Activists Detained After Memorial

Activists in southwestern China honor victims of the Tiananmen crackdown.

2012-05-30
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Tiananmen-Retro-305.jpg Students gather at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, April 22, 1989.
AFP

Rights activists in the southwestern Chinese city of Guiyang staged a rare public memorial marking the 23rd anniversary of the military crackdown against student-led pro-democracy protests on Tiananmen Square in Beijing, although some were taken out of town by police soon afterwards, ahead of the sensitive June date.

The gathering came just three days after the father of a young man who died during the crackdown hanged himself in protest.

Around 150 people converged on the People's Square in downtown Guiyang on Monday, unfurling banners calling for justice for the victims of the bloodshed.

Photos uploaded to the Internet showed protesters holding banners, one of which called on China's ruling Communist Party to "Pursue the killers and end political oppression!"

"Every year, when it gets close to June 4, I get detained," said event organizer Mei Chongbiao. "This year we are holding our memorial event for June 4 early."

Mei said he fully expected to be detained before the event could take place. "I expected, and have prepared for this, that the state security police and the regular police would detain me today."

But he added: "A strange thing happened; they didn't come."

Calls for an official reappraisal of the events of the spring of 1989 have become increasingly strident among victims' groups, rights activists, and reform-minded intellectuals in recent years.

The victims group Tiananmen Mothers, which is campaigning for publicly awarded compensation to the families of those who died in the crackdown, has said the authorities have tried to offer private compensation deals on condition of silence from families, who have refused them.

On Friday, Ya Weilin, 73, a retired worker of China's No. 2 nuclear research institute, was found in an underground parking garage below his residential complex in Beijing after apparently hanging himself there.

Relatives said his suicide note referred to his death as a form of protest at the lack of justice for his son, Ya Aiguo, 23 years after the crackdown ended weeks of mass protests which had brought Beijing to a standstill and precipitated a leadership crisis among China's ruling elite.

Police action

Fellow activist Li Renke said the authorities, who typically keep a close watch on him around sensitive anniversaries, had also failed to prevent him from attending Mei's event.

"It seems that this year, things are a bit more relaxed than last year," Li said. "The directive ... ordering increased surveillance of [our group] from last year ... is still in effect."

However, a third Guizhou-based activist, Wu Yuqin, said she was being taken on a compulsory out-of-town "vacation" by police ahead of the anniversary.

"We are already under surveillance here, and they have told me that they will pick me up on [Wednesday]," Wu said on Tuesday. "They said that they would take me away because of June 4."

"They even asked me where I wanted to go."

Wu said she knew of "many, many more" activists who were also being taken away on "vacation."

Deadly crackdown

The number of people killed on the night of June 3-4 remains a mystery. China’s official death toll is 241, including 36 students.

The crackdown set off a wave of condemnation across the globe, and for several years China was treated as a near-pariah, as Western governments offered asylum to student leaders fleeing into exile.

The Tiananmen Mothers, which represents all victims of the crackdown who died or were maimed, has repeatedly called for a dialogue with Chinese officials on a reappraisal of the crackdown, and for victims' families to be allowed to pursue legal claims against the government.

The group has also called for a new investigation into the incident, for "reasonable compensation" for victims' families, and for those responsible to be held judicially accountable.

A fourth Guizhou activist, Shen Youlian, said the pressure on the authorities for a reassessment of the events of 1989 would continue to grow.

"The mood of protest among the people will not just go away," he said. "There was a demonstration for the reappraisal of June 4 recently in Hong Kong."

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

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