06/05/2014, 00.00
CHINA
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Crackdown continues against those who remember Tiananmen

Despite pleas and criticisms from the international community, Beijing ups the ante and removes dissidents and human rights activists who want to commemorate the victims of the 1989 democratic movement. For the first time, the Government of Vietnam comes out against China. US statement provokes an official diplomatic reaction. Meanwhile, Miao Deshun is still in prison, since 4 June 1989.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - On the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, more human rights activists are paying the price for China's fixation with obliterating the memory of the event.

Even though yesterday was the anniversary of the crackdown, Chinese authorities continue to arrest and detain people for trying to commemorating it. So far, 91 people have been taken into custody.

In the past two months, several dozen activists, dissidents, and scholars, many involved in the 1989 movement, have been placed under tight house arrest or forcibly taken "to travel" outside their cities of residence, this according to the Chinese Human Rights Defender (CHRD) group.

Only Jia Lingmin and Xu Guang have been formally charged with "creating a disturbance" for trying to commemorate 4 June.

The CHRD has documented 43 criminal detentions whereby police can detain people for up to three years without trial.

In another 46 cases, law enforcement simply "invited" dissidents for tea or forcibly took them on a trip, people like Bao Tong and Hu Jia.

However, the flood of arrests has not stopped the world from remembering the victims of the massacre.

In Hong Kong, a candlelight vigil that attracted 180,000 people was held to mourn of the victims, joined by the governments of the United States, Japan, Taiwan, and for the first time Vietnam. In fact, in what seems to be a strategic shift in Vietnam's ongoing territorial dispute with China, Vietnamese media slammed Beijing for its repression 25 years ago.

In Taiwan, Chinese protest leader Wu'er Kaixi, China's second most-wanted after the crackdown, spoke to the crowd. "Twenty-five years have gone and we still have not succeeded," Wu'er said. "We still need your support from Taiwan because the fight ahead would be more lonely and hard."

Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou also issued a statement yesterday calling for China to show greater tolerance toward dissidents, saying it would help win respect from people across the Taiwan Strait and international society.

Similarly, Tibet's Dalai Lama spoke out. "I offer my prayers for those who died for freedom, democracy and human rights," the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize winner said in a statement.

"While great progress has been made to integrate into the world economy, I believe it is equally important to encourage China to enter the mainstream of global democracy," he added.

"In this anniversary of China's young martyrs, let us pray that the Chinese leaders of today would turn their hearts away from fear and defensiveness, that they would reach out to the victims and victims' families, and repent of the massacre of China's youth."

The White House also honoured those who died. In a statement it said it would always speak out in support of the fundamental rights that the protesters sought in Tiananmen Square.

Beijing's response was quick with its diplomats lodging "solemn representations" over Washington's statement.

"The US statement on that incident shows a total disregard of fact. It blames the Chinese government for no reason, gravely interferes in China's internal affairs and violates the basic norms guiding international relations," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said.

Meanwhile, one victim is still paying for the carnage in Tiananmen Square: Miao Deshun.

Believed to be the last person still in prison for his involvement in the 1989 pro-democracy protests, Miao is now 51. But back then, he was just 25-year-old factory worker.

On 4 June, he was arrested for allegedly throwing a basket on a burning tank after the People's Liberation Army began mowing down demonstrators and onlookers in Beijing.

Convicted of "arson," Miao was sentenced to death in October 1989, with his execution suspended for two years. His sentence was then commuted twice, and he is now scheduled for release in September 2018.

In prison, Miao was tortured and mistreated for refusing to admit guilt and perform manual labour.

In 2003, authorities transferred him from Beijing No. 2 Prison to the psychiatric ward of Yanqing Prison, claiming that Miao was suffering from a mental illness.

While held there, Miao was forced to take psychiatric drugs and was confined to bed for long periods of time.

He remains in Yanqing Prison, but no further details are known about his current situation.

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