Chinese Police Hold Five Tiananmen Hunger Strikers, Lawyer


2014.01.09
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A Chinese worker expresses support for mass protests at Tiananmen Square, May 17, 1989, before the government's bloody crackdown.
AFP

Authorities in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou are holding five activists who began a hunger strike to mark the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square military crackdown this year, as well as a lawyer who enquired about them, according to rights groups and lawyers.

The activists — Xiao Qingshan, Zhang Shengyu, Ma Shengfen, Liang Songji and Huang Yanwen — were detained last weekend as they gathered at Liang's Guangzhou home to mark the anniversary by refusing food, the overseas-based Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) group said on Thursday.

The activists, who form a loose network known as the "Southern Street Movement," were taken away following a police raid on Liang's home.

While Liang is under criminal detention on suspicion of “obstructing official business” at the Liwan District Detention Center, the whereabouts of the others have not been confirmed, CHRD said in an e-mailed statement.

A day later, police also detained rights lawyer Liu Shihui after he went to enquire about the activists.

More than 100 rights lawyers across China, including Liang Xiaojun, who has defended political dissidents, have signed an open letter demanding Liu's release.

"Liu Shihui is our friend, and a lawyer who has suffered extreme persecution," Liang told RFA this week.

"He was very rudely and roughly treated by police at the time of his interrogation, and I think we absolutely must help him," he said.

He said Liu's rights work meant he is frequently targeted by the authorities for retaliation.

"For Liu Shihui to ask after his friends at the police station is the normal act of a citizen," Liang said. "His friends had been detained, and he wanted to ask what happened to them."

"This resulted in his own detention, which is completely unacceptable," he said.

Sensitive time

This year's 25th anniversary of the military suppression of several weeks of student-led protests in the heart of Beijing is a particularly sensitive time for the ruling Chinese Communist Party, as activists redouble their efforts to spark a public reckoning with the incident.

Activists and relatives of the victims have vowed to keep up pressure on the Chinese government for a reappraisal of the official verdict of "counterrevolutionary rebellion" to describe hundreds of thousands of unarmed pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square.

Beijing's censors typically muzzle any online or media discussion of the topic, and the former British colony of Hong Kong has become one of the few Chinese cities in which large crowds are able to turn out to remember those who died in the student-led movement of 1989.

The number of people killed when People's Liberation Army 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 has never issued an official toll or name list, nor made any public mention of compensation for the victims.

The crackdown sparked a wave of international condemnation against the Communist Party, 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, along with their exact locations, although not all at the hands of the army.

Reported by Xin Yu for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Ho Shan for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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