Activists Warned Off Tiananmen Memorial March

2013-05-22
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Tourists visit Tiananmen Square in Beijing on April 29, 2013 during the May Day holiday.
Tourists visit Tiananmen Square in Beijing on April 29, 2013 during the May Day holiday.
ImagineChina

Chinese police in the southern city of Guangzhou have questioned and threatened three political activists who applied to hold a demonstration marking the 24th anniversary of the 1989 military crackdown on the student-led democracy movement in Tiananmen Square.

Xu Xiangrong, Li Weiguo, and Li Wensheng were threatened by officers at the city's Yuexiu district police station after they went to apply for a demonstration permit to mark the June 4 anniversary on Wednesday, Xu told RFA.

"[We] all went together to the Yuexiu district police department to apply for a permit to hold a memorial event marking the 24th anniversary of the June 4 [massacre]," Xu said.

He said police had said they would reply within two working days.

"After we had submitted the application, we were subjected to questioning by the police in the department and were given warnings ... there was quite a bit of pressure," Xu said.

"It's like this every year," he added.

Fellow activist Li Weiguo said the three activists had lodged their application in Yuexiu district for a permit to hold a public gathering.

"Not long after we had submitted the application, there came a call from that district's state security police, saying that we would have to take responsibility for our own actions," Li said.

"They didn't say anything else: they just hung up the phone."

Messages blocked

Meanwhile, fellow Guangzhou activists said they had been unable to send text messages of support to Xu on Wednesday.

"Everyone wanted to send text messages to their cell phones in support [of the plan], but they were unable to send them," said fellow Guangzhou activist Xu Lin.

"Sometimes we can call them, sometimes not," he said. "I think it's probably because [the police] have cut off the text messaging service to their phones."

Chinese authorities keep relatives of those who died in the 1989 military crackdown around Tiananmen Square under house arrest and close surveillance as the politically sensitive anniversary approaches each year, beginning ahead of the traditional Chinese grave-sweeping festival in April.

Political activists have also been prevented from holding any kind of public memorial to mark the crackdown on unarmed protesters and hunger-striking students by the People's Liberation Army (PLA), using machine guns and tanks.

'Festival of patriotism'

Hunan-based rights activist Yi Wei said he is planning to mark the anniversary with a number of activities, including contacting the relatives of victims.

"June 4 is like a festival of patriotism, so we'll get together and have a group photo, and write an inscription 'In Patriotic Mourning for June 4'," Yi said.

"Then we'll put it on the microblog sites in memory of the students, and we will send condolences to the families of victims," he added.

The number of people killed when People's Liberation Army (PLA) 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, which labelled the six weeks of pro-democracy protests a “counterrevolutionary uprising,” has not issued an official toll or list of names.

The crackdown, which officials said at the time was necessary to suppress a "counterrevolutionary rebellion," sparked a wave of international condemnation, and for several years China was treated as a near-pariah, as Western governments offered asylum to student leaders fleeing into exile.

Reported by Fang Yuan for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

CH. 1: MANDARIN | CANTONESE

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CH. 4: TIBETAN

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