Police Swarm Tiananmen Square to Bar Protests

Posted by Superior on Jun 4th, 2009 and filed under International. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

04beijing-600BEIJING — China blanketed Tiananmen Square with police officers Thursday, determined to prevent any commemoration of the 20th anniversary of a military crackdown on pro-democracy protesters that left hundreds dead.

Visitors to the sprawling plaza in central Beijing were stopped at checkpoints and searched, and foreign television crews and photographers firmly turned away. Uniformed and plainclothes officers, easily identifiable by their similar shirts, seemingly outnumbered tourists.

A few pursued television cameramen with opened umbrellas trying to block their shots — a comical dance that was broadcast on CNN and BBC. There was no flicker of protest. Other than the intense police presence and the government’s blockage of some popular Internet services, the scorchingly hot day passed like any other in the capital.

China’s government has tried hard over the years to obliterate the memory of the huge student-led protests that shook the Communist Party and captivated the world for weeks.

An official reacted angrily Thursday to a call by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for a public accounting of the incident.

“The U.S. action makes groundless accusations against the Chinese government. We express strong dissatisfaction,” a Foreign Ministry spokesman, Qin Gang, told reporters at a regular briefing.

“The party and government have already come to a conclusion on the relevant issue,” he said. “History has shown that the party and government have put China on the proper socialist path that serves the fundamental interests of the Chinese people.”

In a statement Wednesday, Mrs. Clinton urged China to publish the names of the dead, missing or detained when the military crushed the protest, saying an accounting would help China “to learn and to heal.”

“A China that has made enormous progress economically and is emerging to take its rightful place in global leadership should examine openly the darker events of its past,” her statement said.

She also called on Chinese authorities to release all prisoners still jailed for taking part in the demonstrations and to stop harassing bereaved relatives, who have formed a group called Tiananmen Mothers.

“China can honor the memory of that day by moving to give the rule of law, protection of internationally recognized human rights, and democratic development the same priority as it has given to economic reform,” her statement said.

The president of Taiwan, Ma Ying-jeou, who has fostered closer ties to the mainland through a series of trade and tourism accords, also urged China to confront the episode. “This painful period of history must be faced with courage and cannot be intentionally ducked,” he said in an unusually strong statement.

Their remarks contrasted with the enforced public silence throughout China. There was no mention of the day’s significance in Thursday’s Beijing newspapers. The state-run mass-circulation China Daily led with a story about job growth signaling China’s economic recovery.

Access was blocked to popular Internet services like Twitter, as well as to many university message boards. The home pages of a mini-blogging site and a video-sharing site warned users they would be closed through Saturday for “technical maintenance.

Some Internet users tried to evade the censors by referring to June 4 as May 35 on electronic bulletin boards or message sites. Others proposed wearing white, the Chinese traditional color of mourning, as a silent form of protest.

One government notice about the need to seek out potential troublemakers apparently slipped onto the Internet by mistake, remaining just long enough to be reported by Agence France-Presse. “Village cadres must visit main persons of interest and place them under thought supervision and control,” read the order to Guishan township, about 870 miles from Beijing.

In a report released Thursday, the rights group Chinese Human Rights Defenders said 65 activists in nine provinces have been subjected to official harassment to keep them from commemorating the anniversary.

Ten have been taken into police custody since late May, the group said. Dozens of others, mostly from Beijing, are either under police guard or have been forced to leave their homes, according to the report.

Jiang Qisheng was imprisoned for four years in 1999 after he published a letter asking the government to reassess the June 4th crackdown.

“They started watching me in my apartment building on May 15,” he said in a telephone interview Thursday morning from his Bejing apartment.

“Before yesterday, I could go swimming or grocery shopping, but in their car, of course. But since yesterday, I have been prevented from going anywhere.

“We never forget June 4,” said Mr. Jiang, a writer. “And I believe most of Chinese people of my generation don’t forget. They are just tied up with daily routine life.”

Ding Zilin, a retired professor and activist whose son was killed during the crackdown, told The Associated Press: “They won’t even allow me to go out and buy vegetables.”

“They’ve been so ruthless to us that I am utterly infuriated,” she said.

A former key student leader of the demonstrations was detained Wednesday night at the airport in Macao, a special administrative region in China. He was deported Thursday afternoon back to Taiwan, where he lives with his wife and two children.

Wu’er Kaixi, now a 41-year-old investment banker, said he wanted to surrender to Chinese authorities and face trial because he hasn’t seen his parents in 20 years. “I also want to be in a courtroom so that I can talk,” he said in an interview Wednesday night from an airport detention room.

“We dissidents in exile, that’s what we do,” he said. “We try very hard to come home, all of us, but the door is shut very tightly.”

As a student leader in 1989, Mr. Wu’er was one of the few student leaders who met with Li Peng, then China’s prime minister, in a nationally televised encounter. He publicly rebuked the Chinese leader for not meeting the students’ demands.

He said he does not regret delivering that scolding today. But had he known that the demonstrations would end with the deaths of protesters and civilians, he said, he might not have pushed to continue them. “Perhaps not,” he said. “Perhaps not.”

Mr. Wu’er, who was listed as the second on the government’s most-wanted list of protest leaders, escaped overseas after the crackdown.

The Associated Press reported that Xiang Xiaoji, another dissident who took part in the 1989 demonstrations, was denied entry Wednesday to Hong Kong, another special administrative region of China. June 4 is commemorated every year with a candlelight vigil there, and preparations were under way Thursday for the evening gathering in Victoria Park.

A U.S. Consulate General spokesman told the news agency that the decision to deport Mr. Xiang, now an American citizen, was “particularly regrettable in light of Hong Kong’s well-known reputation as an open society.”

But Hong Kong allowed entry to one prominent student leader, Xiong Yan. Mr. Xiong, now a U.S. Army chaplain in Alabama, planned to speak at the candlelight vigil.

Zhang Jing and Xiyun Yang contributed research, and Mark McDonald contributed reporting from Hong Kong.

Related searches:
tiananmen square tank, tiananmen square massacre, tiananmen, tiananmen square video, tiananmen square protests of 1989

Leave a Reply

Advertisement