After waiting in a rather long security line, I found myself walking towards Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China. This was the number one place on my list of must sees in Beijing. The stories of bravery that day at Tiananmen Square have always resonated with me. It certainly wasn't the first time in history that young people, in particular, protested against a corrupt government, but it was the first in my life time. If you follow news from around the globe, then you also know that unfortunately it wasn't the last.
The final number of those that lost their lives during those few days in June 1989 is still unknown. It is estimated that over 1,000 protestors were gunned down by the Chinese military. Nearly 1,600 protestors were sentenced to prison and remained in prison for decades. The last known political prisoner was released this past May 2016 (notice I said last "known"). He was sentenced to life in prison for arson. He threw a basket on a burning tank (Read More About His Story From the WSJ HERE).
One of the most surprising things to me, was that Tiananmen Square is right outside of the Forbidden City of Beijing. Perhaps, many people know this already, but for some reason, I had never realized the historical and political significance of the protestors and how they came to choose Tiananmen ("Gate of the Heavenly Peace") Square. The Forbidden City has dominated the city of Beijing since 1420. And even now, the grand architecture of the Forbidden City overshadows the memorial built for those that lost their lives fighting against the very regime that ultimately killed them.
Considering the fact that it has been nearly 3 decades since the Chinese government's brutal force on its people, you would think that governments around the globe would have learned from the poorly chosen actions of the Chinese government. The protestors in Tiananmen Square were gathering to be heard as one voice calling out for their own freedom and democracy. In return, their own government silenced them in a bloody massacre that lingers on within the hearts of the people even decades later.
Unfortunately, the recent events happening around the globe today show that there is still so much to be learned from the events of Tiananmen Square. People deserve to be free. People deserve the right to fight for and to express their own individual freedom. And violence from either side is truly not the answer.