Chinese authorities have rounded up hundreds of activists in the capital Beijing, rights campaigners and petitioners said Monday, as they marked the 23rd anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown.
The detentions came as Washington angered Beijing by calling for all those still jailed over the demonstrations on June 4, 1989 — when hundreds, if not thousands, of protesters were shot and killed by soldiers — to be freed.
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 China’s Liaoning province, told AFP.
“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 June 4, she said.
Blocks Internet access
China‘s censors have blocked internet access to the terms “six four”, “23″, “candle” and “never forget”, broadening already extensive efforts to silence talk about the 23rd anniversary of the bloody 4 June crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.
For China’s ruling Communist party, the 1989 demonstrations that clogged Tiananmen Square in Beijing and spread to other cities remains taboo, all the more so this year as the government prepares for a tricky leadership handover. Searches for the terms related to the anniversary, such as “six four” for 4 June, have been blocked on Sina Weibo, the most popular of China’s Twitter-like microblogging platforms. Users encountered a message that said the search results could not be displayed “due to relevant laws, regulations and policies”.
“It’s that day again and once more numerous posts are being deleted,” a Sina microblogger wrote. Sina was not available for comment.