Key to Europe

Exactly 30 years ago on this day, in the heart of Beijing, in a square named after The Gate of Heavenly Peace (or “Tiananmen” in Mandarin Chinese), the morning was anything but peaceful


Machine gun fire rang out as heavily armed troops supported by tanks and armoured personnel carriers drove into crowds of unarmed students, extinguishing for at least a generation the hope of liberty and democracy for almost one fifth of the world population.


A quarter of a million soldiers had entered the capital the night before, to put down peaceful student protest, which throughout the spring of 1989 had been calling for freedom of speech, democracy and transparent governance. Many students bravely resisted the army, most famously, the unknown man standing up against a column of tanks alone, refusing to move. But even as the image of the “tank man” became one of the best-known photos in the world, pure idealism alone couldn’t last long against bullets and tear gas.


By the evening of the 4th of June, hundreds of students and young people were dead in the streets and thousands more wounded. Later, even a greater number were either jailed, exiled or otherwise repressed.


To this day the government of the People’s Republic of China censors almost all mention and images from the events of that day. Trying to erase the heroism of those students and young people from history.


Why? Because they are afraid the example of those students might lead the young generation of today to ask why still, 30 years later, they cannot express themselves freely and without fear. To ask why their government is just as untransparent as then. To ask why they still cannot vote for the direction and future of their country.


Beijing may seem a long way away from Europe, but those struggles are very familiar. The atrocities of authoritarian regimes and extreme ideologies of both the right and the left are well known on here as well. We should remember the people in Tiananmen square 30 years ago just as we remember the people in Maidan square 5 years ago or the people in the square of Bastille 230 years ago.


We remember all those who stand up in the cause of Freedom, because our cause is one and the same.

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