Several governments including the United States urged China to
account for what happened on June 4, 1989, comments that riled
China, which has said the protest movement was
"counter-revolutionary". Exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai
Lama used the anniversary to call on China to embrace democracy.
China has never released a death toll for the crackdown, but
estimates from human rights groups and witnesses range from several
hundred to several thousand.
Troops shot their way into central Beijing after demonstrators had
clogged Tiananmen Square in Beijing for about six weeks. There were
also protests in many other cities.
Taking no chances on Wednesday, police, soldiers and plainclothes
security personnel enveloped Tiananmen Square, checking identity
cards and rummaging through bags looking for any hint that people
might try and sneak onto the square to commemorate the day.
Police escorted a Reuters reporter off the square, which was
thronged with tourists, saying it was closed to foreign media.
Police also detained another Reuters journalist for trying to report
on the anniversary in one of Beijing's university districts,
releasing him after a few hours.
Public discussion of the crackdown is off-limits in China. Many
young people are unaware of what happened because of years of
government efforts to banish memories of the People's Liberation
Army shooting its own citizens.
"They have covered up history. They don't want people to know the
truth of what they did," veteran activist Hu Jia told Reuters from
his home in Beijing, where he said police were present to prevent
him from leaving.
"Nobody would have confidence in them if they knew what they did...
They should have fallen because of what they did," he added,
speaking by mobile telephone.
While the anniversary has never been publicly marked in mainland
China, more than 150,000 people are expected to gather on Wednesday
evening in Hong Kong for a candlelight vigil.
A large number of mainland Chinese are expected to join the event in
the former British territory, which returned to Chinese rule in 1997
but remains a free-wheeling, capitalist hub. The vigil has been held
in Hong Kong every year since 1989.
PROTESTS QUICKLY SPIRALLED
China's Foreign Ministry on Tuesday defended the crackdown, saying
the government had chosen the correct path for the sake of the
The protests began in April 1989 as a demonstration by university
students in Beijing to mourn the death of Hu Yaobang, the reformist
Communist Party chief who had been ousted by paramount leader Deng
Xiaoping. The protests grew into broader demands for an end to
corruption as well as calls for democracy.
Many Chinese would balk at the idea of mass revolution today. China
is now the world's second biggest economy, with most Chinese
enjoying individual and economic freedoms never accorded them
"I don't think it can happen again," said a Beijing resident who
gave his family name as Xu. "China's system is certainly different
from the West. The population is huge, 1.4 billion people. If you
want to govern it well, it's not easy."
But Wu'er Kaixi, a leading figure in the pro-democracy movement of
1989, said Chinese people could rise up once more against the
Communist Party in anger at anything from endemic graft to the
country's badly polluted air, water and soil.
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"Yes, you gave us economic freedom, but you are jumping in and
looting us, robbing us of our future, corrupting the culture, our
values and the environment," Wu'er Kaixi told Reuters ahead of the
anniversary from Taiwan, where he works at an investment firm.
"All this has been clearly and widely expressed by Chinese people in
the last two decades. This discontent will emerge into one thing one
day: a revolution. I am sure the Communist Party is very well aware
Rights group Amnesty International has said at least 66 people had
been detained in the period leading up to the anniversary.
That includes prominent human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang and four
other activists who were detained last month after attending a
private meeting at an apartment in Beijing to discuss the crackdown,
prompting concern in the United States and Europe.
The White House said in a statement that the United States continued
to honour the memories of those who gave their lives on June 4, and
called for a full accounting of what happened. [ID:nL3N0OL1RF] In
democratic Taiwan, which China claims as its own, President Ma
Ying-jeou said China should ensure that a "tragedy" like June 4
never happened again.
"If Chinese authorities can tolerate differences, not only can that
raise the height and the legitimacy of those in power, but also send
a clear message to Taiwan that political reform in China is
serious," Ma said in a statement.
Japan, engaged in a bitter territorial dispute with China, used the
anniversary to urge Beijing to respect human rights and the rule of
law. United Nations human rights chief Navi Pillay on Tuesday called
on China to reveal the truth about what had happened 25 years ago.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei expressed anger at the
comments from the United States and the United Nations, saying they
interfered in China's internal affairs.
In a daily news briefing, he also said the Dalai Lama had "ulterior
motives" for his Tiananmen comments. The run-up to the anniversary
has been marked by tighter controls on the Internet, including
disruption of Google services, and tougher than normal censorship of
the popular Twitter-like microblogging service Weibo.
"This is the 1,008th post that I've had scrubbed today," complained
one Weibo user, attaching a screen shot of a message received from
censors telling him that his post reading "It's been 25 years since
that event" had been deleted.
(Additional reporting by Michael Martina and Joseph Campbell, Faith
Hung and Michael Gold in TAIPEI, James Pomfret in HONG KONG, and
Kaori Kaneko in TOKYO; Editing by Dean Yates)
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