Pelosi Floor Speech on the 25th Anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre

May 28, 2014

Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi spoke on the House floor today in remembrance of the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre.  Below are the Leader’s remarks:

“Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.  I thank the gentleman for yielding.  I welcome him to our group and appreciate his very important remarks as we observe the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.  As always, I'm absolutely honored and pleased to join my colleagues, the distinguished former Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee and now Chair of the Subcommittee, Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen.

“Mr. Wolf and Mr. Smith and I have been fighting this fight together for decades.  I thank them for their courage.  We both opposed our own presidents – they. a Republican; I, a Democrat, a Democratic president – on this subject.  This is a bond that we have had about respecting the dignity and worth of every person.  And when we saw what happened in Tiananmen Square, it was almost unbelievable to see the government of China turning on its own people, having tanks run over their children in Tiananmen Square who were speaking out against corruption, who were speaking out for more openness, speaking out to speak out.

“I have treasured this poster in my office over the years, the 25 years.  It's been signed by every major dissident who has been able to leave China.  Not many of them can go back.  But it is the symbol that Mr. Chris Smith talked about, of the man before the tank.  It's one of the most iconic figures in the history of democratic freedoms in the world.  However, if you were to go to China and ask young people of this picture, they know nothing about it.  It has been censored.  They cannot – they don't tell people what that is.  Some said: ‘Maybe it's a commercial for something.  I don't know what that is.’  So powerful is it that even any discussion of it in China – for young people, at Peking University, which was a place where many of these young people came forth and said they would like to end corruption, expand freedom of expression.

“What form of government they will have, as Mr. Smith said, remains to be seen, and is up to the Chinese people.  But the fact that they could not even talk about it without being run over by tanks – it was stunning.  It was really remarkably stunning, because we had really not seen anything quite like that.  In the spring of 1989, 25 years ago, a community of activists, dissidents, students and Chinese citizens stood up for their rights in Tiananmen Square.  People were inspired by a path of political reform advocated by some of China's leaders who were purged – Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang.  The people spoke out against the abuses of their government.  People demanded respect, dignity, liberty – a voice.  People cried out for freedom, their souls yearning for a better future.  They called for the elimination of corruption, acceleration of economic and political reform, for freedom of expression and assembly.  They called for a dialogue with China's leaders on how to make progress.

“People protested, demonstrated, marched.  A military was turned against the people it was supposed to protect.  The People's Liberation Army turned on the people of China.  And a young man, again, stood alone in the street, bringing a line of tanks to a grinding halt.  You don't see it here, but the tanks turned.  They turned away from this lone man and did not run over him for all the world to see – an image seared into the memory of all who saw it, a photograph unforgettable for anyone committed to the promise of human rights, a moment that, then and now, challenges the conscience of the world.

“We cannot have any moral authority to talk about human rights in the world if we ignore the violations and human rights in a big country, a prosperous country, an economic engine.  I remember – my colleagues do too – that, at the time, the trade deficit with China, with the U.S., we had a deficit of $5 billion a year.  That was an enormous trade deficit, and we thought it would give us leverage to free the students who were arrested in Tiananmen Square.  We just wanted to free them, to respond to the moms, the parents – free those students.  Others in the chamber had said we could use that $5 billion at the same time to stop China from blocking U.S. exports into China, or stop them from transferring technology – missile technology – and the rest to Pakistan and beyond.

“But there were those also in the Congress and the country, and actually on the Chinese payroll – because they were lobbyists and all the rest; they hired everybody – who said: ‘No, no, no.  You can't use that $5 billion for leverage to free those prisoners, to stop those barriers to our trade, to stop their transfer of technology to countries that might then turn them over to rogue countries.  You can't do that.  If you remain calm, there will be peaceful evolution.  And all this will be improved.  In fact, our trade with China will grow.  Their freedom will increase.’”

“These people are still arrested.  The trade deficit is no longer $5 billion a year; it's $7 billion – but not a year: from $5 billion a year to $7 billion a week, and not one cent of it used for any leverage to free prisoners or to challenge the Chinese in terms of the violations of human rights in China and in Tibet.  It's stunning.  They just – they own the show.  That's just the way it is.  Five billion dollars a year to $7 billion a week.  ‘Oh, my God: progress has been made’ – but not by the American worker; but not by the U.S., by our economy.  No: by the Chinese government.  It's really stunning.  It is really one of, I think, the stories that has to be told by the U.S., to stand up for who we are and what we stand for.

“Twenty-five years ago, Tiananmen became synonymous with the battle for human rights in China – again, an iconic sight for an iconic struggle for justice and democracy.  Twenty-five years later, the spirit of Tiananmen endures in the hearts and minds of those continuing to struggle, both in China and around the world.  What moral authority do we have to say to a small country: ‘You cannot violate the human rights of your people,’ but we'll take anything the Chinese have to dish out, because we have a commercial interest there?

“The heroes, the heroes – and we have to talk about them, because the Chinese tell them: ‘Nobody cares about you anymore’ – these heroes still display the unmatched courage required simply to speak up and speak out.  I thank Congressman Smith for bringing this resolution forward and Speaker Boehner for this week holding an official remembrance – it is tomorrow – to allow us stand united with these heroes.

“Today, any mention of these events of June 4, 1989 – the victims and their families are in prison and persecuted by the Chinese government.  Today, the Chinese people may not know the truth about Tiananmen.  It's a long time ago.  Many of the young people weren't even born yet.  Corruption, though, they do know is rampant in the Chinese government.  The rule of law is not applied in a fair manner.  They suffer injustices, with no redress of grievances.  Air and water pollution are making them unhealthy and destroying their environment, and that may be something that gets the attention of the government.

“Mr. Wolf, thank you for your leadership, for your courage.  When Mr. Smith talks about going to Chinese Prison No. 1, I know that you led the way there.  Today, Ding Zilin and the Tiananmen mothers bravely keep up their calls for dialogue, and their supporters worldwide join the demands that the Chinese government: provide an honest accounting of the crackdown; stop persecution of the families of the demonstrators; and allow the families to mourn publicly without interference.

“Today, Liu Xiaobo remains the world’s only imprisoned Nobel Prize Peace Laureate, as he and his wife, Xia, join so many other still languishing in prison for criticizing their government or trying to exercise and secure their basic human rights.  We had the privilege of being asked by the family – some of us – to go to Norway when Liu Xiaobo received the Nobel Prize.  As some of you may recall, there was an empty chair, because the Chinese government would not allow him out of prison to go to receive the Nobel Prize.  And so, we joined some Members that were selected to be part of the delegation.  Was that one of the great honors of our lives?  I think we all agree that it was.

“We're not here today just to acknowledge history.  We are here to learn from the memory of a dark chapter of our dark past and to write a brighter chapter of freedom and justice in the future.  We're here to support the Tiananmen movement.  How many of those young people who got out of China, who came through here, told us their stories of courage?  We cried together.  They tried, together, to make sense of how they could make a difference for those people who were left behind.  We are here to support the Tiananmen movement, which endures, inspires, and cannot be stopped.

“I’m hopeful.  I’m hopeful because there are conversations that happen with the Chinese government.  I’ve had my own on the subject of climate change and environmental issues like clean air, et cetera, that are problematic in China – that maybe there can be some communication that can be constructive.  I’m hopeful that, with the visits that we have had to each other's countries to talk about one subject and another – without getting anywhere near that taboo, in their view, of our talking about people or their freedom – that perhaps in the communication that exists in the world today, that maybe we have reason to be hopeful.

“But, with the passage of this resolution, Congress will say to the people of China and freedom-loving people everywhere: ‘Your cause is our cause.  We can never forget.  We must never forget.  We will never forget.’  And again, the Chinese government likes to say to prisoners: ‘Nobody knows you're here.  They don't remember who you are.  They don't remember why you came here.’  We want to give lie to that.  Because over the years, we have always joined together – in a strongly bipartisan way –  to come to the floor, to go to public events, to say the names of people who we have not heard of their fate, but that their mothers want an accounting for.

“As we do this, we do so looking forward to a day when the world’s most populous country can be called a country where people can speak out and be respected.  And when the Chinese government respects its own people, it will command much more respect.  So again, I thank you, Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen, so much, for taking the lead to bring this forward; Congressman Castro, for your important remarks.  To my pals, Mr. Wolf and Mr. Smith: you've done so much; you've made such a difference.  It's an honor to serve with you and to work on this important project together.  With that, Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.”