Tiananmen Square Massacre

By: The Hon. Jim Munson

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Hon. Jim Munson: Honourable senators, this will be my last statement on the massacre in Tiananmen Square 32 years ago.

These are dates on your calendar that you never forget. I go through so much emotion this time every year. It has been this way for 32 years. Sometimes I cry and sometimes I’m angry, but when I think of a young man flattened by a tank near Tiananmen Square, I think of his family today. Did he have a brother or sister? Are his parents still alive? Does anyone care?

Well, I care, and I care about the thousands of families who were never allowed to mourn the deaths of their loved ones. I remember the students’ smiling faces in the square on a warm spring day in May 1989. I remember the citizens of Beijing embracing the pro-democracy student movement. I remember a city that felt liberated after tens of thousands entered the square — 100,000 strong. While they were there to ostensibly mourn the death of a former Communist Party leader, what they didn’t know was that a power struggle was taking place inside the walls of the Great Hall of the People. Communist party secretary Zhao Ziyang, who was sympathetic to the student cause, would lose that political struggle to the hardline premier, Li Peng. The rest is history, but it’s a shameful history where the military killed its own people — young people in the prime of their lives.

June 3 and 4 are dates that I will never forget. How can you forget what you witnessed? This was a massacre in and around Tiananmen Square. I am haunted by those agonizing pictures of pain and death, not only of the thousands who died, but the death of the ideal that perhaps there was a better way to govern.

Today we see a China where suppression of anything resembling rights is crushed. Today the government doesn’t need tanks to do it. It just does it: in the so-called autonomous territory of Xinjiang, where the government practises genocide against the Uighur minority; in Tibet, where voices are silenced; in Hong Kong, where the lights have dimmed on democracy. Now the menacing voice of a totalitarian government is getting louder in dealing with Taiwan.

We live in dangerous times, but in dangerous times we must all speak out for human rights.

In my reading of human rights, these are rights that belong to everyone in the world from birth until death, and we must speak out for those who don’t have a voice. These are basic rights and shared values like dignity, fairness, equality, respect and independence — values defined and protected by law.

I recognize that Canada must engage and have economic relations with China. With recognition, we as a country have the right to speak out on human rights.

Honourable senators, on a dusty avenue of a Beijing street 32 years ago, a voice from the dark said, “Tell the world what’s going on here.” I’ve kept my promise. I’ve said it again and again and again, but I am one voice. Thank you.

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