Chinese defence minister defends bloody crackdown on 1989 Tiananmen protesters
2nd June 2019
Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe says the state’s bloody crackdown on protesters around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square 30 years ago was the “correct policy” decision, citing the country’s “stability” since then.
- June 4 marks 30 years since Beijing set soldiers on pro-democracy protesters
- Defence Minister Wei Fenghe made the rare comments at an Asian defence dialogue
- He added that attempts to disrupt unification with Taiwan would be fought with force
Mr Wei made the comments at Singapore’s Shangri La Dialogue — an annual Asian security defence summit — after a belligerent speech about Chinese sovereignty and international security.
He called the protests political “turbulence”.
It is rare for Chinese government officials to acknowledge the events of June 4, 1989: official censors wipe references to the massacre routinely.
“Everybody is concerned about Tiananmen after 30 years,” the general said.
“Throughout the 30 years, China under the Communist Party has undergone many changes — do you think the government was wrong with the handling of June Fourth?
“There was a conclusion to that incident. The government was decisive in stopping the turbulence.”
He added that China’s development since 1989 showed that the government’s actions were justified.
The Tiananmen protests were “political turmoil that the central government needed to quell, which was the correct policy,” he said.
“Due to this, China has enjoyed stability, and if you visit China you can understand that part of history.”
Tuesday will be the 30th anniversary of the protests, where Chinese troops opened fire to end the student-led unrest, which Beijing said resulted in 241 deaths.
Dan Wang, a prominent Tiananmen student leader who spent much of the 1990s in jail for his activism, told the ABC that he thought the Red Cross Society figures of more than 2,000 dead and 10,000 injured were more accurate.
Mr Wei’s comments echoed those of Defence Ministry spokesperson Wu Qian, who last week attacked the use of the word “suppression” to describe the military’s response to the 1989 protests.
China at the time blamed the protests on counter-revolutionaries seeking to overthrow the party.
The event will not be officially commemorated by the ruling Communist Party or government, which has to manage a number of sensitive political anniversaries.
Beijing to ‘fight to the end’ for Taiwanese reunification
Prior to his Tiananmen remarks, Mr Wei made a speech where he noted that China would be willing to fight any party that sought to interfere in its “reunification” with Taiwan.
Beijing has consistently claimed sovereignty over the island, which considers it a rogue breakaway territory.
Taiwan has historically resisted attempts from the mainland to impose its rule and it still officially refers to itself as the Republic of China, though it has a dwindling list of states that recognise its independence.
In recent years, China has made businesses, including Qantas, list Taiwan as part of Chinese territory.
Until 1971, Taiwan officially represented China at the United Nations until a resolution transferred recognition to the mainland People’s Republic of China (PRC).
In recent years, Beijing has been incensed by US President Donald Trump’s administration to increase support for self-ruled and democratic Taiwan, including US Navy sending warships through the Taiwan Strait that separates the island from mainland China.
“No attempts to split China will succeed. Any interference in the Taiwan question is doomed to failure [sic],” Mr Wei said.
“If anyone dares to split Taiwan from China, the Chinese military has no choice but to fight at all costs … The US is indivisible, and so is China. China must be, and will be, reunified.”
He added that China would not “attack unless we are attacked”, who noted a hot military conflict’s grave consequences for global security.
US to no longer ‘tiptoe’ around China
On Saturday, acting US Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan told the Shangri-La meeting that Washington would no longer “tiptoe” around Chinese behaviour in Asia.
China-US ties have become increasingly strained due to a bitter trade war, US support for Taiwan and China’s muscular military posture in the South China Sea, where American forces also conduct freedom-of-navigation patrols.
Last month, Taiwan’s national security chief David Lee met White House national security adviser John Bolton, marking the first meeting in more than four decades between senior US and Taiwanese security officials.
Taiwan is gearing up for presidential elections in January, and Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen has repeatedly accused Beijing of seeking to undermine Taiwan’s democracy and has vowed to defend the island and its freedoms.