Skip to main content

U.S. urges China to come to terms with Tiananmen Square

  • Story Highlights
  • China "should examine openly the darker events of its past," says Clinton
  • Should give public accounting of those killed, detained or missing, she says
  • "China, as an emerging great power, still has work to do," says State Dept. official
  • Clinton criticized for downplaying human rights on February trip to China
From Elise Labott
CNN State Department Producer
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Twenty years after China's bloody crackdown on demonstrators at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, the United States is urging the government to come to terms with its violent actions.

Students face police in Tiananmen Square at a funeral for liberal reformer Hu Yaobang in April 1989.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said China "should examine openly the darker events of its past."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a statement saying the 20th anniversary of the "violent suppression of demonstrations in Tiananmen Square by Chinese authorities" should be a time for reflection on the loss of hundreds of innocent lives and the meaning of events that preceded that fateful day.

"A China that has made enormous progress economically, and that is emerging to take its rightful place in global leadership, should examine openly the darker events of its past and provide a public accounting of those killed, detained or missing, both to learn and to heal," she said.

Clinton urged Beijing to release prisoners still serving sentences in connection with events surrounding the crackdown, cease harassment of participants in the demonstrations and begin a dialogue with family members of victims.

"China can honor the memory of that day by moving to give the rule of law, protection of internationally recognized human rights, and democratic development the same priority as it has given to economic reform," Clinton said. Video Watch a profile of student leader of the Tiananmen uprising »

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters that although it has made progress over the past 20 years, "China, as an emerging great power, still has work to do."

Clinton took some heat after her trip to China in February for downplaying human rights in favor of other international concerns, such as the global economic crisis and climate change.

Crowley said human rights are "paramount" on the Obama administration's list of concerns, but would be part of a full dialogue with China on a variety of issues.

"I think the secretary is communicating that we're not going to take a cookie-cutter approach to human rights," he said. "We will bring it up, as appropriate, with every country with which we have those issues. But she is interested in making sure that we address this in a way that is going to be most effective."


He called reports that Chinese forces were blanketing the city and authorities were blocking Internet services in advance of the anniversary "inconsistent with the actions of a great power."

"We would prefer to see a China that's prepared to, you know, learn from history rather than trying to hide it," he said.

All About Tiananmen SquareChinaBeijing

  • E-mail
  • Save
  • Print