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Tight security in Beijing on Tiananmen anniversary

Publication Date : 05-06-2014


Chinese capital Beijing was smothered in high security and widespread online censorship yesterday to quash any commemoration of the bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square 25 years ago.

China also rebuffed criticisms and demands from several countries and organisations to account for its actions on June 4, 1989, as well as to release activists detained in recent months for trying to mark it.

Security yesterday was tight at the square, where hundreds died when troops crushed the student- led protests.

The Straits Times saw soldiers, police and plainclothes security officers at the square checking identity cards and scanning bags, with numerous police cars on site.

Foreign news outlets in Beijing had been warned against news gathering related to the anniversary, with many foreign reporters stopped from entering the square yesterday. Beijing has also reportedly warned family members of those detained not to accept media interviews.

The run-up to the anniversary saw a vice-like grip on the Internet, including disruption of Google services and increased censorship of the Twitter-like Weibo.

But the freer semi-autonomous city of Hong Kong held an annual candle-lit vigil, which drew tens of thousands of people. Taiwan, claimed by China, held a similar vigil.

For many young Chinese, however, the day meant little, even if they have heard of the incident.

"In China, we don't talk about it or learn about this in school as the government restricts information," said Xi'an native Sun Qian, a Beijing-based Chinese teacher.

"Young people have only a very basic understanding of it or are simply not interested, so today is no different from any other day for most of us," the 26-year-old added.

Still, international criticism poured in. A statement from the White House said the United States "will always speak out in support of the basic freedoms the protesters in Tiananmen Square sought, including the freedom of expression, the freedom of the press, and the freedoms of association and assembly".

Japan, engaged in a territorial dispute with China, urged Beijing to respect human rights and the rule of law. United Nations human rights chief Navi Pillay called on China to release detained activists, and to reveal the truth about what happened 25 years ago.

But Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei yesterday said Pillay's press release "grossly goes against her mandate and constitutes a grave intervention of China's judicial sovereignty and internal affairs".

"China has chosen a viable path to develop human rights, and this is not to be changed by any discordant voice," he added.

Communist Party-linked daily Global Times has accused Chinese dissidents overseas and "anti-China forces in the West" of attempting to create a "mendacious impression" that Chinese society is "sitting atop dangerous incidents and that the Chinese government is very scared".

"They hope it will deal a heavy blow to the stability of Chinese society, but they will end up failing," it said.

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