News / Asia

Security Crackdown Takes Place in Beijing on Tiananmen Anniversary

Despite Government Efforts to Silence Tiananmen, Demands Lingeri
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May 29, 2014 1:14 PM
It's been 25 years since China's crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square. China's leadership has taken great steps to silence any discussion of the events of 1989, the massive protest rallies that took place that spring in Beijing and other cities and the bloody crackdown that followed. Even so, the demands of the students and citizens who poured out onto the streets at that time have not gone away. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Watch related video report by VOA's Bill Ide.
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Police filled Beijing's Tiananmen Square on Wednesday, the 25th anniversary of the deadly crackdown of student-led demonstrations there.
 
Watchful Chinese security forces, both uniformed and plain-clothed, checked identifications of passersby and kept journalists from reporting in the square.
 
China has never given a full account of the June 3-4, 1989 incident, when soldiers killed hundreds, if not thousands, of unarmed protesters.
 
Beijing allows no public discussion on the massacre and has gone to impressive lengths to erase the nation's collective memory of the incident.
 
The White House on Wednesday urged China to account for those killed, detained, or missing in connection with the crackdown.
 
The statement said the United States "will always speak out in support of the basic freedoms the protesters at Tiananmen Square sought."
 
Washington has also demanded Beijing free the dozens of government critics detained or placed under house arrest ahead of the anniversary.
 
A spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry defended the detentions Tuesday, saying China was only punishing "law breakers," and not "dissidents."
 
The Foreign Ministry also defended the 1989 crackdown, saying China has "long ago" reached a conclusion about the incident. It instead focused on China's rapid economic development since then.
 
Shen Tong was a third year student at Beijing University when the massacre happened. He told VOA that at the time, he did not expect Chinese troops to kill civilians.
 
"It's one of those things that the day before you think is impossible, the day after it becomes inevitable. So in some larger sense, I would say nobody predicted that. But then when the moment actually was upon us, all the factors before that seemed to lead to that inevitable outcome," said Shen.
 
Shen, who was forced to leave China for his safety following the crackdown, said the incident represents a missed opportunity for the Communist Party to be more open to the will of the people.
 
"China could have gone onto a more balanced development instead of embracing this unbalanced, full embrace of materialism, which now eventually led to the breakdown of moral and social fabrics in China," said Shen.

The 1989 demonstrations included Chinese citizens from all walks of life, including some members of the Communist Party. Many were expressing frustration at a lack of freedom of speech, rising inequality, and rampant official corruption.

Although discussions on the Beijing massacre are taboo in mainland China, tens of thousands are expected to turn out late Wednesday for a candlelit vigil in the semi-autonomous region of Hong Kong.

Memorials and Protests for the Tiananmen Anniversary
 
  • A woman closes her eyes as she joins tens of thousands of people attending a candlelight vigil at Victoria Park in Hong Kong to mark the 25th anniversary of crackdown in Tiananmen Square, June 4, 2014.
  • Tens of thousands of people attend a candlelight vigil at Victoria Park in Hong Kong to mark the 25th anniversary of crackdown in Tiananmen Square, June 4, 2014.
  • Tens of thousands of people attend a candlelight vigil at Victoria Park in Hong Kong to mark the 25th anniversary of crackdown in Tiananmen Square, June 4, 2014.
  • Tens of thousands of people attend a candlelight vigil at Victoria Park in Hong Kong to mark the 25th anniversary of crackdown in Tiananmen Square, June 4, 2014.
  • A protester wears a T-shirt with a tank during a protest in front of the Chinese Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, June 4, 2014.
  • A protester holds a model of a tank covered with red paint to represent blood during a protest in front of the Chinese Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, June 4, 2014.
  • A protester holds a banner with others and shouts slogans in front of the Chinese Embassy in Tokyo, June 4, 2014.
  • A demonstrator shows a letter of protest before dropping it into the mailbox of the Chinese Embassy in Tokyo, June 4, 2014.
  • A shopper in Hong Kong stands in front of a model tank made by university students to remember the crackdown in Tiananmen Square, June 3, 2014.
  • A woman looks at photos at a memorial in Washington for the crackdown in Tiananmen Square, June 3, 2014. (Zhi Yuan/VOA)
  • Speakers address the crowd at a memorial in Washington for the crackdown in Tiananmen Square, June 3, 2014. (Zhi Yuan/VOA)

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