China Tianamen Prisoner
China Tianamen Prisoner

China on Sunday defended its deadly crackdown 30 years ago on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing's Tiananmen Square, saying it was "the correct policy."

Defense Minister Wei Fenghe, in answering a question posed at a conference in Singapore, said, "There was a conclusion to that incident. That was a political turmoil that the central government needed to quell, the government was decisive in stopping the turbulence, that was the correct policy."

Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Wei Fenghe salutes a
Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Wei Fenghe salutes attendees ahead of the fourth plenary session of the 18th International Institute for Strategic Studies Shangri-la Dialogue, an annual defense and security forum in Asia, in Singapore, June 2, 2019.

Wei's defense of the Chinese government's brutal treatment of the protesters was a rare acknowledgement of the June 4, 1989 incident that occurred after seven weeks of demonstrations by students and workers demanding democratic change and the end of corruption.

Government soldiers and tanks chased and killed hundreds of protesters, possibly more than 1,000, although the exact number of deaths remains unknown.

Wei questioned why critics still say that China "did not handle the incident properly."

"The 30 years have proven that China has undergone major changes," he said. Wei said that because of Beijing's response at the time, "China has enjoyed stability and development."

But inside China, online censors have scrubbed mention of the Tiananmen crackdown from social media, removing articles, comments and pictures. Discussions of the suppression of the protests is taboo in China, with authorities warning and rounding up activists, lawyers and journalists each year as the anniversary approaches.