The United States marked the 15th anniversary of China's violent crackdown on protesters in Beijing with a call on Chinese leaders to reassess the 1989 events in Tiananmen Square. China has long defended its use of force against students as necessary to end a "counter-revolutionary" rebellion.
In a low-key observance of the anniversary, the State Department is calling on China's leadership to reassess the 1989 events, including the calls at the time by student demonstrators for democracy and rights of free expression.
The idea has also been advanced in recent weeks by a number of Chinese intellectuals, who have signed a petition calling for an official reassessment of the episode that would acknowledge that the government was wrong in using lethal force to crush the protests.
The State Department did not volunteer a statement about the anniversary, but under questioning at a news briefing, spokesman Adam Ereli said that 15 years after what he termed the "tragic and historic" events in Beijing, it is time for Chinese officials "to reassess how they look at them."
He said the United States, in the meantime, continues to press the Chinese leadership on key issues that were part of the foundation of the public protests at Tiananmen Square:
?The right of people to participate in government decisions that affect their lives. The right of people to have a say in who leads them. To live in a nation governed by law, and to be able to speak and write freely, to express their views without persecution. When they are arrested or found to be in violation of law, to be given a fair and impartial trial with legal representation,? he stated. ?These are all things that we believe it's important to look at, and to act on behalf of, in China.?
Hundreds of demonstrators were killed and thousands wounded when the Chinese military swept into central Beijing on June 4, 1989 to crush the protests.
China has long defended its use of force as a necessary measure to end a "counter-revolutionary rebellion" and to prevent the country from sliding into chaos.
Under questioning, Mr. Ereli said the United States viewed with concern a complaint by the CNN network that China cut off a satellite television feed on its Tiananmen coverage, which included a report that Chinese authorities had detained dissidents to head off anniversary protests.
The spokesman said the fact the State Department had not volunteered its Tiananmen statement was not an effort to "soft-pedal" the anniversary, and said the United States has a "laudable" record of speaking out and acting on behalf of human rights in China and elsewhere.