News / Asia

Wary China Keeps Close Watch as Tiananmen Anniversary Arrives

Zhang Xianling, whose son Wang Nan was killed by soldiers at the Tiananmen Square in 1989, holds his picture after journalists were turned away, at the window of her home in Beijing, April 24, 2014.
Zhang Xianling, whose son Wang Nan was killed by soldiers at the Tiananmen Square in 1989, holds his picture after journalists were turned away, at the window of her home in Beijing, April 24, 2014.
Reuters
Twenty-five years ago, Wang Nan took his camera and headed out to Beijing's Tiananmen Square, where tens of thousands of people had gathered calling for democratic reforms. The 19-year-old told a friend he wanted to record history.
 
Before he left his home late on June 3, 1989, he asked his mother: ”Do you think the troops would open fire?” She said she did not. Around three hours later, he was shot dead by soldiers.
 
As his 77-year-old mother, Zhang Xianling, prepares to mark the 25th anniversary of her son's death, she is under around-the-clock surveillance by eight police and security officers.
 
Zhang said the level of scrutiny this year was unprecedented. As early as April, police officers barred foreign journalists, including Reuters reporters, from visiting her home.
 
“I find it ridiculous, I'm an old lady,” Zhang told Reuters by telephone. “What can I say [to reporters]? I don't know any state secrets. All I can talk about is the matter concerning my son. What is there to be afraid of?”
 
The Chinese Communist Party's harshest crackdown on political dissent in recent years would suggest plenty.
 
  • Remember June Fourth commemoration speaker Wang Dan, one of the most prominent of the Tiananmen Square student leaders, Washington, DC, June 1, 2014. (Zhi Yuan/VOA)
  • Remember June Fourth commemoration host Bei Ming, Washington, DC, June 1, 2014. (Zhi Yuan/VOA)
  • Remember June Fourth commemoration speaker Makino Seishu, former Japanese congressman and Chairman of Global Support for China and Asia democratization, Washington, DC, June 1, 2014. (Zhi Yuan/VOA)
  • Remember June Fourth memorial concert sung by Diva Damian Yumei, Washington, DC, June 1, 2014. (Zhi Yuan/VOA)
  • Remember June Fourth memorial prayer delivered by Pastor Gordon J. Schultz, Washington, DC, June 1, 2014. (Zhi Yuan/VOA)
  • Remember June Fourth commemoration speaker Yang Jianli, founder of human rights organization Initiatives for China, Washington, DC, June 1, 2014. (Zhi Yuan/VOA)
  • Remember June Fourth memorial prayer given by Rabbi Charles Feinberg, Washington, DC, June 1, 2014.
  • Remember June Fourth vigil calling for the release of political dissidents, Washington, DC, June 1, 2014. (Zhi Yuan/VOA)
  • Remember June Fourth memorial site No. 3, Washington, DC, June 1, 2014. (Zhi Yuan/VOA)
  • Remember June Fourth memorial site No. 1, Washington, DC, June 1, 2014. (Zhi Yuan/VOA)
  • Remember June Fourth memorial site No. 2, Washington, DC, June 1, 2014. (Zhi Yuan/VOA)
  • Remember June Fourth commemoration speaker, Chen Qinglin, former Tiananmen Square student leader, Washington, DC, June 1, 2014. (ZhiYuan/VOA)
As Wednesday's big anniversary of the bloody repression of pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square approached, authorities deployed hundreds of police, many armed with rifles, to patrol the area.
 
Rights group Amnesty International said at least 66 people have been detained in connection with the anniversary, and major Chinese internet sites censor references to the day on which hundreds, possibly thousands of unarmed civilians were killed.
 
For Zhang, whenever she wants to travel anywhere she is driven in a police car. Two police officers walk with her when she goes to the market.
 
In previous years, Zhang said she was usually guarded by three to five police officers who would appear outside her home a month before the anniversary.
 
Xi takes hard line
 
The extraordinary measures are explained by the fact that she is one of the co-founders of a group of families called the Tiananmen Mothers, who have long demanded justice for the victims of the massacre.
 
Ding Zilin, the other co-founder who was traveling in the eastern city of Wuxi, near Shanghai, was not allowed to return to Beijing, said Zhang and other rights activists.
 
“There is much empathy for them given they lost children in 1989,” said William Nee, Amnesty International's China researcher. “They are seen as credible and their continued fight for justice, especially given their age, has drawn much sympathy.
 
“The authorities are acutely aware of this and that is why we believe they are placed under such heavy surveillance this year,” said Nee.
 
Asked about the restrictions on the Tiananmen Mothers, China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said the legal rights of Chinese citizens are guaranteed, but every Chinese citizen must “consciously respect the country's rules and laws.”
 
Since Xi Jinping became president in March last year, his administration has taken a hard line on dissent, detaining and jailing activists, clamping down on Internet critics and tightening curbs on journalists in what rights groups call the worst suppression of free expression for several years.
 
Censors have scrubbed out references on Weibo, China's version of Twitter, to 'May 35th', a substitute for the date of the Tiananmen crackdown.
 
Tencent Holdings Ltd's microblog censors the characters for 'willow silk', which sound similar to the words 'six four', a Chinese way to say June 4.
 
Qihoo 360 Technology Co censors 'VIIIIXVIIV', the Roman numerals for '8 9 6 4' or June 4, 1989.
 
“The government is concerned about what they call stability maintenance,” said Andrew Nathan, a professor of political science who specializes in Chinese politics at Columbia University in New York.
 
Nathan said Chinese leaders are concerned about the so-called “Arab Spring” uprisings and revolutions in Ukraine, and want to prevent such open acts of rebellion against the state from taking hold in China.
 
“So their idea of preventing it is not to take the lid off and let people hash things out, but instead try to prevent anybody from raising any of these troubling issues,” he said.
 
'We've left the battlefield'
 
After initially tolerating the student-led demonstrations in the spring of 1989, the Communist Party sent in troops to crush a rare display of public defiance.
 
The government has never released a death toll from the violence, but estimates from human rights groups and witnesses range from several hundred to several thousand.
 
Stunned by the government's harsh response to the Tiananmen movement that officials have termed “counter-revolutionary,” and tired of decades of turmoil under Communist rule, many Chinese people now balk at the idea of mass revolution.
 
Instead, they chase new opportunities offered by the country's booming economic growth.
 
And while the authorities have moved swiftly to squash criticism of the one-party system, people are enjoying the kind of individual freedoms never accorded them before.
 
They can report on corrupt officials, sue the government for pollution and miscarriages of justice, and stage protests for labor and environmental rights.
 
The Chinese government has also loosened the one-child policy, allowing many urban couples to have two children.
 
It has been effective, too, in scrubbing out memories of the 1989 protests. Many young people, indoctrinated by years of “patriotic education,” have no inkling of the movement.
 
Beijing has forced many of the student leaders into exile in the United States, Hong Kong and Taiwan, where they are effectively neutralized, being barred from the mainland.
 
“Once we leave China, we've left the battlefield,” said Wu'er Kaixi, a leading figure in the pro-democracy movement who now lives in Taiwan. “We are no longer the main actors on the stage.”
 
Wang Dan, who was one of the most visible leaders in the movement and is also in exile in Taiwan, said he was able to hold a “democracy salon” - an open forum for intellectuals to discuss political problems - at Peking University 25 years ago.
 
“Everyone knows that anyone who dares to do anything like that these days will be detained. This is a clear regression from where we were back then.”

You May Like

WHO: Anti-Ebola Efforts Should Focus on West Africa

Official says WHO is 'reasonably confident' countries bordering those hardest hit by the Ebola outbreak are not seeing the virus crossing their borders More

South Sudan Crisis Threatens Development

Economic costs and lost development opportunities in South Sudan have erased what little progress the country has made since independence in 2011 More

Ukrainian PM Warns: Russia May Try to Disrupt Sunday Poll

Arseniy Yatsenyuk orders full security mobilization for parliamentary election to prevent ‘terrorist acts’ from being carried out More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: meanbill from: USA
June 03, 2014 7:57 PM
THINGS YOU DIDN'T KNOW? -- The Tiananmen Square protests almost brought down the whole Chinese communist government -- because the police were understaffed, unarmed and unprepared to stop the protests that were spreading into other cities -- (AND?) -- when the Chinese leaders asked the (PLA) Peoples Liberation Army to intervene and stop the protests -- (the leaders of the (PLA) Peoples Liberation Army told them that Mao had promised the Chinese people, that the peoples army would never be used against the Chinese people, and they couldn't help) -- (BUT THEN?) -- the Chinese leadership talked to a (PLA) commander of an armored regiment stationed about (35) Km from Beijing, in coming to Beijing to stop the protests and save the country -- (AND THEN?) -- when the tanks arrived in Beijing, the tanks were stopped temporally by the people -- (BUT THEN?) -- the (PLA) commander was talked into clearing Tiananmen Square -- (AND THEN?) -- the Tiananmen Square protests were put down, and the PLA commander was called a hero, that saved the government.. --- (That's why China doesn't want to talk about how close the government came being overthrown?)..

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid