Beijing – Chinese authorities have rounded up hundreds of activists in the capital Beijing, rights campaigners said on Monday, as they marked the 23rd anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown.
The detentions came as Washington urged Beijing to free all those still jailed over the demonstrations on 4 June 1989, when hundreds, if not thousands, of peaceful protesters were shot and killed by soldiers.
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 Chinas Liaoning province said.
“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 4 June, she said.
China still considers the 4 June 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 4 June each year, taking them into custody or placing them under house arrest.
Any mention of the 1989 protests is banned in Chinese state media, and the subject is largely taboo in China. Searches on Chinas popular social media sites for 4 June, the number 23 and the word “candle” were blocked on Monday.