The White House on Thursday said that China’s “slaughter” of protesters in Tiananmen Square in 1989 has not been forgotten, urging Beijing to give its first accurate accounting of the bloodshed.
President Donald Trump’s press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement, “The Chinese Communist Party’s slaughter of unarmed Chinese civilians was a tragedy that will not be forgotten”.
Thousands of riot officers deployed in Hong Kong earlier on Thursday to enforce a ban against the annual candlelight vigil to commemorate the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, according to police insiders.
China’s leadership has never provided a death toll from the crackdown, in which hundreds if not thousands are believed to have been killed, and has sought to suppress all public mention of the episode.
In Hong Kong, where Beijing is tightening its central rule, a mass vigil meant to mark the anniversary was banned.
Every year, the United States issues a similar statement demanding China be held accountable.
On Wednesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with survivors, including Wang Dan, perhaps the most prominent of the student leaders from the doomed pro-democracy protest.
Earlier, Pompeo had denounced China for preventing Hong Kong’s annual commemoration on the grounds that mass gatherings went against guidelines in fighting the coronavirus, tweeted a photo of the meeting.
In their letter of objection to this year’s vigil, police cited that the Hong Kong government’s prohibition of public gatherings of more than eight people, which was on Tuesday extended to June 18, saying any large public assemblies would increase the risk of COVID-19 infection in the city.
Since 1990, the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China has held the vigil in remembrance of the crackdown ordered by Beijing on June 4, 1989 to end a weeks-long, student-led democracy protest.
The relations between China and the United States are already at a low ebb in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak that began in Wuhan last year.
Trump has been very critical and vocal of China’s inability to control the spread of the novel coronavirus within its territory.
Earlier, Trump had threatened to “cut off the whole relationship” with China.