China: Thousands of Amnesty supporters demand release of Tiananmen activists
Tens of thousands of Amnesty International supporters across the world will tomorrow 4 June demand that the Chinese authorities release dozens of people held in jail since the Tiananmen protests 19 years ago.
The Tiananmen crackdown in June 1989 killed hundreds of people, dozens of the protestors still languish in Chinese prisons following grossly unfair trials, many other activists have subsequently been imprisoned for highlighting or questioning the government's actions in 1989. There is absolutely no excuse for the Chinese government to still detain these people,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific director.
From London to Tel Aviv to Mexico City, thousands of Amnesty International supporters will lay red and white flowers in solidarity with the relatives of those killed and arrested during the crackdown on pro-democracy protests on 3/4 June 1989. They will also hold a one-minute silence to commemorate the victims of the earthquake of 12 May in the Chinese province of Sichuan, and to extend condolences and sympathy to the survivors.
“The Chinese authorities have proven they can respond to natural crisis very efficiently. We urge the do the same when it comes to human rights such as the right to express opinions peacefully,” said Sam Zarifi.
“China has promised human rights improvements in the run up to the Olympics. Releasing the Tiananmen activists, bringing justice to the relatives of those killed and allowing for public mourning and commemoration for the victims will go a long way towards establishing a positive human rights legacy for the Games.”
“The Chinese government should support and protect the families of those who died in the Tiananmen crackdown, instead of harassing them for years. It’s time for China to come to grips with this tragedy and begin the process of accountability and healing the wounds.”
According to the US-based Dui Hua Foundation between 60 and 100 prisoners remain in jail for offences committed during the protests. The exact number is unknown as the authorities have not made the figure public.
Chinese authorities freed several prisoners in 2006 but continue to hold them under tight police surveillance and prevent them from engaging in any activities deemed politically sensitive, including speaking to journalists about their experiences.
The Tiananmen Mothers, a group of human rights activists whose children and other close relatives were killed during the crackdown, are still calling on the Chinese authorities to allow victims’ families the right to mourn in public, to end persecution of victims and their families, to release all those still imprisoned for taking part in peaceful protests and to implement a full and open inquiry into events of June 1989. Government authorities have subjected them to harassment, discrimination and arbitrary detention.
Some of those who remain in prison due to their participation in the 1989 protests include:
Miao Deshun, detained in June 1989 and convicted of arson. His original suspended death sentence was reduced to life imprisonment in 1991, and then to 20 years’ imprisonment in 1998. He is currently held at Yanqing Prison on the outskirts of Beijing and due for release on 15 September 2018.
Liu Zhihua, who was among a group of workers who organised a strike at the Xiangtan Electrical Machinery plant in Hubei province. His original life sentence for giving ‘anti-government’ speeches and inciting a mob to engage in ‘beating, smashing and looting’ was reduced to 15 years in September 1993, but extended again by five years after in 1997 after he was involved in a brawl. With his sentence reduced by a further two years for good behaviour in 2001, he is currently due to be released on 16 January 2011.
Wang Jun, was an 18-year-old worker from Shaanxi province at the time of the protests. He was given a suspended death sentence for throwing rocks, breaking street lamps and setting fire to several vehicles during a ‘serious political disturbance’ at the Xincheng Factory in Xi’an city on 22 April 1989. He is currently held at Fuping prison in Shaanxi province. After four sentence reductions, he is due for release on 11 December 2009.
Amnesty International calls on the Chinese government to grant an amnesty to all others imprisoned in connection with the 1989 protests, given the length of time they have spent in prison, the summary and unfair nature of their trials and the fact that repeated calls for them to be retried in accordance with international standards have gone unheeded.
Journalists reporting on the 1989 crackdown or activists peacefully supporting commemoration of the events continue to be harassed, detained and imprisoned. Amnesty International believes they are prisoners of conscience and should be immediately and unconditionally released. They include:
Kong Youping, a former trade union activist, was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment in September 2004 after he had posted articles and poems on the internet calling for an official reassessment of the 1989 pro-democracy movement. He is serving his sentence in Lingyuan prison of Liaoning province.
Yang Tongyan (pen-name: Yang Tianshui), a freelance writer, who continues to serve a 12-year prison sentence in Nanjing Municipal Prison, Jiangsu province, for ‘subversion’ in connection with several charges, including writing in support of political and democratic change in China. He had previously served a ten-year prison sentence for criticizing the crackdown on the 1989 pro-democracy movement and allegedly trying to form an opposition political party. In 2007 he was reportedly forced to work making footballs and basketballs in an apparently toxic environment for 8-10 hours per day, but was transferred to lighter work as prison librarian at the end of the year.
Shi Tao continues to serve a 10-year sentence for sending an email summarizing a Chinese Central Propaganda Department communiqué on how journalists should handle the 15 th anniversary of the crackdown on the 1989 pro-democracy movement. At the end of June 2007, he was transferred to Deshan Prison in Changde city, Hunan province where his conditions of detention appear to have improved and his mother can now visit him regularly. The Supreme People’s Court has reportedly accepted an application to review his case, but there has been no further response.