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Authorities clamp down ahead of Tiananmen 20th anniversary

Video by Olivia SALAZAR-WINSPEAR

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-06-03

Chinese authorities clamped down Wednesday, securing Tiananmen Square on the eve of the 20th anniversary of its deadly crackdown on pro-democracy protests there in 1989.

AFP - China on Wednesday locked down Tiananmen Square on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the crackdown on pro-democracy protests there, as dissidents said they faced even tighter police restrictions.
  
Several hundred police, paramilitaries and other security personnel swarmed over the square in the heart of Beijing, where the army crushed seven weeks of protests on the night of June 3-4, 1989.
  
Police examined visitors at security checkpoints dotted around the square, scrutinised bus passengers disembarking on nearby streets and checked the bags and papers of people approaching the square from surrounding neighbourhoods.
  
Leading dissident Qi Zhiyong, who lost his left leg in 1989 and is under nearly permanent police surveillance, was forcefully taken out of Beijing early Wednesday, he told AFP.
  
"Every day I must send my daughter to school in a police car. Today after seeing off my child, the police refused to allow me to get out of the car," Qi said in a text message.
  
"Instead two additional police got in the car, forced me to sit in the middle, and they are now taking me out of Beijing. They are going to take my phone away."
  
Subsequent calls to Qi's phone went unanswered. Qi, 53, had earlier refused to leave the capital after police had requested him to do so.
  
Hundreds, possibly thousands, of people were killed in the Tiananmen crackdown, and the events of June 3-4, 1989 remain a taboo subject in China.
  
"This year we are seeing police taking more radical measures. This tells us that all the legal protections that are quoted by the state vanish when the Communist Party feels threatened," said Nicholas Bequelin, a Hong Kong-based researcher with Human Rights Watch.
  
"The concern for us is that there is no legal basis for this. They are depriving people of their freedom of movement and effectively kidnapping them or placing them under arrest without a legal basis," he told AFP.
  
Other activists also protested the police activity.
  
"Today I wanted to take my wife to the doctor, but they said I was not permitted to," said writer and social critic Jiang Qisheng, who was jailed for subversion in 1999 after he tried to organise commemorations on the 10th anniversary of the crackdown.
  
"There is no law or regulation that allows them to do this -- the police are violating the law," he told AFP.
  
Ding Zilin, a 72-year-old woman whose son was shot dead in the crackdown, said she had been asked to leave Beijing ahead of the anniversary, but refused.
  
"Now they are not letting me out," Ding -- who now leads an activist group called the Tiananmen Mothers -- told AFP by phone from her apartment on Wednesday.
  
On Saturday, officials took away Wu Gaoxing, who was jailed for two years after he protested in 1989 in the eastern province of Zhejiang, fellow activist Chen Longde told AFP.
  
Wu had just written an open letter to Chinese President Hu Jintao seeking economic redress for those jailed after the army crackdown.
  
The latest crackdown on dissidents came after Bao Tong -- a former aide to late Chinese leader Zhao Ziyang, who was purged for sympathising with pro-democracy protesters -- was taken out of Beijing last week.
 

Date created : 2009-06-03

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