China: Crackdown intensifies ahead of Tiananmen anniversary

The Chinese authorities must immediately release all those detained for trying to mark the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, said Amnesty International, following a spate of detentions in the past week. 

At least five prominent activists have been detained in Beijing, while several others have been questioned by police, as the authorities attempt to suppress critics ahead of the 25th anniversary on 4 June.   

“These latest detentions show how far the authorities are prepared to go to silence those that seek to remember the 1989 crackdown,” said Anu Kultalahti, China Researcher at Amnesty International.

 “Twenty-five years on the authorities have once again chosen the path of repression rather than accept the need for an open discussion about what happened in 1989.” said Kultalahti.

On Tuesday, Pu Zhiqiang, a prominent human rights lawyer, was criminally detained on suspicion of “picking quarrels”, after he attended a weekend seminar in Beijing that called for an investigation into the 4 June crackdown.

Four other activists that also took part in the event – Xu Youyu, Liu Di, Hao Jian and Hu Shigen – have been detained on the same grounds. Under Chinese law, police can now hold all five activists until after 4 June.  

“All those detained for attempting to mark the 25th anniversary must be released immediately and unconditionally. The persecution of those trying to remember the victims of the Tiananmen crackdown must end,” said Kultalahti.

There are increasing concerns for a leading Chinese journalist that covered the 1989 crackdown and has campaigned for justice since. Gao Yu was last heard from on 24 April. 

Several other prominent activists have been questioned by police in an attempt to deter them from speaking out. 

This includes Zhang Xianling whose son, Wang Nan, was killed in 1989.  Zhang, along with other Tiananmen Mothers, has spent the last two decades fighting for justice for the victims of the 1989 crackdown.

Hundreds if not thousands of people were killed or injured during the military crackdown against protestors in and around Tiananmen Square in 1989. 

The 1989 crackdown remains an official taboo in China. Attempts to commemorate, discuss and demand justice for what happened are forcefully curbed, with no public discussion allowed.