HONG KONG—Attempts to stage public events and protests commemorating the 21st anniversary of the military crackdown on the 1989 student-led pro-democracy movement in Beijing's Tiananmen Square have been largely thwarted by Chinese authorities, activists said.
"The Chinese government continues to refuse to openly and truthfully address the events of June 4, 1989, and persists in its efforts to silence Chinese citizens who seek to commemorate the massacre," the nongovernment network Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) said.
Activists using the microblogging service Twitter said a planned commemorative event on the campus of Beijing University, one of the centers of the student movement two decades ago, had failed owing to the presence of large numbers of state security police.
"I am at the Beijing University campus," tweeted user PKUbuzheteng Thursday. "Looking at the current situation, it seems that the protest event hasn't been able to proceed."
Twitter users had called on netizens to arrive wearing the mourning color white at the university campus on June 3 to mark the night of the beginning of the advance on the student headquarters by the People's Liberation Army.
"It seems that they have stationed one national security policeman at the gate, with others walking around the place in all directions," PUKbuzheteng wrote.
'Scuffles,' detentions reported
And Twitter user freemoren reported "scuffles between police and bystanders" outside the Great Hall of the People and numerous government departments, including the ruling Communist Party's powerful central propaganda department.
Police in Beijing detained six artists ahead of the anniversary as they staged public memorial events for the crackdown outside the capital's Museum of Fine Arts, including a sit-in and a signature campaign, artist Zhu Yanguang said.
Earlier this week, a cartoon entered for a competition which depicted a child drawing a line of tanks stopped by a single person at the Southern Metropolis Daily newspaper was removed from the paper's Web site.
"We decided pro-actively to remove the cartoon as it was being maliciously misread and misunderstood by some people, leading to a negative influence," an employee at the newspaper said.
"There was no question of being put under pressure."
But Beijing-based dissident Jiang Qisheng said the government had been obsessive about suppressing any mention of the crackdown for 20 years.
"I see the event as the massacre of poor people by an army, but the government thinks that it was right and proper to kill them," Jiang said.
"But it still won't come out and admit it."
Hong Kong criticized
Accusing police across China of "harassing and intimidating activists against speaking out as June 4 approaches", CHRD said that at least four Beijing-based individuals are still serving jail sentences for their participation in the 1989 protests.
It added that a further three activists had been sent to labor camp last year for their attempts to mark the 20th anniversary of the crackdown, which officials refuse to discuss openly, and which left hundreds, perhaps thousands, dead and an unknown number injured.
It slammed the seizure by Hong Kong police of two replicas of the 1989 Goddess of Democracy statue ahead of memorial events, which have taken place in the territory every year, calling it "an unprecedented act of interference with the territory’s commemorative activities."
Hong Kong activists were in uproar on forums and microblogging services after the territory's Chinese University of Hong Kong refused to allow a sculpture of the Goddess to be displayed on campus, citing a need for political neutrality.
They called on people attending Saturday's memorial service in Victoria Park to carry the statue to the campus in protest after the event was ended.
Hong Kong Democratic legislator James To also hit out at the government's deportation of New Zealand national Chen Weiming, who sculpted the statue.
"The government is obviously playing dirty tricks and this must be condemned," To told local media. "I think it is playing dirty tricks."
"[I] believe that all the government has done is to suppress the June 4 remembrance activity ... I think the government is to be condemned," he said.
Hong Kong Security Secretary Ambrose Lee denied the charges, saying that the immigration authorities had acted fully in compliance with the law.
He said police had already returned the confiscated statues to the memorial organizers, the Hong Kong Alliance for the Support of Patriotic and Democratic Movement in China.
Meanwhile, dozens of rights activists remained under surveillance across China, or had been warned off participating in any public events.
In Beijing, civil rights lawyer Teng Biao had been subjected to surveillance, while writer Wang Debang had received a warning.
In Xian, activist Yang Hai said police had said they would take him out of town until after the anniversary, while a second activist Zhang Jiankang hadn't been seen since being called in to "drink tea" with national security police.
In southwestern China, Suining-based dissident Liu Xianbin and Chongqing-based rights activist Mu Jiayu both reported being under surveillance on the eve of June 4, CHRD said in a statement on its Web site.
Original reporting in Mandarin by He Ping and in Cantonese by Grace Kei Lai-see. Cantonese service director: Shiny Li. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translated from the Chinese and written in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.