The US on Monday urged China to make a full public account of those killed, detained or who went missing during a crackdown on student-led pro-democracy protests in and around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.
The Chinese government sent tanks to quell the June 4, 1989 protests, and has never released a death toll.
Human rights groups and witnesses estimate that those who died ranged from several hundred to several thousand.
The Tiananmen crackdown is a taboo subject in China,while 29 years later it remained a point of contention between China and many Western countries.
In a statement on Sunday the recently appointed Pompeo said he remembered “the tragic loss of innocent lives”.
“As Liu Xiaobo wrote in his 2010 Nobel Peace Prize speech, delivered in absentia, ‘the ghosts of June 4th have not yet been laid to rest’,” Pompeo said referring to the Chinese dissident who died in 2017 while still in custody.
“We join others in the international community in urging the Chinese government to make a full public accounting of those killed, detained or missing,” Pompeo added.
In response to Pompeo’s comments, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China had lodged “stern representations” with the US.
“China long ago reached a clear conclusion about the events of that era, but the U.S. every year issues statements of “gratuitous criticism” and interferes in its internal affairs.
“The U.S. Secretary of State has absolutely no qualifications to demand the Chinese government do anything,” Hua added.
However, Hu Xijin, editor of nationalistic tabloid the Global Times, called Pompeo’s statement a “meaningless stunt” that “represents a wish of the Western world to meddle in China’s political process”.