Activist Detained in China's Guangzhou Over Lone Tiananmen Protest

Church member and rights activist Gao Heng took a photo of himself with a placard calling on Christians to pray for China on June 4.
Activist Detained in China's Guangzhou Over Lone Tiananmen Protest People hold candles as they gather for a vigil outside the Chinese Embassy in London marking the 32nd anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre in Beijing, June 4, 2021.

Authorities in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong have detained a man for staging a public memorial of the June 4, 1989 Tiananmen massacre.

Gao Heng, a volunteer at the Guangzhou Bible Reformed Church, was detained on June 4 in an underpass of Guangzhou Metro Line 2 for holding up a placard marking the 32nd anniversary of the crackdown by the People's Liberation Army (PLA) that ended weeks of student-led protests on Tiananmen Square.

"[Gao] was taken away by the Guangzhou municipal state security police at around 1.00 a.m. on Saturday," church pastor Huang Xiaoing told RFA on Monday.

"I went to the local branch of the state security police to enquire about him, but they wouldn't tell me anything," Huang said. "Then I called the Guangzhou municipal police department, but they refused to disclose any information to me."

"I'm guessing it's because he took a picture of himself at the Nanpu metro station near here, holding up a sign that said 'Pray for China on June 4'," Huang said. "He also made a comment."

"The authorities are pretty nervous [at this time]."

The ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) bans public memorials marking the bloodshed, and has continued to ignore growing calls in China and from overseas for a reappraisal of the 1989 student protests, which it has styled a "counterrevolutionary rebellion."

Huang said it was no accident that Gao had made the protest as a member of a Christian church.

"We can't change this government, but as a church, we have a responsibility to tell the government what it has done wrong," he said. "We are also patriots."

"[We want] the party to face up to their past mistakes, and what took place on June 4, 1989," Huang said. "We have been praying for the families of the victims."

'An honest person'

Fellow rights activist Huang Yongxiang said he is worried that Gao could face the same fate as Guangzhou activist Zhang Wuzhou, who was jailed for two years and nine months by the  Qingcheng District People's Court in March for "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble."

The prosecution accused her of public opposition to a draconian national security law imposed by Beijing on Hong Kong from July 1, 2020, as well as using slogans to mark the Tiananmen massacre anniversary in a solo memorial in Guangzhou's Baiyun Mountain Park in June 2020.

"[Gao] is an honest person, loyal and full of enthusiasm," Huang Yongxiang said. "He has been a long-term volunteer at the church, as well as in social activism, helping a lot of elderly people in the community."

"The political environment is getting more and more hostile now, and there is a precedent here in Guangzhou -- Zhang Wuzhou getting more than two years for holding up a placard last year," he said.

Meanwhile, authorities in the southwestern region of Guangxi hauled rights activist Li Yanjun in for questioning on June 4 after he reposted the "Tank Man" news photograph of a lone man in shirtsleeves, carrying a shopping bag, facing down a column of tanks on Chang'an Avenue.

"Around a dozen officers, mainly plainclothes, came," Li told RFA following his release on Monday.

"They brought me down to the police station in their car, where I was interrogated by two officers for more than an hour," he said. "Then they searched my home and confiscated my iPhone."

"They told me I was suspected of spreading fake news," he said. "I told them that it couldn't be fake because even [state broadcaster] CCTV had reported it [at the time]."

Reported by Gao Feng for RFA's Mandarin and Cantonese Services. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.


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