As we celebrate the many happy anniversaries this year, we should not avert our eyes from the inconvenient truth of other anniversaries. Beginning in April twenty-three years ago, university students organized demonstrations in and around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square to call for political liberalization, freedom of the press, anti-corruption measures, and public accountability of government officials. At the height of the demonstrations more than a half million protestors assembled.

Thousands demonstrate in Tiananmen Square in May 1989  (AP Photo/Sadayuki Mikami).

Thousands demonstrate in Tiananmen Square in May 1989.

The Communist Party declared martial law on May 20, 1989. Military convoys entered Beijing overnight on June 3-4, 1989 with orders to clear and close Tiananmen. The People’s Liberation Army used live fire on its own people as it pushed through makeshift blockades in the city and entered the square. There has been no accounting of the number of Chinese citizens killed or wounded in the attack.

The iconic image of the uprising, as a single courageous citizen blocks a tank unit sent to crush the demonstrators  (AP Photo/Jeff Widener).

The iconic image of the uprising, as a single courageous citizen blocks a tank unit sent to crush the demonstrators.

In commemoration of the anniversary, Mark C. Toner,
Deputy State Department Spokesperson, issued the following statement:

“On this the twenty-third anniversary of the violent suppression by Chinese authorities of the spring 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations, the United States joins the international community in remembering the tragic loss of innocent lives.

“We encourage the Chinese government to release all those still serving sentences for their participation in the demonstrations; to provide a full public accounting of those killed, detained or missing; and to end the continued harassment of demonstration participants and their families.

“We renew our call for China to protect the universal human rights of all its citizens; release those who have been wrongfully detained, prosecuted, incarcerated, forcibly disappeared, or placed under house arrest; and end the ongoing harassment of human rights activists and their families.”

Beijing residents attacked and burned a convoy of 20 armored personnel carriers in a failed attempt to prevent troops from entering the Square (Manuel Ceneta/AFP/Getty Images).

Beijing residents attacked and burned a convoy of 20 armored personnel carriers in a failed attempt to prevent troops from entering the Square.