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1989 Tiananmen massacre: US calls on China to respect human rights

US President Donald Trump’s administration called on China Sunday to respect human rights and release from prison those jailed for trying to keep alive the memory of the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy movement.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recalled the “violent suppression” of peaceful protests in and around the vast square in the heart of Beijing in a statement marking the 28th anniversary of the event.

1989 Tiananmen Massacre vigil

The “Goddess of Democracy”. Photo: Catherine Lai/HKFP.

The United States has routinely observed the anniversary with similar calls to China, but this was the first time under Trump’s presidency.

“We call again on China to make a full accounting of those killed, detained or missing due to the events of June 4, 1989,” he said.

“We urge China to cease harassment of family members seeking redress and to release from prison those who have been jailed for striving to keep the memory of Tiananmen Square alive.

Rex Tillerson

Rex Tillerson. Photo: NPR screenshot,

“The United States views the protection of human rights as a fundamental duty of all countries, and we urge the Chinese government to respect the universal rights and fundamental freedoms of all its citizens.”

China responded to the student-led protests by declaring martial law and sending heavily armed troops and tanks into the square.

Hundred of unarmed civilians — over 1,000 by some estimates — are believed to have died in the crackdown.

1989 Tiananmen massacre: US calls on China to respect human rights