Chinese in Australia too fearful to show their faces at Tiananmen protest in Sydney
4th June 2019
Two pro-China protesters have clashed with a group of people holding a commemorative protest in Sydney to mark the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.
The scuffle took place at the Garden Island Naval Base on Sydney Harbour, where three Chinese warships docked earlier this week in an unannounced visit.
It highlights the sensitive nature of the bloody crackdown in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, where the Chinese army opened fire on tens of thousands of students on June 4, 1989.
One protester, who asked only to be identified as Peter, was among the tens of thousands of students demonstrating in Tiananmen Square in 1989 when the Chinese army opened fire.
He has lived in Australia for 21 years but this year is the first time he has attended a protest to mark the anniversary of the violent crackdown.
“We saw all the killings, the tanks set on fire, we saw everything,” he said.
“We heard the gunshots but we all thought … they were rubber bullets but then we could see people injured … we just got really scared.
“We couldn’t believe they were killing their own children, we were just shocked and angry … we were all crying.”
‘Australia just closes its eyes’
Chin Jin was studying in Australia when the Tiananmen massacre happened and was one of more than 40,000 Chinese students who were given permanent humanitarian visas.
He is now the president of the Federation for a Democratic China, a group that advocates for democracy in China.
Mr Chin addressed the crowd of around 30 protesters in Sydney’s Chinatown, urging them to remember the sacrifice of the students in Tiananmen Square.
“That day the Chinese people’s dream, their aspiration, was cracked down by force,” he said.
“We would like to keep this movement [going] on and on.”
Mr Jin said Western democracies had been complicit in the rise of the Chinese Communist Party and its authoritarian rule.
“I think Australia just closes its eyes and just lets it go,” he said.
“They offer the Chinese government a golden opportunity to help the Chinese government to control its people and control the Chinese community overseas.”
Many people in Australia’s Chinese community are afraid to speak out against the Chinese government or the Communist Party.
Chinese studies expert Dr Feng Chongyi, who himself was detained by the Communist regime, said there was an unspoken “social contract” amongst Chinese Australians.
“They won’t tell you what they actually think because of fear,” he said.
“If you toe the party line, maintain silence on sensitive political issues, [China] will allow you to have your normal life, even take opportunities to become rich.”
Chinese language broadcaster and columnist Lin Bin said many Chinese Australians maintain close family and business ties and said many avoid discussing sensitive political topics.
“They’ve still got friends, relatives, immediate family in China, so they try to avoid any pressure,” he said.
“If they criticise the Chinese government or criticise the Communist Party, their relatives in China may get some kind of punishment.”