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Fifteenth Anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre

Comment and analysis from Hong Kong, Doha, Paris, Sydney, Taipei, Melbourne, and London, June, 2004

Candles are held aloft in remembrance of those killed during the Tiananmen Square massacre on the fourteenth anniversary, June 4, 2003, in Hong Kong. (Photo: Peter Parks/ AFP-Getty Images)

Hong Kong Asia Times (online publication), June 4: Fifteen years ago this week, on June 4, 1989, on a warm summer night, an event of extraordinary significance unfolded on Tiananmen Square, literally the "door of heaven," the vast square in the center of [Beijing]. The consequences of the event have resonated throughout China and the world ever since. Tiananmen isn't talked about much - that's very true - but it hasn't been forgotten either, and it looms over China's international reputation, casting a cloud over its lucrative arms deals with the European Union and the United States...People's Liberation Army combat troops in full battle gear, armed with automatic weapons and riding in tanks, rolled into the square, guns blazing. They were ordered by the government to clear the square of protesters, mostly students who had staged a sit-in there for well over two months. Hundreds died in the pandemonium. The exact death toll is not known...Time passes. But it only has served to strengthen the resolve of democracy activists who want nothing more than the "killers" brought to justice. And families of the June 4 victims have been airing their grievances year after year, through emotional marches by the mothers of the dead and wounded, holding pictures of their slain family members, to the National People's Congress and pleas to foreign reporters and sympathizers...for now, the weeping mothers will continue to march, the bold will continue to write and publish open letters, and journalists and those who care about China will continue to watch, and wait.
Li Yong Yan

Doha Aljazeera.net (English language), June 4: Chinese police are on a state of alert on the 15th anniversary of a bloody crackdown on democracy protests...Thousands of tourists had already gathered on the square, following the squawking speakers of their flag carrying guides while sightseeing on the symbolic political heart of China...Hundreds, perhaps thousands, were killed on the night of June 3-4, 1989 when People's Liberation Army soldiers backed by tanks shot their way through intersections blocked by Beijing residents and wrested control of the square...Hong Kong, where calls for more democracy have been growing, plans a candlelight vigil at Victoria Park on Friday evening.

Paris Reporters Sans Frontières (press freedom organization), June 2: On 4 June 1989, Chinese army tanks were crushing the student revolt on Beijing's Tiananmen Square, sounding a death-knell for democratic public protest in China. Fifteen years later, the use of the term "4 June" is still banned in the press and on the Internet, and journalists and Internet users are still suffering the consequences of the censorship and repression introduced after the "Beijing Spring." Over the last 15 years, more than 130 journalists and Internet users have been jailed, of whom 43 directly participated in "Beijing Spring."...In addition, Internet webmaster Huang Qi has been in jail since 3 June 2000 for having allowed articles about the Tiananmen Square massacre to be posted on his website, which was hosted in the United States after being initially banned in China. He received a five-year prison term for "subversion" and "inciting the overthrow of state power." Chinese authorities recently put several human rights activists under house arrest, thereby preventing them from publicly commemorating the 15th anniversary of the bloody crackdown against the Tiananmen Square demonstrators…This year in Hong Kong, the pressure has intensified against journalists and human rights activists who are urging the public to demonstrate on the occasion of 4 June.

Sydney Sydney Morning Herald (centrist), May 31: The now-elderly group pf women known as the "Tiananmen Mothers," whose children were massacred in the suppression of democracy protests in Beijing 15 years ago, have been told that they are unlikely to ever hear any official words of regret. Last week, a senior official representing the Chinese Government went in person to the home of the group's leader, Professor Ding Zilin, 67 and told her and her husband, Jiang Peijun, that a review of the June 4, 1989 crackdown was "out of the question."…If correct, the notification is the first confirmation that the leadership of President Hu Jintao and the Premier, Wen Jiabao, has firmly put aside an [appraisal] of the incident, in which People's Liberation Army Soldiers gunned down hundreds of unarmed students and townspeople around Tiananmen Square in Beijing. Mr. Hu and Mr. Wen moved up to their leadership positions just over a year ago and, barring political upsets, can be expected to run China for a decade. As the 15th anniversary of the massacre approaches this Friday, security agencies have placed the Tiananmen mothers and many other dissidents under house arrest to prevent any attempt at commemoration of the victims.
Hamish McDonald

Taipei China Post (pro-government), May 27: China's leaders are nervous about the residual influence of Zhao Ziyang, purged as Communist Party chief for opposing the 1989 crackdown on the Tiananmen protests, and are trying to rub his name from history, a former aide said. Silver-haired Zhao, 84 is in declining health and lives under house arrest in Beijing at his tightly guarded courtyard home. Chinese leaders fear Zhao could emerge as a rallying point for reformists in the government, analysts say. They fear his death could spark fresh protests by unemployed workers or farmers bitter about heavy taxes and a widening rich-poor gap. "They are constantly worried about him and are determined to erase his name from the hearts and minds of the people," former aide Bao Tong said in a statement…on Wednesday, ahead of the 15th anniversary of the June 4 crackdown in which hundreds, perhaps thousands, of pro-democracy demonstrators were killed…Zhao was last seen in public on May 19, 1989, when he tearfully begged student protesters to leave Tiananmen Square, where the demonstrations were centered. Beijing declared martial law the next day and troops backed by tanks crushed the movement on June 3-4. "When absolute power went insane, it was Zhao who rang the bell of reason and compassion," said Bao, who was released from jail in 1996. Bao remains a thorn in the government's side and has been put under tight surveillance round the clock. Telephone calls to his Beijing home were repeatedly cut.
Benjamin Kang Lim

Melbourne Herald Sun News (conservative), May 29: A top Chinese political activist held under strict house arrest ahead of the Tiananmen Square massacre's 15th anniversary has urged the public to challenge the government's "lies and fraud" over the June 4 crackdown. Nobel Peace Prize nominee Ding Zilin, 67, leader of the Tiananmen Mothers group, said in an unusually bold statement that Chinese people should dispute the Communist Party's view that the put-down was necessary to maintain stability and usher in a period of strong economic growth. "We must now in equally clear and unequivocal terms tell these leaders: The massacre that took place in the Chinese capital in 1989 was a crime against the people, and a crime against humanity," Ding said on the website of the New York based group, Human Rights in China. Ding, whose son died after being shot in the back during the bloody suppression of pro-democracy demonstrations, also said that she had been under house arrest since Tuesday.

London The Independent (liberal), June 2: The European Union has ruled out an early end to its 15-year arms embargo against Beijing as it seeks to head off a damaging row with Washington over its ties with China. France has led calls for a relaxation of the ban, which was applied after the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989. The United States is strongly opposed to the move…Last month, Britain sided with the U.S. in opposing a French call for a swift end to the embargo…Supported by Germany, France says the embargo singles out the Chinese when other nations have worse human rights records…the UK is suspicious of France's efforts to rush through an end to the embargo. London believes Paris [is] attempting to position itself as China's closest ally.
Stephen Castle

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