May 30, 2019 / 11:24 AM / 4 months ago

China military says shouldn't say Tiananmen protests were 'suppressed'

FILE PHOTO: Paramilitary officers change guard in front of the portrait of the late Chinese chairman Mao Zedong in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China May 7, 2019. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s Defence Ministry on Thursday took exception to the use of the word “suppression” to refer to how the military put down pro-democracy protests in and around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square three decades ago.

June 4 marks 30 years since Chinese troops opened fire to end the student-led unrest. Rights groups and witnesses say hundreds or even thousands may have been killed.

The event remains a taboo topic of discussion in China and will not be officially commemorated by the ruling Communist Party or government. China has never provided a final death toll.

Asked at a regular monthly news briefing if China’s military would be marking the anniversary at all, Defence Ministry spokesman Wu Qian took exception to the use of the word “suppression” in the question.

“First of all, a clarification. I don’t agree with you for using the word ‘suppression’,” Wu said.

“In the last 30 years, the course of China’s reforms, development and stability, the successes we have achieved have already answered this question,” he added, without elaborating.

China at the time blamed the protests on counter-revolutionaries seeking to overthrow the party, though in more recent years government officials, when answering questions from foreign media, have tended instead to simply refer more euphemistically to the “political turmoil” of the period.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie

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