China on Friday ripped into the United States’ human rights record and told Washington to “look in the mirror” after America’s top diplomat said he would honour those killed in the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown.
Beijing urged the United States to “face up to its own serious human rights problems”, foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said, after Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Washington would “honour the sacrifices of those killed 32 years ago” and continue to support Chinese rights activists.
Soldiers marched into Beijing and opened fire on local residents and student protesters on June 4, 1989, crushing a weeks-long wave of demonstrations calling for political change and curbs to official corruption.
Hundreds were killed in the crackdown, by some estimates more than 1,000.
With younger Chinese having no direct memories of the Tiananmen movement, Beijing has gone to exhaustive lengths to prevent commemorations, detaining activists and bringing livestreaming services down for “technical” reasons.
Social media users on the WeChat and Weibo platforms were prevented from posting the candle emoji Friday, while searches for “64” — the date of the crackdown — are routinely blocked on the Twitter-like Weibo.
Huge candlelight vigils have been held over the last three decades in semi-autonomous Hong Kong, but police have turned out in force this year to stamp out any attempts to commemorate the date en masse, with one vigil organiser arrested early Friday morning.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang on Friday said the US needed to hold itself to account for a range of abuses, from minorities to its treatment of migrants.
“Considering its irrefutable misdeeds on human rights, what qualifies the United States to lecture others?” he said.
China’s ruling Communist Party made a rare acknowledgement of the Tiananmen crackdown on its 30th anniversary in 2019, with the state-run Global Times tabloid calling the handling of Tiananmen and its aftermath “a political success”.
But critics say Beijing has this year gone to a new level of whitewashing of its troubled past by banning memorials in Hong Kong.
“Young people in China will get education and enlightenment from history… and continue to unswervingly follow the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics,” Wang said.