China silent on anniversary of 1989 crackdown (Lead)

June 4th, 2009 - 6:58 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, June 4 (DPA) China’s ruling Communist Party and most ordinary people ignored Thursday’s 20th anniversary of a military crackdown on democracy protests as scores of activists were reportedly under house arrest or other forms of police control.
Some overseas dissidents had urged Chinese people to wear white clothes Thursday as a sign of mourning for the hundreds reportedly killed in the 1989 crackdown, but there was no sign on Beijing’s streets that people had heeded the campaign.

Authorities intensified security across the city, posting hundreds of extra police and security guards at the homes of dissidents and around Tiananmen Square, the focal point of the 1989 protests, which called for an end to official corruption and demanded political and social rights.

No state media mentioned the anniversary, except for the English edition of the Global Times, which is run by the official People’s Daily, mainly to serve foreign audience.

The Hong Kong-based group Chinese Human Rights Defenders said it had evidence that police had harassed or placed under house arrest at least 65 activists to prevent them from taking part in activities to mark the anniversary.

“These individuals have been taken into police custody, had their movements restricted, been forced to leave their homes, or otherwise threatened or monitored by police,” the group said.

It said it had counted nearly 160 websites that were closed recently for “system maintenance” to prevent people organising activities via the internet.

BBC News and the Twitter networking site were among the websites that were blocked but are usually accessible in China.

About 20 relatives of people who died in the 1989 crackdown were allowed to mourn at the Wan’an Public Cemetery in Beijing early Thursday, the Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said.

The daughter of former party leader Zhao Ziyang, who was purged in 1989 for sympathising with the protestors, was among those under close police surveillance, the Information Centre said.

Zhao’s secret memoirs were published in English and Chinese last month, four years after his death, by friends who helped to smuggle his tape-recordings out of China.

Other mourners appeared to have been blocked. Late Wednesday, police apparently prevented members of the Tiananmen Mothers group from mourning relatives who died in 1989 in Beijing’s Muxidi area, 4 km east of Tiananmen Square.

Dissident Zeng Jinyan also said on her blog Wednesday that she tried in vain for six hours to persuade plainclothes police to allow her to leave her home.

Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said Thursday that a call by US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton Wednesday for the government to account for the 1989 crackdown was “interference in China’s internal affairs”.

“We have made a clear conclusion on the political turbulence 20 years ago, and I have explained that many times,” Qin told reporters.

He said China’s economic progress “shows that the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics is in accordance with China’s situation and in the interests of the Chinese people.”

The government continues to defend the 1989 crackdown, claiming it was necessary to guarantee China’s stability, which, it said, has laid the foundation for the rapid economic growth of the past 20 years.

The Global Times echoed the government’s position, saying younger Chinese people have “little memory and vague ideas of the (June 4, 1989,) incident.”

“Public discussion about what happened that day is almost nonexistent in mainstream society on the Chinese mainland,” the newspaper said.

The US-based Dui Hua Foundation, a human rights group, recently urged China to release the estimated 30 people still imprisoned for their role in the 1989 democracy movement.

The protests ended when troops with tanks and live ammunition moved through Beijing overnight June 3-4, 1989, reportedly killing hundreds of unarmed civilians and wounding thousands who allegedly blocked their route.

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