Radio Free Asia: Chinese Activists Detained, Under Surveillance on ‘Politically Sensitive’ Massacre Anniversary

Radio Free Asia

Authorities in China on Monday stepped up a nationwide security operation targeting critics of the ruling Chinese Communist Party on the anniversary of a 1989 massacre that ended weeks of student-led protests on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.

Zhang Xianling, a founder member of the Tiananmen Mothers victims group who lost her 19-year-old son during the crackdown, said she is currently under closer surveillance than in previous years, after the group wrote to Chinese President Xi Jinping calling the bloodshed a “crime against humanity.”

Zhang Xianling pays her respects to her son, who died
during the June 4, 1989 crackdown on student-led
protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, June 4, 2018.
Photo courtesy of Zhang

“There have been a lot of police following us closely,” Zhang, who went to pay her respects at her son’s grave this week, said. “There were also a lot of police at Wan’an Cemetery; several dozen of them, all in plain clothes.”

In the 29 years since the massacre, the Tiananmen Mothers victims’ group has called repeatedly for a public inquiry into the massacre. They also want compensation, and a detailed account of who died, how and where, but the government has never responded.

Jiang Jiawen, a rights activist from northeastern China currently living in Beijing, said police are also out in force along all major public transportation routes leading to Tiananmen Square.

“In Beijing, particularly to the east of Tiananmen Square, they are checking ID cards wherever you go, on such a sensitive day,” Jiang said. “Plainclothes state security police are checking the ID of anyone they think looks like a dissident or a petitioner.”

“They are doing this on the buses, too, and there are police and security guards checking people’s ID on the subway,” he said.

Jiang said he and fellow rights activist Tian Ye had been detained for making posts to social media about the 29th anniversary of the crackdown, when the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) used armored vehicles and machine guns to put an end to weeks of student-led popular protests calling for an end to official corruption, and political reform.

“We were taken away by a high-ranking officer from the Fangshan police station, as well as four officials from our hometowns’ representative offices in Beijing,” Jiang said. “We are now staying in a guesthouse run by the representative office.”

“They always put me under surveillance at this sensitive time, because it’s June 4, and we were writing about it online,” he said. “Most of the key figures [who are trying to commemorate the crackdown] across China have now been placed under surveillance or house arrest now.”

Sources said petitioners Zhu Xiaoping, He Bin and Xu Caihong were also detained by police on Tiananmen Square on Monday.

Tens of thousands of people attend an annual
candlelight vigil at Hong Kong’s Victoria Park,
June 4, 2018. AP Photo

Hong Kong vigil

In Hong Kong, thousands of people attended a candlelight vigil to remember the victims of the massacre in Victoria Park.

Lee Cheuk-yan, secretary of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of the Patriotic Democratic Movement in China, which organizes the annual event, the only one to take place on Chinese soil, said activists in the city are still able to take advantage of a separate legal jurisdiction to carry out such activities.

“Everyone who comes to a June 4 candlelight vigil brings great depth of feeling with them,” Lee said. “They also bring with them the hope that the [the Chinese government will] reappraise June 4, 1989.”

The government styled the student-led democracy protests, sparked in April 1989 by the death of much-loved liberal premier Hu Yaobang, a “counterrevolutionary rebellion.”

Public memorials and discussions of the events of June 1989 are banned, with activists who seek to commemorate the bloodshed often detained and veteran dissidents placed under police surveillance or detention during each anniversary.

Former 1989 student leader Wang Dan, who now lives in the U.S., welcomed the vigil.

“Every year, we see the candlelight vigil in Hong Kong’s Victoria Park … and we have seen this moral support persist for the past 29 years,” Wang told RFA. “That is something the people of Hong Kong should be proud of.”

“Hong Kong people have continued to mourn the victims of June 4, 1989, and in doing so have won the respect of the whole world,” he said. “I hope that the event will continue in spite of growing oppression by the Chinese Communist Party.”

Activists held

Across the internal border in the southwestern region of Guangxi, rights lawyer Chen Jiahong is incommunicado after he was detained on Saturday as he planned to get together for a meal with friends.

Fellow rights activist Xu Peiling said Chen was accused of shouting slogans related to the anniversary at a meal in a hotel.

“They took Chen away while they were taking a statement from me, we don’t know where,” Xu said. “We asked them but they wouldn’t tell us.”

“The police also asked me if I’d heard anyone shouting slogans in the hotel, meaning Chen, but I said I hadn’t,” she said. “It’s pretty obvious that today is a very sensitive date.”

And authorities in the eastern province of Anhui detained Shen Liangqing, a former state prosecutor-turned-rights activist, on Monday.

Calls to Shen’s cell phone rang unanswered on Monday.

Reappraisal urged

In Washington, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on Beijing to make public the details of the massacre, including an exact list of victims and an account of their deaths.

“We join others in the international community in urging the Chinese government to make a full public accounting of those killed, detained or missing; to release those who have been jailed for striving to keep the memory of Tiananmen Square alive; and to end the continued harassment of demonstration participants and their families,” Pompeo said in a June 3 statement published on the State Department’s official website.

“The United States views the protection of human rights as a fundamental duty of all countries, and we urge the Chinese government to respect the universal rights and fundamental freedoms of all citizens,” the statement said.

Last week, U.S.-based cartoonist Badiucao calling on people outside to imitate the “Tank Man” hero of the 1989 protests on June 4 by standing on a chair in a public place, carrying grocery bags in a manner reminiscent of the famous news photo.

Earlier this year, the family of late Chinese premier Zhao Ziyang called for his posthumous rehabilitation. Zhao was purged for his sympathetic stance towards the 1989 Tiananmen pro-democracy movement, and his opposition to the use of force against the students.

Reported by Yang Fan, Gao Feng and Qiao Long for RFA’s Mandarin Service, and by Dai Weisen for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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