Activists Under Tight Security Ahead of Tiananmen Anniversary

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A student hunger striker from Beijing University during mass pro-democracy protests on Tiananmen Square, May 14, 1989. Photo: AFP
HONG KONG—Two mothers of young people killed in the 1989 military crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square have strongly criticized Beijing for its continuing security surveillance of their homes ahead of the sensitive anniversary on Saturday.

"We been under police surveillance ever since the funeral of Zhao Ziyang [in January]," Ying Ning, mother of slain senior high-school student Ye Weihang, told RFA's Mandarin service. Former Communist Party general secretary Zhao Ziyang, who died under house arrest in January, was ousted during the 1989 crackdown for taking too sympathetic a line with the student-led protesters.

"Then it was the National People's Congress (NPC) in March," said Beijing resident Ying, who was speaking just days ahead of the sensitive 16th anniversary of the crackdown, in which hundreds, perhaps thousands, are thought to have died.

I already have a little granddaughter. When she comes to my place, and we sit on the balcony, we can see this police van across the street staring at our home

"I already have a little granddaughter," Ying told RFA. "When she comes to my place, and we sit on the balcony, we can see this police van across the street staring at our home. We are sick and tired of this...It's extremely unjust."

People's University professor Ding Zilin is the most prominent member of the Tiananmen Mothers group, which has just written an open letter to President Hu Jintao calling for a reassessment of the Tiananmen protests. More about the open letter

Human-centered policies an 'empty slogan'

Ding told RFA that she seriously doubted the sincerity of Hu's government in making a more harmonious society amid rampant official corruption and growing popular unrest.

"I think that before they have even succeeded in building a harmonious society, they must have taken the decision to exclude us from such a society," Ding told RFA reporter Yan Ming.

"Who are the members of this harmonious society, then? This talk of human-centered policies sounds good, but it is really just an empty slogan."

I think that before they have even succeeded in building a harmonious society, they must have taken the decision to exclude us from such a society.

Ding said her group would persist with its quiet demands for a re-appraisal of the crackdown, which is still a taboo subject for public debate.

"We are not the sort of people to shout loud slogans, demanding an eye for and eye, a tooth for a tooth. But every year we will write such a letter, as long as we are still alive to do it," Ding said.

The Chinese authorities traditionally tighten security in the capital ahead of key political events and the June 4 anniversary.

'Most important' time of year

AIDS activist and prominent dissident Hu Jia told RFA that he was persuaded to leave Beijing by officials so he could maintain his freedom, and avoid submitting to house arrest or detention.

"They said security would be much tighter at this time, because June 4 was one of the most important times of year," Hu said.

Police have told the Tiananmen Mothers not to carry out any commemorative activities during the anniversary period and told Ding that her house and movements would be monitored.

Ding told RFA reporter Han Qing that her husband had received a visit from a section chief in the national security service. "He asked how come everyone knew about the letter we sent to Hu Jintao. My husband explained very gently to him that it was an open letter."

"I told him that our actions are based on peaceful, non-violent principles, but that it was not incumbent on us to report them to him," Jiang told RFA. "He said that he wasn't talking about a report, but communication. I said that informing national security of our actions in advance was not an option."

Another Tiananmen Mothers member, Zhang Xianling, said she was also under surveillance. "They said they didn't want us to go to the cemetery to carry out commemorative activities. I expect it'll be over by about June 5 or 6," she said.

Calls for a government apology

"Our main point in the letter was that if China wants Japan to apologize for what it did to us, then the Communist Party should apologize for what it did to Chinese people. The principle is the same," Zhang added.

AIDS activist Hu Jia said that he and other dissidents had been detained several times this year, including after Zhao Ziyang's death, during the annual meeting of the NPC, and during a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Condeleezza Rice.

Friends and acquaintances of activists such as Liu Xiaobo and Ren Wanding said they had left the capital, possibly under pressure from police, according to Agence France-Presse.

In an apparent effort to clear away troublemakers ahead of the anniversary, police last week rounded up between 300 and 500 petitioners seeking to lodge complaints with the government and escorted them to their home towns.

Original reporting in Mandarin by Yan Ming and Han Qing. RFA Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translated and produced for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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