Chinese and Tibetan activists join forces for Tiananmen Square anniversary vigil

5th June 2019

Protesters who gave their lives remembered

Chinese and Tibetan activists joined forces on Tuesday to mark the thirtieth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre with a demonstration outside the Chinese embassy in London.

Streets around the embassy were temporarily renamed "Tiananmen Square" as protesters denounced the Chinese government for its actions during the 4 June 1989 crackdown and condemned the leadership in Beijing for what they said amounted to continued repression of the country. Those present also remembered the protesters who gave their lives in 1989.

4 June 1989 saw Chinese soldiers kill hundreds if not thousands of pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square and across China after leaders ordered popular protests to be suppressed.


Exiled Chinese writer Ma Jian and renowned Chinese dissident Shao Jiang, who was at Tiananmen square in 1989, were among those who made speeches.

“Remembering is actually resistance… That’s why 30 years on we hold fresh memory,” Shao Jiang told Free Tibet, adding that memories of the event must be passed to the next generation even as the Chinese government tries to erase them from history.

“The spirit of Tiananmen is alive here today,” another speaker said looking out at the crowd.

Credit: SFT Westminster
Credit: SFT Westminster

Daniel Yorkloh, an actor and writer who recently played a lead role as a Chinese soldier in Pah-La, a play at London’s Royal Court Theatre about Tibet, was at the demonstration.

“My family is from Singapore but I was at school at the time [of the massacre],” Yorkloh said. “I was watching this on TV in my room. It was just incredibly traumatic.”

“I was a Chinese kid at school [in Singapore]. These are my people being shot at… It wasn’t right… It’s just awful,” he added.

Several other people present at the protest stated that, 30 years later, the mindset that led to the killing at Tiananmen still exists among the Chinese Communist Party leadership.

Credit: SFT Westminster
Credit: SFT Westminster

Printed pictures of people who died in the massacre along with stories of how they were killed were laid out on the pavement outside the Chinese embassy by the organisers. Yorkloh and others read them out loud.

One story described a university student who was part of the pro-democracy movement. He took his camera to Tiananmen square to take pictures of the activists and was caught in the massacre.

The student was shot in the artery of his upper right leg and died on 4 June 1989. The Chinese government reportedly forced his father to admit that he had raised his son badly for him to be involved in the movement.

The father, under “enormous” psychological strain, developed schizophrenia, the speaker said.

Credit: SFT Westminster
Credit: SFT Westminster

In a statement before the event, Shao Jiang said, “I will never forget the events of that night, and we must ensure the world always remembers those who suffered in the fight for democracy, human rights and freedom.”

“The Chinese government wants to pretend the bloody massacre never happened - but we will not rest until we have the truth independently investigated and those responsible brought to justice.”

Other vigils and protests took place around the world, with 180,000 people gathering in Hong Kong's Victoria Park. Last week, Chinese and Tibetan activists and students gathered in Dharamsala to commemorate the events of 1989.

This solidarity was noted in London, with Tibetans in the crowd describing how they had a common cause with others in China, struggling for the same goals like democracy, freedom and human rights. Some recalled how Tibetans were among those who rallied and died at Tiananmen Square and in other areas of the People’s Republic of China in 1989.

Dawa Tsering, campaign manager at the Tibetan Community in Britain told Free Tibet, “Those students [at Tiananmen], they’re our brothers and sisters. They were just trying to get freedom…. We’re here to remind the Chinese embassy we have not forgotten.”

“We are with you, our Chinese brothers and sisters,” Tsering said in a speech to the crowd. “Freedom in China. Freedom in Tibet!”

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In late April, Wangchen, a 20 year old from eastern Tibet, gathered with friends to commemorate the Panchen Lama’s 30th birthday. The group called for the release of the Panchen Lama, who was detained as a boy in 1995 and has been missing ever since. They also called for the Panchen Lama and the exiled Dalai Lama to one day be reunited in Tibet. For this peaceful act, Wangchen was arrested. When his aunt, Dolkar, shared the news of Wangchen’s arrest, she too was charged.