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Canada, U.S. call on China to reveal truth about Tiananmen Square

By
Darryl Coote
An art exhibit is part of an event remembering the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, during a rally calling for an end to alleged human rights injustices and Communist rule in China, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. on June 4, 2019. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
An art exhibit is part of an event remembering the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, during a rally calling for an end to alleged human rights injustices and Communist rule in China, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. on June 4, 2019. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

June 5 (UPI) -- Canada commemorated the 30th anniversary of the violent crackdown on protesters in Tiananmen Square by urging China to reveal how many people were killed and imprisoned that day.

"Canada asks Chinese authorities to break the silence of these events by openly accounting for the Chinese citizens who were killed, detained or went missing," Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland said in a short statement Tuesday.

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While China routinely suppresses news articles and information about the incident, Beijing's Tiananmen Square was where the Chinese military massacred an unknown number of pro-democracy protesters on June 4, 1989, with estimates of upwards of 10,000 people killed.

"Under the Chinese constitution, Chinese citizens should enjoy freedom of speech, assembly, association and belief," Freeland said. "Canada supports these fundamental human rights and stands with all those prevented from exercising their rights."

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She said the struggle for these basic freedoms continues in China by lawyers and journalists and that Canada calls upon China to uphold its human rights obligations "for the release of those who have been unjustly and arbitrarily detained."

The Chinese Embassy in Ottawa lashed back at Freeland for her remarks, saying she made "gross accusations on China's human rights and religious situation."

The embassy then accused Canada of "flagrantly" interfering with its internal affairs while trampling "basic norms governing international relations."

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"The Chinese side firmly opposes it and has made stern representations to the Canadian side," the embassy said. "Any attempt to interfere in China's internal affairs or destabilize our country is doomed to fail."

The comments come as tensions between the two countries have ratcheted up since December when Canada arrested Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou at the request of the United States, where she faces a slew of charges, including bank fraud, money laundering, obstruction of justice and sanctions violations.

In turn, China then arrested two Canadians -- diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor -- in the days following Meng's detention and charged them with stealing state secrets after Canada moved to extradite Meng to the United States.

Freeland's criticism comes a day after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States' hopes for China to become a more tolerant, open society following its international integration in the past decades had "been dashed."

"China's one-party state tolerates no dissent and abuses human rights where it serves its interests," Pompeo said in a statement. "Today, Chinese citizens have been subjected to a new wave of abuses, especially in Xinjiang, where the Communist party leadership is methodically attempting to strangle Uighur culture and stamp out the Islamic faith, including through the detention of more than one million members of Muslim minority groups."

He also accused China of building a "powerful surveillance state" in which Chinese citizens still strive to exercise their human rights of free speech, the right to assemble and justice.

Pompeo urged China to make a full account of all those who were killed or went missing during the Tiananmen Square massacre and to reverse "counterproductive policies that conflate terrorism with religious and political expression."

China responded by accusing the United States of hypocrisy.

"Some in the United States have long been in the habit of lecturing other countries and interfering in their internal affairs under the pretexts of 'democracy' and 'human rights' while turning a blind eye to problems at home," Foreign Ministry Spokesman Geng Shuang said during a regular press conference Tuesday.

"We advise those people to take a good look at themselves in the mirror and keep their own house in order," he added.

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