Blinken’s Tiananmen Square Anniversary Statement Omits References to Massacre, Ongoing Chinese Atrocities as Biden Reportedly Seeks Détente


Stefani Reynolds/Pool Photo via AP, File

China watchers picked up on the numerous differences between Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s searing statement about Tiananmen Square on the anniversary of the massacre last year and this year’s more muted iteration, which he released on Saturday, with some wondering if it’s a symptom of the Biden administration’s reported interest in a rapprochement with China.

In his 2022 statement, Blinken noted that “countless were imprisoned,” by the Chinese Communist Party in the wake of the  protest, and that the number of people killed by their own government “is still unknown today.” He also drew a direct comparison between the events in Tiananmen Square over three decades ago and the ongoing atrocities of the CCP.

“Today, the struggle for democracy and freedom continues to echo in Hong Kong, where the annual vigil to commemorate the massacre in Tiananmen Square was banned by the PRC and Hong Kong authorities in an attempt to suppress the memories of that day,” wrote Blinken. “We will continue to speak out and promote accountability for PRC atrocities and human rights abuses, including those in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and Tibet.”

But this year’s statement scrubbed any reference to the massacre of protesters, substituting “brutally repress” for last year’s “brutal assault,” and striking a reference to the fact that “many are no longer able to speak up themselves.” It also omits any information about the end of democracy in Hong Kong, the Uyghur genocide, or Tibet, reading:

Tomorrow, we observe the 34th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre. On June 4th, 1989, the Government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) sent tanks into Tiananmen Square to brutally repress peaceful Chinese pro-democracy protesters and bystanders alike. The victims’ bravery will not be forgotten and continues to inspire advocates for these principles around the world. The United States will continue advocating for people’s human rights and fundamental freedoms in China and around the world.

As knowledgeable observers pointed out, this was likely not an oversight, but an intentional policy choice. Last month, President Joe Biden forecasted a coming “thaw” in U.S.-China relations “very shortly.”

Some administration critics also expressed frustration over the visit of two senior U.S. officials to Beijing on Sunday, the date of the anniversary itself. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said on Monday that the administration was “a whole lot less worried about the date on the calendar than we are about what’s on the agenda when we start talking to them.”

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