Honourable senators, today and tomorrow must never be forgotten. I’m still haunted by events that took place in Beijing, China, 30 years ago.
As I ran into the massacre unfolding in Tiananmen Square, I heard a voice from the shadows along Chang’an Avenue in Beijing: “Tell the world what is happening here.”
I never saw that person again, but when you witness history and watch the horror of young people die, it is important to continue to tell the world what a government did to its people.
I was based in Beijing for CTV News. The year 1989 remains seared in my memory. Nothing will erase what I and many other journalists saw on June 3 and 4.
There was still optimism on June 3 when troops first showed up on the streets of Beijing. Residents even fed some of the soldiers. There were rumours there was dissent in the military — not everyone in the army agreed to a brutal crackdown.
During the Beijing Spring, millions had come out to support the students and the pro-democracy movement. Only days before the massacre, I watched, as far as the eye could see, a sea of humanity marching towards Tiananmen from every walk of life. There was a sense of a liberated city.
But inside the Great Hall of the People, the moderates in the Communist Party were losing the battle with the hardliners. The army was given its orders.
It is very hard, honourable senators, to watch as you see others die, run over by tanks and shot as they run for cover, or a chaotic scene in a Beijing hospital where doctors attended to the injured and where bodies filled a room. Hundreds were killed that night.
But today in China you wouldn’t know it. This totalitarian regime has erased the massacre from Chinese history. This is the same Communist Party that today has cracked down on millions of ethnic Uyghurs, suppressed the voices of Tibetans and jails anyone who questions its authority.
In Hong Kong, everybody looks over their shoulders as Big Brother in Beijing gradually squeezes the life out of democracy.
Honourable senators, I remind you that this is the same Communist Party that holds two innocent Canadians behind bars. It could have been so different if the moderates in the party had won the day 30 years ago, but that didn’t happen.
Today, we live in a world where China is a dominant economic force, but at what cost? We are talking about rights — human rights.
Listen to the words of Wang Dan, a student leader who now lives in the United States. He writes in the New York Times:
. . . I paid a hefty price. In addition to spending a better part of my youth in prison, I am not allowed to return to my native country, where my ailing parents live. Yet, as painful as this is, I don’t regret my choices.
Honourable senators, we live in a society where we have a voice. Please pause for a moment to honour and remember those voices that were silenced on a deadly June night in Beijing.