Canada's Original Think Tank

Tiananmen Square Massacre—Twenty-eighth Anniversary

Tiananmen Square Massacre—Twenty-eighth Anniversary

Tiananmen Square Massacre—Twenty-eighth Anniversary

Tiananmen Square Massacre—Twenty-eighth Anniversary

Published on 7 June 2017
Hansard and Statements by Senator Jim Munson

Hon. Jim Munson:

Honourable senators, sometimes there are images that never leave your mind. This is an image of Tiananmen Square on June 4 and 5, 28 years ago.

One of the images in my mind as a reporter at that time is protesters on a bridge leading to Tiananmen Square yelling “Minzhu wansui,” — “long live democracy.” In a matter of seconds, the person standing beside me was flattened by an armoured personnel carrier, along with many others. Those are the kind of pictures that never leave you when you talk about human rights and look at human rights in the rest of the world.

I recognize that Canada must work with China on economics, but we can’t forget the fact that, 28 years ago last week, hundreds were killed. Parents lost their children, students, in Tiananmen. I owe it to their families to keep speaking each year in June about what happened in Tiananmen at that time.

Honourable senators, not a lot has changed. If you take a look at a number of reports from Human Rights Watch to Amnesty International, the Chinese government is still detaining activists from that time. In fact, a gentleman was just released a few months ago after 27 years in prison.

I think that each and every day, as we get up in the morning and think of our democracy, we have to think of those like Liu Xiaobo, who is a Nobel Peace Prize winner, who is in prison today serving an 11-year sentence for simply talking about freedom of expression. Under the present government with President Xi, freedom of expression has been restricted even more.

On a personal level, in the work that we all do, and I do, on disability rights, you can imagine persons with disabilities face discrimination in education and employment.

Recently, there has been a nationwide crackdown on human rights lawyers and activists that continues throughout 2016-17. Activists and human rights defenders continue to be systematically subjected to monitoring, harassment, intimidation, arrest and detention. There has been more power given to the national government in dealing with security laws and regulations. The ultimate freedom of expression in these days, of course, is the Internet. There has been censorship and new laws passed intercepting the Internet and things that went on there.

Honourable senators, I know that we can’t live in the past, and we must live in the present and pay attention to the future, but all our paths have been important and they have shaped who we are and why we are here, whether it’s human rights or dealing with other issues, such as trade.

Thinking of media surveillances going on in China today, I’ll close with the thought of let’s just pause for a second every once in a while in our lives to think about those people who simply wanted to have the right to the free speech that I have today.