Labor Camp for Tiananmen Artist

Chinese dissident had wanted to honor pro-democracy demonstrators killed in the 1989 crackdown.

A Chinese paramilitary policeman stands guard beside the Monument to the People’s Heroes at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, June 4, 2012.

Authorities in the Chinese capital have sentenced to labor camp an artist who tried to commemorate the 1989 military crackdown by writing with his own blood in Tiananmen Square, his lawyer said on Tuesday.

Beijing-based artists Hua Yong and Guo Zhenming were detained by police after they tried to set up their art installation marking the 23rd anniversary of the June 4 military crackdown on student protests on Tiananmen Square itself.

"Police in Tongzhou county, Beijing told me that [Hua's] detention period was up, and that he had now been sentenced to re-education through labor," Hua's lawyer Liu Xiaojun said.

"The police didn't say [how long for]," Liu said, adding that he would discuss with Hua's family how best to proceed.

Hua is no stranger to artistic activism. Last year, he and three friends also attempted an art installation on Tianamen Square to mark the 22nd anniversary of the crackdown.

At the time, he told RFA that he had given himself a bloody nose and used the blood to write the numbers "6,4" on the paving stones, denoting the date, June 4.

He was soon stopped by plainclothes police, who are stationed all around the politically sensitive Square, who confiscated his photographs and video of the event.

No fear of arrest

Hua said in an interview at the time that he didn't fear arrest, because he wanted to honor the souls of those who died in the bloodshed.

His installation earlier this year was to have been staged along similar lines, but this time, the blood came from a cut he made in his finger.

Hua's father told RFA he hadn't yet heard how long a sentence his son had received, or that he was to be sent to labor camp.

"At the time they detained him, on June 5, they informed us that he was charged with picking quarrels and disputes," he said.

Guo Zhenming was released on a year's probation, 38 days after being detained alongside Hua, Guo said on Tuesday.

"I think the [crime] is still 'picking quarrels'," Guo said. "All he did was write two characters, six and four [June 4]."

"When they took us in, they locked us up together in the Tongzhou County Detention Center," he said.

"I have been placed on probation for one year."

'A specific purpose'

Fellow Beijing artist Yang Licai said artists like Hua carry out installations and live performance art for a specific purpose.

"The main reason is to subvert the existing culture," Yang said. "They also include a protest against social oppression."

"Of course, [the authorities] are really against such actions by artists, and will crack down on them," he said.

Fellow artist Cheng Li said he had previously served in labor camp, where the shortest possible sentence is one year, and that Hua would likely be held at the Tongzhou detention center until there were enough prisoners to transfer to the Daxing Labor Camp, the only one in the Beijing area.

Cheng said he and fellow artists had tried to visit Hua and take him clothes, but that they had been refused because they weren't close relatives.

"It's very unjust that Hua Yong has been given such a harsh punishment," Cheng said. "He will serve at least a year, but he hasn't harmed anyone."

Dozens detained

Earlier this year, Chinese authorities rounded up dozens of activists who staged, or tried to stage, public events linked to this year's 23rd anniversary of the crackdown.

The number of people killed when People's Liberation Army (PLA) tanks and troops entered Beijing on the night of June 3-4, 1989 remains a mystery.

Beijing authorities once put the death toll at "nearly 300," but the central government, which labelled the six weeks of pro-democracy protests a “counterrevolutionary uprising,” has not issued an official toll or name list.

The crackdown, which officials styled in a news conference at the time as a necessary way to suppress a counterrevolutionary rebellion, sparked a wave of international condemnation, and for several years China was treated as a near-pariah, as Western governments offered asylum to student leaders fleeing into exile.

The Chinese Red Cross initially reported 2,600 deaths but quickly retracted its statement, while the Tiananmen Mothers, which represents all victims of the crackdown who died or were maimed, says it has confirmed 186 deaths, although not all at the hands of the army.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin service, and by Hai Nan for the Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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