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London Rights Group Protests Abuses in China

Hundreds of human rights activists demonstrated outside the Chinese embassy in London Wednesday to demand that release of people imprisoned since the Tiananmen Square protests 19 years ago. Tendai Maphosa was at the demonstration and filed this report for VOA.

On June 3 and 4, 1989, the Chinese army turned its guns on peaceful pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square in Beijing. Hundreds of the protesters were killed. Nineteen years on, some of those who were incarcerated for taking part are still in prison.

Amnesty International, which sponsored Wednesday's protest, told VOA the aim was to pressure Beijing not only to release the prisoners but also to respect the rights of Chinese citizens. The rights organization's director Kate Allen says the Beijing Summer Olympics offer an opportunity to put China under the spotlight.

"It is one of those times when the world's attention will be on China; there is a real opportunity for pressure for change and it will be absolutely shocking if the Olympics passes two weeks of a sporting event and the opportunity to create that international pressure isn't taken."

Though the demonstration was about those imprisoned in 1989, some participants brought their own human rights concerns. VOA spoke to some of them.

MAN'S VOICE: "We are expressing very strong feelings of solidarity for the Chinese people, very strong concerns about the lack of human rights and the lack of respect with which individual citizens are treated in China.

WOMAN'S VOICE: "I practice Falun Gong for nearly 10 years and Falun Gong practitioners have been terribly persecuted in China but not just Falun Gong practitioners and many other people from Christians to human rights lawyers to many every day people."

Falun Gong is a spiritual group outlawed by the Chinese government. Its members have been subjected by widespread imprisonment, torture and forced labor.

Other participants said the demonstrations should serve as a reminder to the Chinese government that the world is aware of its human rights abuses.

MAN'S VOICE: "The more we protest the more people are gonna find out about it and so the greater the pressure on the government.

WOMAN'S VOICE: The more of us stand up and say this is what is happening there let's just not be blinded by the wonderful economic opportunities there and not really pay attention to the human rights of so many people."

Amnesty's Kate Allen called on Western governments to raise their voice against human rights abuses in China.