White China Day on Tiananmen anniv

BEIJING: Wang Dan, a key figure in the 1989 pro-democracy protests in China, said Thursday he hoped the nation would be "covered in white" to mark the anniversary of the bloody Tiananmen crackdown.

"We are promoting a campaign called 'White Clothes Day,'" Wang, who was jailed for years in China before being exiled, told AFP from Taiwan, where he was staying temporarily to continue his fight for democracy.

"That means we appeal to Chinese people to wear white clothes (the colour of mourning in China) on June 4 to remember June 4, and we hope that on that day, we can witness a China covered in white," he explained.

Studying at Peking University in 1989, Wang was first on a list of 21 most wanted students in China after the army cracked down on the Tiananmen demonstrations, killing hundreds, and possibly thousands.

After being arrested, Wang was sentenced to four years in prison in 1991 and freed in 1993. He was re-arrested in 1995 after continuing to campaign for human rights and democracy and sentenced the following year to a further 11 years in jail.

But in 1998, he was exiled to the United States where he continued his fight for democracy in his country.

"We are also inviting over 50 former participants of the 89 movement to get together again after 20 years in Washington DC to have a candle ceremony," Wang said, adding exiled dissidents would hold a press conference on June 4.

Chinese authorities have reinforced security and the surveillance of dissidents in the country as the ultra-sensitive anniversary approaches, fearing trouble.

On the night of June 3-4, 1989, after six weeks of peaceful pro-democracy protests in Beijing and 100 other cities in China, the army intervened to evacuate Tiananmen Square where students were on hunger strike.

The Chinese regime justified its actions by saying they had been necessary to quash a "counter-revolutionary" rebellion.

The government has so far provided no official toll for the repression, which was condemned throughout the world and led to the temporary isolation of China on the international stage.

But human rights organisations say hundreds, if not thousands, died.