Today marks the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre when thousands of Chinese students, workers, and average citizens died standing up to the Chinese regime to demand for democracy, to demand for equality, and to demand for basic human rights. Here in Toronto, the Chinese community has not forgotten about what took place in their homeland 20 years ago, and so several events were organized to commemorate and pay respect to those whose lives were lost in their struggle for freedom.
Things kicked off Sunday with a march and candle-light vigil. About 300 members of the Chinese community as well as supporters, which included members of the Tibetan and Burmese communities, gathered at the Chinese consulate and made their way to the University of Toronto, all the while shouting slogans demanding democracy and human rights in China. SFT carried banners saying “Remember Tiananmen. Remember Tibet. Freedom for all” and “Tibet & Tiananmen: Beijing’s Shame”, showing our solidarity with the Chinese people. An emotional memorial ceremony was held at the University of Toronto, where people paid their respect to those killed, and an audio track replayed the frightening sounds of that fateful day.
While today, about 600 people gathered in Nathan Phillips Square, in the heart of Toronto, to take part in a mass die-in, to symbolize what happened 20 years ago. The event started off with an excerpt of a play called “Madness of the Square” (which SFT Toronto’s own Rinchen Dolma was a part of!) and when the play ended with sounds of screaming and gunshots, all 600 people gathered in the Square, from all walks of life, got down and “died”.
Even though I’ve only recently been chosen to be the new National Director of SFT Canada and have been here in Toronto less than a week, being a part of these two events in collaboration with the Chinese community has really opened my eyes. Us members of SFT came to these event to show our solidarity with the Chinese people, appreciating that, in a sense, June 4, 1989, connected Tibetan and Chinese people. We were shown that Tibetans are not the only ones fighting for change and basic and fundamental human rights; the Chinese people are also under the iron fist of the Chinese communist government, as can be seen with the massacre of thousands of their own 20 years ago. This repression continues today with methods like the thriving mass censorship that takes place in such a populous and powerful nation (did you hear about how they’ve cut phone lines, blacked out the news when they talk about Tiananmen, and shut down networking sites like Twitter??? It’s crazy!!!).
Someone asked me today where I was June 4th, 1989; I was just 3 years old, in small-town Ontario, with not a clue about what was taking place halfway across the world. Thinking about how far I’ve come in the last 20 years is mind-boggling, but what scares me more is how little the repressive Chinese government has changed.