It was twenty-two years ago, in the spring of 1989, that thousands of Chinese students gathered in Beijing's Tienanmen Square to demand democracy. The students even fashioned their own 30-foot high replica of America’s Statue of Libety. It represented the aspirations for democracy of young Chinese. They yearned to join young people in Poland, East Germany, and the then-united nation of Czechoslovakia. It was a time when it seemed the winds of hope and change might sweep away tyranny from the whole world.
It was not to be. While Gorbachev in the Kremlin refused to send in the tanks, refused to shoot down demonstrating students in Eastern Europe , Chinese Communist cadre Hu Jintao joined those in the Communist leadership in Beijing who had no such qualms. Hu would counsel deadly force rather than relax the iron grip of the Communist Party in China.
The world watched, astounded, as a single young Chinese man, wearing a white shirt and holding an innocent briefcase, stood down an entire column of tanks in Beijing. As the lead tank maneuvered to get around the man whose name we now know was Wang Wei-lin, the young man shifted ground and stood squarely in the tank’s path.
It was a dramatic moment. The world watched, awed, at the courage and the idealism of young China on vivid display. But the clash ended quietly and out of sight of Western TV cameras. China democracy advocates who later took refuge in the West testified that Wang Wei-lin was taken into a nearby hotel where, out of view, he was quietly strangled to death.
That driver of the lead tank, a young officer in the People’s Liberation Army, was also killed by state security forces, China democracy refugees tell us. After all, if he had followed his orders, he would have swiftly run over the brave young man in the white shirt. There would have been no dramatic standoff. Thousands of Chinese students would likewise be overrun by the regime’s tanks and shot down as they fled Tienanmen Square.
Their bodies were burned. China’s rulers soon washed down the bricks of their capital’s ceremonial center.
Today, Hu Jintao is president of the People’s Republic of China. He was not voted in by the Chinese people, but chosen by the aging politburo of the Communist Party, one of the more durable totalitarian regimes on earth.
Washington is welcoming Hu Jintao. We have to roll out a red carpet for the man and the regime that hold a trillion dollars in U.S. debt. The blood-red flag of the People’s Republic of China flies on lampposts along Washington ’s Pennsylvania Avenue.