It is not normal for a government to cover up massacres and crimes against humanity, then or now: 30 years after the Tiananmen Square Massacre

For immediate release

June 3, 2019 11:30 am EST

Contact: Uyghur Human Rights Project +1 (202) 478 1920

Thirty years after the murder of peaceful demonstrators seeking democratic reforms in China, it is time for concerned governments to acknowledge the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) attempt to erase the memory of mass extrajudicial killings is not normal.

States should leverage all tools at their disposal to hold the Chinese state and officials complicit in human rights violations to account.

The Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) offers its condolences to the families of the June 4th victims and stands in solidarity with Chinese democrats who bravely confront the CCP’s denial of fundamental human rights.

“For thirty years, the CCP has attempted to erase the memory of its brutal massacre of peaceful protesters on June 3-4, 1989. In China, all mention of the killings is scrubbed from public discourse, to the extent that the events of Tiananmen Square are nearly unknown among younger generations. Overseas, China’s desire to induce selective memories among political leaders, legislators, and businesspeople has been strengthened by its economic prowess. It is time to acknowledge that economic engagement has utterly failed to bring about political reform.” said UHRP Director, Omer Kanat.

Mr. Kanat added: “We must put an end to the abnormality of the Communist Party’s denialism through concerted action. At present, CCP officials, including its diplomatic corps, are attempting to cover up the mass internment of 1.5 million Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples by labeling torture facilities as ‘vocational training centers.’ If there is one lesson we must learn from Tiananmen Square, it is we must not permit China to conceal its crimes against humanity.”

Chinese diplomats, including the ambassadors to the United States, Canada, Kazakhstan, and South Africa, have attempted to influence overseas opinion on the mass internment campaign in East Turkestan, often claiming the overwhelming evidence presented is “false information.”

Researchers have used Internet searches of government construction bids, analysis of satellite images, and interviews with Uyghurs to uncover facilities that U.S. Department of Defense official Randall Schriver labeled “concentration camps.”

UHRP believes that while the CCP’s propaganda attempts may not be convincing, they provide cover for overseas actors to conduct business as usual with China.

Volkswagen chief executive Herbert Diess claimed to not be aware of the camps when questioned by a BBC journalist. However, Volkswagen has a production plant in East Turkestan. Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan similarly claimed ignorance of Uyghur mass internment while his government benefited from Chinese investment as part of the Belt and Road Initiative.

The victims of Tiananmen Square should not be forgotten, as the hundreds of thousands of interned Uyghurs should not be left vulnerable to a Chinese state with a record of mass murder.

Governments must act. A key instrument in ending business as usual is to sanction Chinese officials complicit in human rights abuses through Global Magnitsky Acts. The architects of massacres against unarmed civilians and of mass internment must be seen to pay a price.

Further legislation should also prevent private individuals and companies from assisting Chinese state security agencies. Companies currently doing business in China should disclose whether any of their operations have assisted the government in the persecution and surveillance of citizens from all walks of life.  The US government should place Chinese companies complicit in the construction of the police state in East Turkestan on the Entity List.

UHRP urges U.S. legislators to support the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act in the House and Senate to ensure the Chinese government does not normalize a cover-up of crimes against humanity.  

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