03/11/2009, 00.00
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Twenty years since Tiananmen massacre: China restricts entry visas

A former student leader of the protests in 1989 has been denied entry to the country, for generic reasons. Human rights groups: this is how Beijing is preparing for the anniversary of the massacre.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Three months before the anniversary of the massacre in Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989, in which hundreds (if not thousands) of students and pro-democracy demonstrators were massacred by the Chinese army, the authorities are revoking the entry visa for Yi Danxuan, a former student leader in 1989, who wanted only to visit his elderly parents for a few days.

In 1989, Yi organized the pro-democracy protests in Guangzhou. For his activity, he was sentenced to two years in prison for "disturbing public order." After serving his sentence, in 1992 he went to study in the United States, where he received a degree and went to work as a journalist and entrepreneur. He was able to return to China for the first time for the celebration of the Lunar New Year in 2008.

On March 7, Yi flew from Boston to Hong Kong, to go visit his parents in Guangzhou. But he was stopped at customs in Luohu, between Hong Kong and Shenzhen. After a long wait, the official explained to him that because of "orders from higher authorities," his entry permit, valid until December of 2009, had been revoked by virtue of article 12 of the Law on the Control of the Exit and Entry of Aliens. The norm stipulates that "aliens who are considered a possible threat to China's state security and public order shall not be permitted to enter China."

Yi, who is not an "alien," but Chinese, says that "the accusation is simply baffling. They are determined to keep me out of China, so they simply found an excuse to do so."

Wang Songlian, coordinator of Chinese Human Rights Defenders, says that "we have received information about border police tightening control in preparation for the anniversary of the Tiananmen Massacre. The fact that Yi was allowed in the country a year ago and yet barred from doing so months before the anniversary shows how the bloody 1989 crackdown still strikes a very raw nerve with the authorities twenty years on."

In view of this anniversary, for months Beijing has been rigidly repressing any request for democracy. Among other things, in December it outlawed the document Charter 08, signed by intellectuals and other figures to call for greater democracy and respect for human rights, and blocked the websites that hosted it, monitoring or arresting many pro-democracy activists, like Liu Xiaobo, another former leader of the 1989 protests, who was arrested in December.

Yi is concerned about his parents, aged 77 and 70, who were waiting to see him for the second time in 17 years. But he is not giving up: now he intends to ask for a new entry visa in order to visit them.

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See also
Pro-democracy activist Wang Rongqing sentenced to six years for "subversion"
Party official issues urgent call for democratic reforms
With a growing economy, China becomes increasingly repressive
HK pro-democracy lawmakers and Chinese Communist officials talk about Tiananmen
Beijing launches massive "security campaign," restricts business visas


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