No functions to mark Tiananmen


Beijing, June 4:

Beijingers were muted and melancholy on the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown today, as police prowled the square where hordes of tourists have replaced guns and tanks.

To ensure no commemorations were held, police and security forces were out in force, monitoring the citizens’ movements along the capital’s main thoroughfare, the Avenue of Heavenly Peace.

The busy road now teeming with cars was once clogged by tanks and soldiers, and was where six weeks of unprecedented democracy protests by unarmed citizens was ended.

Around Tiananmen Square, police checked identification papers and bags of bicyclists and pedestrians, while plainclothed security personnel with walkie-talkies and red arm bands manned bus stops. At least one man was manhandled off the square attempting a protest, while a group of middle-aged men and women were seen being processed in the courtyard of the Tiananmen Square police station.

“I discuss June 4 with my friends and classmates, but we don’t speak about it in publicsaid one Beijinger. “Few people support the government decision on this.” Since those fateful hours when protests by students, scholars and workers were crushed by China’s military might, a ban on public discourse on the topic has been in place. No-one knows exactly how many died but estimates put the death toll at hundreds. Many bodies were never recovered by family members.

There was no overt signs of commemoration or protests. Most citizens were left to their own devices on how to commemorate the massacre, with many dissidents, confined to their homes by police, holding 24-hour fasts or lighting candles in memory of the dead. In the university district, the campuses of Peking University and Beijing Normal Univeristy — two hotbeds of political activity in 1989 — were quiet. Meanwhile, The Guardian reported that the doctor who exposed the country’s SARS coverup last year has disappeared in what is believed to be part of a government crackdown on potential dissidents. Jiang Yanyong, who is also a leading democracy campaigner, was reported missing along with his wife by their daughter yesterday. He is likely to be among dozens of people put under house arrest or taken out of Beijing by security agents. Associates said he had probably been taken to a hotel in the countryside until the anniversary was over. His children have demanded an investigation.