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Chinese Quietly Remember Tiananmen Crackdown


A Chinese paramilitary police honor guard raises the national flag in Beijing's Tiananmen Square
Thousands of people in Hong Kong are preparing for an annual candlelight vigil to mark the 16th anniversary of China's violent crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators at Beijing's Tiananmen Square. In mainland China, the date has been marked with quiet remembrances as the government continues a strict ban on any public commemoration of the event.

Every year since her son was killed in 1989, Ding Zilin and women of the group she founded, the Tiananmen Mothers, appeal to the government for redress - or at the very least - an apology for the crackdown. Every year, their calls have gone unanswered.

Mrs. Ding says the military, heavily armed, attacked her son and others who were unarmed that spring.

She compares the violence 16 years ago to that inflicted by Japanese occupation forces who massacred thousands of Chinese in the first half of the 20th century.

Referring to Beijing's recent spate of protests over Japan's wartime record, Mrs. Ding accuses the Chinese government of hypocrisy for demanding compensation from Japan while refusing to face up to the atrocities the Communist leadership inflicted on its own people in 1989.

The demands in the past have landed Mrs. Ding and other Tiananmen mothers in jail. They remain under police surveillance, and they say their telephone lines are continuously monitored.

China's Communist leadership has always labeled the pro-democracy demonstrations as a counterrevolutionary riot. The Chinese foreign ministry in recent days repeated Beijing's defense of the crackdown by saying the attack on demonstrators was necessary to ensure the stability that has allowed for China's current economic growth.

Hundreds, perhaps thousands, died on the night of June 3 and morning of June 4, 1989, when the army used tanks and machine guns to crush six-week-long demonstrations by unarmed students and others who demanded an end to corruption and political reforms.

Sixteen years later, the human rights group Amnesty International complains the government has not released figures for the numbers of people who remain in prison since 1989. Amnesty's Mark Allison says the government under President Hu Jintao continues to smash any move that it suspects could ignite a public call for the government's accounting of the Tiananmen incident.

"We are seeing, now, people being arrested for doing nothing more than calling for an investigation, or for redress for the victims," Mr. Allison said.

On April 30, a court in central China sentenced journalist Shi Tao to 10 years in prison, accusing him of revealing state secrets overseas. The charge came after he went on a computer web site and posted the summary of an official document in which the government last year warned journalists about possible social instability around the June 4 anniversary.