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China Rejects US Call to Release Tiananmen Prisoners

  • VOA News

Candlelight vigil commemorates pro-democracy activists who died in Beijing's Tiananmen Square uprising, Victoria Park, Hong Kong, June 4, 2012.

Candlelight vigil commemorates pro-democracy activists who died in Beijing's Tiananmen Square uprising, Victoria Park, Hong Kong, June 4, 2012.

Tens of thousands of people in Hong Kong have marked the 23rd anniversary of China's Tiananmen Square protests and the deadly government crackdown that followed.

Demonstrators held a candlelight vigil Monday, shouting "long live democracy" and "never forget June 4."

Hundreds of demonstrators also gathered in Taiwan's capital, Taipei.

The demonstrations in Hong Kong and Taiwan stood in contrast to mainland China where the anniversary has never been publicly marked. Instead, China's Internet censors blocked searches about the anniversary. They also blocked the term "Shanghai stock market" after the index fell 64.89 points and Chinese microblogs buzzed with conspiracy theories. In an apparent coincidence, the stock index numbers match calendar numbers for the June 4, 1989 crackdown.

Earlier Monday, China's foreign ministry expressed "strong dissatisfaction" with a U.S. call for Beijing to free all those still imprisoned for the 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations.

Responding to a question from the VOA Mandarin service, foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told reporters that the U.S. State Department call was a gross intervention in China's internal affairs and a groundless accusation against the Chinese government.

“I knew you would ask this question for sure," said Liu. "There has been a clear conclusion by the Chinese government and party over that incident. Over the past more than 20 years, China has witnessed continuous economic development, democracy and rule of law and prosperous cultural programs. All this is reflecting the common aspiration of the Chinese people. The statement you mentioned is released by the U.S. side year after year in disrespect of facts. It is a gross intervention in China's internal affairs and groundless accusation of the Chinese government. China expresses its strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition to that."

On June 4, 1989, Chinese troops, backed by tanks, moved in to crush a student-led demonstration centered in Beijing's Tiananmen Square. The crackdown triggered worldwide condemnation, with estimates of those killed ranging from several hundred to several thousand people.

China still considers the incident a "counter-revolutionary rebellion" and has never admitted any wrongdoing in its handling of the uprising. The topic is banned from state media and, although the subject is taboo in China, some activists have gathered to mark the anniversary.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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