Canada’s Tienanmen

In 1989, Shengde Lian was a college student studying computer science when Hu Yaobang died. Yaobang had been one of China’s highest-ranking officials, having lost his power and influence for supporting reforms like free press and assembly.

After Hu died in April, Lian headed to Beijing as thousands of students gathered to memorialize Hu and ask for the reforms he’d supported.

When the tanks came in on June 4, thousands died. Eventually, Lian was arrested. He served six months before learning his charges, at least one of which was a capital offense. After 18 months, he was released only to learn later that his rearrest was imminent.

At that time there was a covert action in China called Operation Yellowbird, “an underground railroad [to get the Tiananmen dissidents to safety] run by an odd alliance of human-rights advocates, Western diplomats, businessmen, professional smugglers and the kings of the Hong Kong underworld.”

Having escaped through that railroad, Lian now lives in northern Virginia with his wife and children.

In 1998, I was a local reporter for a small town newspaper. Because President Bill Clinton was about to visit China, my editor was interested in stories about China.

Watching CSPAN one afternoon, I came across Lian speaking on behalf of an umbrella organization for Chinese dissidents in the US.

During our interview Lian explained that Tiananmen Square wasn’t the only location for protests in the wake of Hu’s death. That no one knew the fate of the man who provided the most famous image of the protests by blocking a row of tanks.

And that the government had negotiated with the protesters in Beijing–for a time–before moving the military in to take the lives of thousands.

Agree or disagree with the protesters in Ottawa, but realize that their government never talked with the protesters. They just sent in their equivalent of the tanks of June 4, 1989.

The death toll won’t reach that of Tiananmen’s proportions. Machiavellian leaders in the West know that it’s unpopular to use violence beyond its need. But the injustices of Ottawa otherwise reflect that of the Chinese Communist government.

Like the Chinese government of then, Canada will hunt down the truckers who peacefully left Ottawa. Our neighbor to the north has confiscated finances and even threatens to euthanize the pets of those who participated.

For many in the West, Canada’s response to the protests is a surprise. First, that Canadians would rise up in such numbers. Next, that the government would come down with such force.

Before Tiananmen Square, young Chinese revered their leaders as a Confuscian culture had taught them to do. When China turned its army against its own people, the young looked elsewhere for leadership causing Christianity to flourish in China. One protester explains:

“I was raised to believe in our government, but the government shot me in my legs,” [Qi Zhiyong] says. After June 4, “a lot of people lost confidence in the education, policy and ideology of the Communist Party. People no longer had any beliefs.

“As a result, they rushed to church.”

The Chinese government is powerful, but there are now more Christians in China than there are Communist Party members.

The Canadian government has exerted its own power against a people, who like the Chinese students of 1989, wanted to begin a conversation that would lead to reasonable conditions and freedoms.

It remains to be seen whether Canadians will encounter Christ as the Chinese did.

I don’t expect a covert plan to help truckers escape Canada. We can be certain, however, that many Canadians won’t trust their government the same way they did a month ago.

Canadian leadership might benefit from remembering a motto, an old Chinese saying, the leaders of Operation Yellowbird embraced:  “The mantis stalks the cicada, unaware of the yellow bird behind.”

When a predator stalks prey, another watches.

May the One who watched over Chinese dissidents and brought them to truth, prevail in Canada as well.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

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Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

29 Replies to “Canada’s Tienanmen”

  1. I remember that time in 1989 and the courage of those Chinese students. Sad as these events were, it let the world know more about the oppression the Chinese government inflicts upon citizens. We can hope the incidents in Canada end peacefully, but no matter which way it goes, pray that people will turn to God and not put hope in any kind of government.

    1. Amen, Barbara. The only reason we knew about Tiananmen Square was that the Soviet Premier, Gorbachev was visiting Beijing and the international press was there. Otherwise, we might have only heard wisps of rumors. Christianity’s explosion in China after that would be a bit of a mystery. Thanks and God bless!

  2. Excellent piece! I have long believed that we put far too much stake and trust in our government to solve problems and “fix things.” No person or government can ever do this. I am proud of those people who risk much to protest injustice, whatever their views. They are standing up for what they believe is right. It’s no wonder that after people lose faith in world systems, they run to the church. May we all do the same.

  3. I read today of a man who was arrested in China for selling Bibles and the government is tracing those who bought Bibles online from him. I’m praying for the persecuted church and for God’s light to shine. I can’t help but think His return is drawing near. Nancy, thank you for sharing this. May God be glorified.

  4. Thank you for sharing. I learned a lot from this post. The church grows the most under persecution. I am praying we get to see God’s power come from this horrible situation.

  5. Thank you for connecting the incident in Canada with what happened in China so long ago. This connection heightens the events in Canada. Many of us zoned out, not comprehending the magnitude of the strike, nor the similarity to what had been earlier occurred in China.

  6. I read this as we are also seeing Russia invade Ukraine. Our world needs Jesus immediately. I pray many more seek Him during these difficult days

  7. Nancy, you draw some great comparisons between these two sad events in history. Sometimes we shake our heads in despair at such events, but you rightly pointed out that God is in control and is accomplishing His purposes.

    1. We often don’t think of His Providence in events as they surprise us. Later, it’s easier for us to look back and see His hand. Thanks, Annie. God bless!

  8. God bless the Freedom Convoy in Canada for standing their ground against a shockingly tyrannical government. May all our eyes be increasingly open to what is truly going on around us.
    Loved the revelation that there are now more Christians than Communists in China. We know how the story ends. “Every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess Jesus Christ is Lord.”

  9. Nancy, thanks for sharing Lian’s story with us. Grateful how Christians outnumber the communist party in China and praying the same happens with the Canadian people.

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