Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Grim anniversary

The attack on student protestors in Tiananmen Square was 19 years ago today.

From the Associated Press:

New York-based Human Rights Watch said about 130 prisoners are still being held for their role in the demonstrations that were crushed in a brutal military crackdown. The square in the heart of the Chinese capital is expected to feature prominently in media coverage of the Olympics, although authorities worry about the possibility of fresh protests marring the event.

"The Chinese government should show the global Olympic audience it's serious about human rights by releasing the Tiananmen detainees," Sophie Richardson, the group's Asia advocacy director, said in a statement released Monday in New York.

The square was calm Wednesday morning on the 19th anniversary of the June 3-4 military assault on the protesters in which hundreds, possibly thousands, were killed. China's Communist leaders portray the protest as an anti-government riot and have never offered a full accounting of the crackdown.

Looking forward to the Olympics?

China pledged to improve its human rights situation in its bid to host the 2008 Olympics. But one Tiananmen activist, whose son was killed as he hid from soldiers enforcing martial law, scoffed when asked whether the August games had spurred the government to change its attitude.

"I don't have this kind of illusion," said Ding Zilin, pointing out that some of her activist friends were placed under house arrest this year. She is the co-founder of the Tiananmen Mothers, a group representing families of those who died, and has campaigned to get the government to acknowledge those killed in the crackdown and compensate their families.

No official figure is available of the number of people who remain jailed in connection with the protests. Liu Xiaobo, an Internet writer who was jailed for nearly five years after the protests, said he knows of up to eight people serving life sentences in Beijing's No. 2 Prison on charges of organizing people to oppose the soldiers or taking part in acts such as the burning of police or army vehicles during the crackdown.

China Human Rights Defenders, a network of activists and rights monitoring groups, released a list Tuesday with the names of eight Beijing residents who remain imprisoned in connection with the Tiananmen protests. A handful of activists had also been placed under house arrest or monitored by police in the days leading up to the anniversary, the group said.