Winston Peters condemns China over Tiananmen Square massacre on 30th anniversary

Peter Williams 04/06/2019

Foreign Minister Winston Peters has blasted China on the 30th anniversary of the brutal crackdown on Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protesters.

Following weeks of demonstrations, heavily armed troops attacked civilians in Beijing's Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989. Secret British diplomatic cables from the time contain shocking details of the massacre, including troops bayoneting women as they begged for mercy and soldiers machine-gunning survivors.

Appearing on Peter Williams' Magic Talk show on Tuesday, Peters said what happened was "unforgettable".

"Thirty years ago, about 10,000 people - we don't know how many - lost their lives when Chinese army's guns were turned on them, which is very very unforgettable," he says.

"The theory was that economic freedom or economic liberty would lead to political liberty. And in the case of China it has not. I can't say much more as Foreign Minister than that, but they're obvious."

Tiananmen Square remains an extremely sensitive topic in China, where the incident is still forbidden to be debated or taught in schools and is censored on the internet.

Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe said on Sunday that the crackdown was the "correct" decision, citing the country's "stability" since then.

But Peters says that in the end, "freedom is a very hard thing to repel".

People keep on striving as those students did.

"The regime, of course, to be fair to them, have problems that are huge compared with the problems we have," he told Williams.

With that number of people, economic improvement is so desperately needed that they have focused everything on that.

"I understand why things might be the way they are but not after three decades, if there hasn't been progress one would have hoped in respect to freedom itself."

Magic Mornings with Peter Williams airs weekdays from 9am to midday.