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China's Leadership Urged to Investigate Handling of Tiananmen Protests - 2003-05-29

Relatives of some of the people killed in 1989's Tiananmen protests are calling for China's new leadership to re-think the government's harsh judgment on the pro-democracy movement. But China's government says it is not changing.

Hundreds of people died in Beijing in June, 1989 when Chinese troops forcefully cleared away protesters who had been occupying Tiananmen Square for weeks. Top-ranking Communist Party officials later labeled the protest "a counter-revolutionary rebellion" to justify the stern measures used to end it.

But now, 20 relatives of people who died or disappeared in the turmoil are urging China's new President Hu Jintao and other leaders to name an independent committee to investigate the incident. In a letter to the government, they say this would be a step toward building a "fair and just society," and urged that the results be made public.

Many Tiananmen victims were students who were never seen again and their parents have no idea what happened to them.

But China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue says there is no need to reassess the Tiananmen Square incident. China's political leaders in the Communist Party "have made a conclusion," and she says this conclusion "will remain unchanged."

In Ms. Zhang's view, China's leadership stopped the protest to preserve stability. And China's achievements during the past 14 years, including roaring economic growth, would not have been possible without stability.

She spoke as China's courts took another action designed to preserve stability, handing down lengthy prison sentences to four activists who used the Internet to spread their views. The four were convicted of posting essays critical of the government and hosting discussions that explored democracy and social reform.

Their sentences range from eight to 10 years.