Pelosi Floor Speech Marking Thirty Years Since the Tiananmen Square Massacre


June 4, 2019

Washington D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks on the Floor of the House of Representatives marking thirty years since the Tiananmen Square massacre:

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you, Madam Speaker.

I thank the gentleman for yielding.  I thank him for his lifelong commitment to promoting human rights throughout the world.

Thank you, Mr. Malinowski, for your leadership, and for yielding, and your leadership in bringing this legislation to the Floor today.

Mr. McCaul, thank you, and Mr. Engel, thank you.  And thank you, Mr. McGovern for your leadership, and Chris Smith who has been working on this issue for decades.

Madam Speaker, I rise in remembrance of the horror perpetrated by the Chinese government 30 years ago today – of the heroism of those died in the name of human rights and human dignity.

Again, I salute Chairman McGovern, Chairman Engel, Chris Smith, Mr. McCaul, Mr. Malinowski and so many others for bringing this resolution forward, which ensures that we do not merely remember that dark chapter of history, but that we record it in the official proceedings of the United States Congress.

Thirty years ago, one million students, workers and citizens – men and women full of passion and idealism and courage – peacefully marched for a better future.

They raised their Goddess of Democracy in the image of our own Statue of Liberty.  They quoted our Founders.  They dared to dream of the democracy we cherish here in the United States – not necessarily the same kind of democracy, but for democratic freedoms.

They stood up for freedom only to be cut down by a hail of bullets and a line of tanks.

Earlier this year, the Tiananmen Mothers who lost loved ones in the massacre wrote to Chinese leaders.  Those mothers said, ‘Thirty years later while the criminal evidence has been covered up, the hard facts of the massacre are etched into history.  No one can erase it, no power however mighty can alter it, and no words or tongues, however clever, can deny it.’

Today, and on all days, we assure these mothers that we remember, and that the heroism their children will continue to be etched in our history.  It falls on us to remember because China still shamefully tries to hide and deny these heroes’ legacy.

As the writer Lu Xun wrote, ‘Lies written in ink cannot be disguised by facts written in blood.’

The memory and the spirit of the Tiananmen protestors live on in the hearts of all who strive for freedom in China today: in the hearts of the Uyghur communities facing unabated abuse and repression at the hands of the Chinese government; in the hearts of the people living in Hong Kong, where China continues to make a mockery of the ‘one country, two systems’ pledge; in the hearts of the Tibetan people who for decades faced a brutal campaign to erase their religion, their culture and their language; in the hearts of journalists, human rights lawyers, Christians and democracy activists unjustly imprisoned.

They always say, speaking of those in prison, that one of the great forms of torture that the Chinese officials have is to tell the prisoners that no one remembers them, that nobody knows why they are there, that they are forgotten.

Well, we are here in the House of Representatives today to tell those prisoners they are not forgotten.  We know many of their names.  We convey them to Chinese officials every chance we get, and we carry them in our hearts.

As Liu Xiaobo wrote in his final statement, ‘I have no enemies,’ he wrote, ‘Freedom of expression is the foundation of human rights, the source of humanity and the mother of truth.’

As we support those fighting for freedom from China’s oppression, we do so in the name of human rights, humanity and truth.

If we do not speak out for human rights because of economic concerns, then we lose all moral authority to talk about human rights in any other place in the world.

In their March letter, the Tiananmen Massacre Mothers quoted Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Laureate Elie Wiesel, who once said, ‘If we forget the dead, the dead will be killed a second time.’ With this resolution, the Congress pledges to the Tiananmen generation that we will never forget.

With the spirit of the Tiananmen protestors in our hearts, we pledge to continue to work for our shared dream – the dream of the day when the world’s most populous nation can be called the largest democracy.

And again, China is an important country.  The U.S.-China relationship is a very important relationship.

At the time when this oppression took place, China was abusing not only the rights of their own people, they were not allowing U.S. products into China – they were abusing our trade relationship and they were trading, selling weapons, technologies of mass destruction and delivery systems, missile delivery systems, to rogue countries.

We thought, at the time, that if we highlighted what happened at the Tiananmen – when the trade deficit was $5 billion a year, it was $5 billion a year, Chairman McCaul, $5 billion a year – we thought that gave us great leverage to free the prisoners, open their markets to our products, stop their violations of our intellectual property rights as well as stop their transfer of technologies that were unsafe.

$5 billion.  With corporate America who is benefiting from – hoped to benefit from the trade relationship, not your everyday small to moderate-sized businesses.  They knew the abuse of China and the trade relationship.  But corporate America weighed in with Democratic and Republican Presidents and said, ‘We need – we cannot use that trade relationship, that $5 billion, as leverage to free the prisoners and make other changes.  If we just proceed as we do, everything will work out.’

Well, now the trade deficit with China isn’t $5 billion a year, it’s more than $5 billion a week, a week.  We rode the dragon and the dragon will decide when we get off, but as a tribute to corporate America, our policy was to ignore the violations, whether it was trade violations, human rights violations or violations of trading missile and other technologies to rogue countries.  And now, over $5 billion a week.

It was a serious, serious mistake.  But as we made that mistake, we also betrayed our values, our values of respecting the dignity and worth of every person and respecting their aspirations for freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom of belief in this great country of China.

So, with respect to our prospects for a relationship with China, I would hope that in our trade talks with them now, that we are also bringing up the important subject of our values, as well as the dollars that are involved in the relationship.

With that, again, I salute to those who have been so important in this discussion.  I called Mr. McGovern our ‘spiritual leader’ – as we traveled to China and, within China, to Tibet and Hong Kong and the rest – for his incredible leadership as not only the Chair of the China Commission, but the Chair of the Thomas Lantos Human Rights Commission.

With that, I urge our colleagues to give this a big, strong vote and yield back the balance of my time.