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Sarah Sewell, Remarks at Tiananmen Square 25th Anniversary Event, June 4, 2014

Sewell is Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights. She spoke in Washington and made reference to Rowena He, a Harvard-based scholar.
June 4, 2014

Sarah Sewall
Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights
Washington, DC
June 4, 2014

On behalf of the Department, I would like to thank Dr. He for speaking to us today on the 25th anniversary of the Chinese government’s violent suppression of protests in and around Tiananmen Square.

Dr. He is an expert on the events of June 4, 1989, and the months leading up to the tragic crackdown, and she will speak to us today about the anniversary and her recent book, Tiananmen Exiles: Voices of the Struggle for Democracy in China. Her work highlights the accounts of three student leaders exiled from China in the aftermath of the crackdown, and how their stories illustrate political developments within China and China’s relations with the outside world.

We greatly appreciate Dr. He’s remarks linking us with the international community in remembering the tragic loss of hundreds of innocent lives and the heavy price paid by those who participated in demonstrations around the country, their families, and their supporters.

Secretary Kerry in his statement issued today urged Chinese authorities to end the ongoing pattern of harassment and official retribution against those who participated in the demonstrations, their family members, including the Tiananmen Mothers, and those who continue to bravely speak out. This year, in the run-up to the 25th anniversary, the government’s heightened clampdown on scholars, journalists, lawyers, and others – including elderly liberals – and breakup of peaceful gatherings of Chinese citizens simply trying to keep the memory of Tiananmen alive have been particularly disturbing.

We are also deeply concerned by the harassment of foreign journalists and their local staff in China, many of whom have been called into police stations and warned not to report on this year’s anniversary.

As National Security Adviser Susan Rice recently said: “When courts imprison political dissidents who merely urge respect for China’s own laws, no one in China, including Americans doing business there, can feel secure. When ethnic and religious minorities—such as Tibetans and Uighurs—are denied their fundamental freedoms, the trust that holds diverse societies together is undermined.”

China has committed to uphold the universal human rights of all its people, enshrined in its own constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Respecting these values will help build a more prosperous, stable and cooperative future for all of us.

Mindful of the complex legacy of the events of June 4, 1989, I am especially glad we have the chance to hear today from Dr. He about how Tiananmen continues to affect China and the lives of Chinese people around the world. Thank you for joining us at this somber moment of remembrance.