Arrests Ahead of Tournament

Police clear Beijing of dissidents ahead of a star-studded martial arts event.

Tiananmen crackdown victim Qi Zhiyong in Tiananmen Square.
Photo appears courtesy of Boxun

HONG KONG—Police in China's capital have removed a victim of the Tiananmen Square military crackdown from the city ahead of a high-profile martial arts event associated with Hollywood martial arts star Jackie Chan.

Qi Zhiyong, disabled due to injuries sustained when People's Liberation Army troops suppressed the student-led pro-democracy movement on the night of June 3-4, 1989, said he had been taken out of the city to an undisclosed location Tuesday by two regular police and two security guards.

"The police said that it was because of the SportAccord Combat Games," Qi said. "Also I sent an update on Twitter about [fellow dissident] Li Jinping who wanted to hold a demonstration."

"They said they thought I supported the demonstration, and they were putting me under house arrest—for a whole bunch of reasons at the same time."

"I'm in the police car now. They told me that I'd probably be set free at the beginning of September. They don't know the exact timing themselves," Qi said.

Chan's recent Hollywood blockbuster, The Karate Kid, is set in modern-day Beijing and shows an open, prosperous, and hi-tech China likely to find favor with both the ruling Communist Party and Chinese audiences.

Campaigners targeted

Li Jinping has campaigned for years to have disgraced late former premier Zhao Ziyang rehabilitated. Zhao was toppled from power for not taking a hard line with the 1989 student movement, and died under house arrest at his Beijing home in 2005.

Li said he and Qi have worked together to clear Zhao's name.

"The demonstration was to call for Zhao's rehabilitation, for a return to the [guarantees of China's] Constitution, and for returning political power to the people," Li said, after being held for several hours Tuesday at a Beijing police station.

Qi said he had seen messages online from a number of dissidents and activists in recent days, saying they are also under surveillance or house arrest.

He said they included activists Wang Xueqin, Hu Shigen, Gao Hongming, and Liu Shasha.

"What has the Combat Games got to do with me?" Qi said. "It's a boxing or martial arts exchange, I think. What does it have to do with people like us?"

"[The police] said it is an international event with a lot of foreign visitors, and that it is the first time it will be held in Beijing, and that they had to take security measures for it."

Another Beijing-based activist, Wu Tianli, said surveillance is now being used to keep watch on people the authorities fear as potential troublemakers, regardless of the size of the event.

"They are watching us now, whether it's a big event or a small one," Wu said. "Life is going to get tougher and tougher for us petitioners now."

"Before, they might watch you twice a year; now they watch us four times a year, or five. They'll watch you for anything," she said.

Preparation for Games

Chan was in Beijing earlier this week to record the official theme song for the Combat Games, and told reporters he would like to see Kung Fu practiced more internationally.

"I love Wushu [Kung Fu] a lot and I would love to see it included in future Olympic Games," Chan was quoted as saying by the official China Daily newspaper.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) recognizes Wushu as a sport but has not included it as an official event in the Games. By contrast, the Korean martial art Taekwondo and Japanese Judo are now well-known as international sporting events.

However, the IOC allowed China to organize an international Wushu tournament at the same time as the 2008 Beijing Games to showcase the sport—an event that was attended by Jet Li, another Hollywood actor and Kung Fu star.

The Combat Games run from Aug. 28 to Sept. 4, and will feature some of the best athletes on the international martial arts circuit, as well as cultural events showcasing the history of martial arts.

The official theme song of the Games is a rousing anthem with traditional instruments and soaring backing vocals titled "Heaven."

Original reporting in Mandarin by Fang Yuan. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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