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Former Student Dissidents Mark Tiananmen Square Anniversary Near US Capitol

On June 4, 1989 Chinese tanks rolled into the center of Beijing, crushing the country's pro-democracy movement and killing scores of protesters. Twenty years later, former student leaders and Chinese immigrants gathered in Washington D.C. to mark the occasion. Many have not lost hope that democratic reform will one day come to China.

An arc of students stood together in front of the U.S. Capitol to commemorate the brutal crackdown by Chinese authorities in Tiananmen Square two decades ago.

Jintao Cao is director of a pro-democracy group based in New York. He says he was involved in student protests in the late 1980s in the city of Xi'an.

"We have a society, we have a political system that has no justice at all. So that's why we're fighting for China's democracy and for freedom," he explained.

Back in Beijing, security was tight this week, with guards outnumbering tourists, and the day passed without any acknowledgment of what had taken place twenty years earlier.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton released a statement on the eve of the anniversary, calling on the Chinese government to account for all those killed during the crackdown.

At a news conference, survivors of the crackdown recounted their memories from Tiananmen and spoke out against the Chinese Communist Party's actions. One exiled survivor says the Chinese government claims to be creating a unified society, but is instead banishing those trying to create change.

XIANG XIAOJI: "To this day, we are not allowed to visit our families and our relatives. What kind of harmonious society do you call this?"

Another survivor stressed the political importance of the June 4 crackdown in the movement to bring China closer to democracy.

"Therefore, we know the 1989 incident was not a conclusion," she said. "As you can see, as evidenced today, the Chinese government is trying to guard Tiananmen against the visitors, you would know that this incident is not a conclusion, it is only the beginning of the future."

After years of economic growth, some experts say China's youth today are politically apathetic and keen to forget the events of Tiananmen.

For these Chinese ex-patriots and others who want to see greater freedom in the growing superpower, the indelible image of a sole protester in front of a Chinese tank remains a symbol of a painful past.