AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
BEIJING: Chinese authorities have rounded up hundreds of activists in the capital Beijing, rights campaigners and petitioners said today, as they marked the 23rd anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown.
The detentions came as Washington angered Beijing by calling for all those still jailed over the demonstrations on June 4, 1989 — when hundreds, if not thousands, of protesters were shot and killed by soldiers — to be freed.
The anniversary of the brutal army action in the heart of Beijing is always hugely sensitive, but particularly so this year ahead of a once-a-decade handover of power marred by fierce in-fighting in the ruling Communist Party. “They brought in a lot of buses and were rounding up petitioners at the Beijing South rail station on Saturday night,” Zhou Jinxia, a petitioner from northeast China’s Liaoning province, told AFP.
“There were between 600 to 1,000 petitioners from all over China. We were processed, we had to register and then they started sending people back to their home towns.”
Police made it clear that the round up of petitioners — people who gather at central government offices in Beijing to seek redress for rights violations in their localities —was to prevent them from protesting on June 4, she said.
China still considers the June 4 demonstrations a ‘counter-revolutionary rebellion’ and has refused to acknowledge any wrongdoing or consider compensation for those killed, more than two decades later.
The government attempts to block any public discussion or remembrance of the events by hiding away key dissidents in the run-up to June 4 each year, arresting them, taking them into custody or placing them under house arrest.