- As Delivered –
WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today delivered the following remarks at the Congressional-Executive Commission on China and the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission hearing hosted by the House Foreign Affairs Committee titled “Tiananmen at 30: Examining the Evolution of Repression in China”:
"It’s good to see so many people here. The place is packed cause obviously this is a very important anniversary.
"Today marks the thirtieth anniversary of the Chinese government’s violent crackdown against peaceful, pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square. I remember it well, it was my first year in Congress. On that dark day, the People’s Liberation Army openly fired upon protestors—many of whom were students. We don’t know how many lost their lives that day, but we do know that this tragedy derailed the hopes that China’s economic reforms of the 1980s would be accompanied by political openness.
"The events at Tiananmen Square were a watershed moment for China...for the students, activists and dissentients who hoped for a brighter future for their country and frankly for the rest of the world. That day made clear that China’s Communist Party intended to hang onto power at any cost and to suppress dissent, violently if necessary.
"In the 30 years that followed, Chinese authorities have tried to erase from history the demonstrations in Tiananmen Square and the subsequent bloodshed. You won’t find any record of these events on China’s internet or in the pages of Chinese textbooks. And when the Chinese Communist Party is pushed for answers about the carnage at Tiananmen, officials justify the actions as a necessary cost for maintaining stability and delivering economic growth. We heard this refrain at the Shangri La Dialogue in Singapore just a few days ago.
"Since Tiananmen, the Chinese Communist Party has become even more authoritarian, a trend that has accelerated further under President Xi Jinping’s rule. Lawyers, civil society leaders, and other champions of human rights, religious freedom, ethnic minority rights, and rule of law have been jailed, disappeared, or brutally repressed.
"More than a million Uighurs and Muslim minorities in Xinjiang have been detained in “re-education camps”— which the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asia has called a “concentration camp” – in an effort by the Chinese government to erase Uighur culture and Islamic faith.
"Tibetans live under intense repression and surveillance, and the Chinese Communist Party continues to violate international religious freedom by insisting that the party has a role in approving the Dalai Lama’s successor.
"Human rights and freedoms are also under siege in Hong Kong, which has traditionally maintained some autonomy under the promise of “one country, two systems.”
"China has started using immigration policy and its courts as a weapon against western targets. It’s increasing the use of “exit bans” as a tool of coercion and using politically motivated charges against people like Canadian citizen Michael Korvig to achieve diplomatic ends.
"More and more, the Chinese Community Party exports its repressive values, whether by spreading surveillance technologies or trying to silence international criticism of its actions through economic coercion or reshaping international institutions to better reflect Beijing’s views on issues like Taiwan.
"But that’s not all. We also see China’s attempts to rewrite history in other areas, such as its unfounded, illegal territorial claims in the South China Sea and its peddling of a false narrative of the Chinese occupation of Tibet.
"We cannot stand silent in the face of this aggression and abuse of so many people’s basic rights and dignity. We must relentlessly put a spotlight on human-rights violations—both those in the past, and those today—and hold the perpetrators accountable.
"Today’s hearing is a crucial reminder that China is not a unitary state or actor. Our concerns should focus on the Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party not the “Chinese people” or “Chinese civilization.”
"That’s why we condemn the Chinese government’s cruel actions on June 4, 1989. We urge the Communist Party to make a full and public accounting of those killed or missing. We urge the Chinese government to respect human rights and freedoms to release arbitrary detainees to overturn counterproductive policies on terrorism, speech and cyber policy.
"We’re also reminded today that there are Chinese women and men who, like the late Liu Xiao Bo and his wife Liu Xia, continue to speak out against the Chinese government’s oppressive policies and urge for reform and respect for universal human rights. These brave men and women know full well they’re putting their lives on the line by speaking out this way. But they do so anyway, because they refuse to give up on the vision of a brighter future for themselves and their country.
"So, in conclusion, we celebrate them. We share a common cause with those who have advocated for—and continue to advocate for—a freer and more just Chinese society. We hope that their courage and persistence are not in vain."