A retired military doctor who recently wrote to the leaders of the ruling Chinese Communist Party calling the Tiananmen massacre a crime is incommunicado ahead of 30th anniversary of the bloody crackdown that ended the 1989 pro-democracy movement, RFA has learned.
Jiang Yanyong, 87, is believed to be under house arrest at an unknown location after he wrote to President Xi Jinping during the annual parliamentary sessions in Beijing last month, friends told RFA.
In 1989, Jiang was a surgeon in active service at the Chinese People's Liberation Army 301 Hospital in Beijing, where he took part in the rescue and treatment of the injured during the massacre, which began on the night of June 3.
Jiang later shot to fame in 2003 as the doctor who blew the whistle on a massive cover-up by Chinese health authorities of the extent of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in the city that year.
On Feb. 24, 2004 he threw the full weight of his fame behind renewed calls for an official reappraisal of the Tiananmen Square protests as a "patriotic movement," risking a happy and peaceful retirement to do so, according to his family.
Beijing-based independent journalist Gao Yu said Jiang's family home is now cut off from all communication with the outside world.
"It's pretty obvious why," Gao said. "This year, he wrote a letter to the highest levels of the party Central Committee during the National People's Congress, and clearly stated in the letter that [the] June 4,1989 [massacre] was a crime."
"He demanded a resolution, and asked the authorities to apportion blame and responsibility," she said. "His letter was the most direct expression regarding June 4 this year."
More security this year
Gao said this year's security measures were tighter than in previous years, in recognition that the 30th anniversary is more powerfully significant in people's minds.
"The defensive measures they have in place for this year's June 4 are much stronger," she said.
Gao said she had herself been placed under surveillance for several weeks after she visited the home of late ousted premier Zhao Ziyang on Jan. 16, to pay her respects on the anniversary of his death.
Zhao was ousted after showing too much sympathy with the student-led democracy protesters, and spent the rest of his life under house arrest at his Beijing home.
Jiang was forced to retire in 1993 from his position at the People's Liberation Army 301 Hospital in Beijing.
During the SARS epidemic of 2002-2003, Jiang sent statistics collected from several hospitals to media organizations in a bid to blow the whistle on a government attempt to cover up the extent of the epidemic.
However, state broadcaster CCTV and Chinese-owned Phoenix TV failed to report the story, so Jiang spoke instead to Time magazine.
Jiang had previously tried to leave China, but was secretly detained in Beijing June 1, 2004, together with his wife Hua Zhongwei. The couple had been on their way to apply for visas to visit their daughter in California.
The 1989 protests, which took over Tiananmen Square for several weeks, were sparked by a spontaneous outpouring of public mourning following the funeral of ousted liberal premier Hu Yaobang on April 22 that year.
The government styled the 1989 student-led democracy protests a "counterrevolutionary rebellion," and the families of victims and pro-democracy campaigners have since focused their efforts on a re-evaluation of that verdict, as well as demanding compensation and the apportioning of blame and responsibility for the massacre.
Public memorials and discussions of the events of June 1989 are banned in mainland China, with activists who seek to commemorate the bloodshed often detained, with veteran dissidents placed under police surveillance or detention during each anniversary.
Reported by Xi Wang for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.