Monday 22 January 2018

Security tight on Tiananmen Square on 27th anniversary of bloody military crackdown

Tens of thousands of people attend a candlelight vigil at Victoria Park in Hong Kong to commemorate victims of the 1989 military crackdown in Beijing (AP)
Tens of thousands of people attend a candlelight vigil at Victoria Park in Hong Kong to commemorate victims of the 1989 military crackdown in Beijing (AP)

Chinese authorities have tightened security around Beijing's Tiananmen Square on the 27th anniversary of the bloody military crackdown on student-led pro-democracy protests.

Police checked IDs and searched the bags of anyone seeking to enter the environs of the vast public space where thousands of students, workers and citizens gathered in 1989 to demand political reforms.

Journalists were stopped, filmed and ultimately forced to leave the area, ostensibly for lacking proper permission.

The heightened security points to the ruling Communist Party's continuing sensitivity over the events, which remain a taboo topic within China.

Hundreds, possibly thousands, were killed as tanks and troops converged on Beijing on the night of June 3-4 1989. Any form of commemoration, whether public or private, is banned.

Memorials were planned in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory of Hong Kong and in self-governing Taiwan, where some former student leaders have found refuge.

Ahead of the anniversary, family members of those killed in the crackdown were placed under additional restrictions, either confined to their homes or forced to leave the capital.

China's government has rejected their calls for an independent accounting of the events and those killed and maimed by soldiers.

At least half a dozen people have reportedly been detained in recent days for attempting to commemorate the events, although a small group wearing T-shirts condemning the crackdown converged on the square last Sunday.

Among them was former house painter Qi Zhiyong, who had both legs amputated after being shot by troops.

In Washington, the US State Department called for a "full public accounting of those killed, detained, or missing and for an end to censorship of discussions about the events of June 4, 1989, as well as an end to harassment and detention of those who wish to peacefully commemorate the anniversary".

In a statement, it also urged the Chinese government to respect the rights and freedoms of all its citizens.

Asked on Friday about the anniversary, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China had "long ago reached a clear conclusion about the political turmoil at the end of 1980s and other related issues".

China's explosive economic growth in the years that followed "proves that the path of socialism with Chinese characters we chose to follow ... is in line with the fundamental interests of the Chinese people, and it represents a wish shared by them all," Ms Hua told reporters.

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