be no public memorials or events marking the day in mainland China. The Tiananmen Square Massacre remains one of the most censored topics on the Chinese internet. Chinese censorship, nicknamed “The Great Firewall,” has blocked all mentions of the event, related words and topics, and even references to the date, June 4, 2019. Below are a few other banned terms in China that could bring up information about Tiananmen Square:

Under President Xi Jinping, China has blocked approximately 26,000 Google search terms. The government tightly monitors the behavior of their citizens. Chinese authorities are in the process of developing a Social Credit System, a nationwide technology-driven reputation system that allows the government to monitor and control its citizens through incentives of punishment and reward. Once collected, the data on Chinese citizens can be used to limit an individual’s rights and privileges, and affect how they can engage with and in society.

The Social Credit System will also allow the Chinese government to continue to tighten control over the country's most persecuted religious groups. The Beijing Public Safety Bureau claims that 100% of Beijing is now covered by surveillance cameras, and the regional authorities shut down one of the largest Protestant houses churches in Beijing after church leaders refused to allow the government to install surveillance cameras in the church.

In addition to continuing to use technology to monitor their citizens, human rights violations and religious persecution has continued to worsen. The Communist Party of China has routinely violated the consciences of thousands and sought to snuff out the free exercise of religion.

Religious persecution

For decades, China has persecuted Christians, but in recent years the pressure and persecution has increased. Churches have been destroyed, pastors have been imprisoned, and extreme forms of technological surveillance has been used in houses of worship. The Chinese government has sought to control where people worship, whom they worship, and the content of their worship. The government sees public gatherings as a threat to its power and the stability of the state. Government installation of surveillance devices capable of facial recognition in houses of worship to regulate the religious messages shared by people of faith has been egregiously deployed.  

Since April 2017, China has systematically detained more than one million Uighur Muslims and placed them into “re-education camps”. In these internment camps, Uighurs are prevented from engaging in their religious practices and forced to be “re-educated” to the Communist Party’s ideological standard of “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era.” They are also subject to physiological and oftentimes physical persecution, and their cultural heritage and practices are being erased. Families of those in internment camps do not know where their loved ones are, or even if they are still alive.

How we can pray

The persecution of Christians and Uighurs is a sampling of how the Communist Party leaders are persecuting their own citizens. As the world pauses to remember what took place in Tiananmen Square 30 years ago, we must remember to pray for those currently enduring persecution in China. Below are a few ways Christians can pray for China.

Christians, let’s join together to pray for those who are suffering persecution at the hands of their government, let’s educate ourselves on what’s going on in China, and let's be a voice for those whose voice is being silenced or snuffed out.

Chelsea Patterson Sobolik

Chelsea Patterson Sobolik serves as a Policy Director in the Washington, D.C. office of the ERLC. Previously, she worked in the U.S. House of Representatives on pro-life policies, domestic and international religious freedom, adoption, and foster care issues. Chelsea is the author of Longing for Motherhood - Holding onto Hope … Read More