On the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre in which pro-democracy demonstrations were quashed with military violence, China lambasted Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s criticism of the government crackdown.
“Under the pretext of human rights, the statement grossly intervenes in China’s internal affairs, attacks its system, and smears its domestic and foreign policies,” a Chinese Embassy spokesperson said Tuesday in response to Pompeo’s remarks. “This is an affront to the Chinese people and a serious violation of international law and basic norms governing international relations.”
Pompeo on Monday condemned the Chinese Communist Party’s June 4, 1989, decision to send tanks and troops into the square to confront peaceful protestors who were pushing for human rights and the end of corruption. The number killed, estimated to be from hundreds to thousands, remains unknown.
“We express our deep sorrow to the families still grieving their lost loved ones, including the courageous Tiananmen Mothers, who have never stopped seeking accountability, despite great personal risk,” Pompeo said. “The events of 30 years ago still stir our conscience, and the conscience of freedom-loving people around the world.”
The secretary of state extended his criticism to the present, saying the U.S. had hoped China would develop a more tolerant society, but “those hopes have been dashed.”
“China’s one-party state tolerates no dissent and abuses human rights whenever it serves its interests,” Pompeo said, adding that many who attempt to speak out ” are punished, jailed, and even tortured.”
Even now, China defends its response to the protests, and the embassy statement shows it has no intention further addressing the bloodshed that remains one of the nation’s most censored subjects. Instead, the statement pivoted to a claim that human rights in the country “are in the best period ever.”
“The Chinese government and people reached the verdict on the political incident of the late 1980s long ago,” the statement said. “Over the past four decades of reform and opening-up, China has enjoyed rapid economic and social development, continuous progress in democracy and the rule of law, flourishing culture and significantly improved standards of living.”
The statement concluded with a stern warning that those who “attempt to patronize and bully the Chinese people” will “end up in the ash heap of history.”
Pompeo’s message was set for a 12:01 a.m. release in Beijing to mark the anniversary, according to Politico ― a clear political statement at a time when tensions between the U.S. and China are already on the rise due to an escalating trade war.
“When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it,” Trump said then. “Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength. Our country is right now perceived as weak ... as being spit on by the rest of the world.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.