Thursday, June 4, 2009

Communist crackdown on Tiananmen protests

By Michael Sainbury

( Australian) - CHINA'S Communist Party has mobilised every arm of its massive state apparatus to ensure the 20th anniversary of the bloody crackdown on its citizens in Tiananmen Square passes unnoticed.

Authorities censored a host of online services yesterday, launched armed patrols around the centre of Beijing and placed prominent dissidents under arrest, The Australian reports.

Thousands of chat rooms and major offshore internet sites such as Hotmail, Twitter and Flickr have been blocked, joining an existing three-month ban on Google's video site, YouTube, which was punished for showing Chinese soldiers beating Tibetan monks.

Foreign journalists have been blocked from interviewing people around the square and had members of their local staff questioned this week, despite promises of freer access for reporters by the Government following last year's Olympic Games.

On the evening of June 3, 1989, China's leadership moved to impose martial law on the centre of Beijing after almost seven weeks of protests begun by students, culminating in the peaceful occupation of Tiananmen Square outside the Forbidden City.

Thousands of troops and tanks stormed the city streets and the square, crushing and shooting unarmed citizens.

Since then, the event has been wiped from Chinese history books with most young Chinese having only vague knowledge of the massacre and many happy to dismiss it as history.

"I know it was bad but most people really don't know, and the Government has done plenty of good things since then, " said one 26-year-old Beijinger whose view is typical of the age group.

But the Chinese Government continues its refusal to recognise the event, name and count its victims or conduct any form of inquiry or reconciliation. Its paranoia about the massacre reaches its peak in the weeks ahead of the anniversary each year.

Authorities have been steadily tightening surveillance over China's dissident community ahead of this year's anniversary, with some leading writers under house arrest for months.

The city's stubborn coterie of human rights lawyers have been subject to worse than usual harrassment in the lead-up to the annual June 1 renewal of their licences.

Read more on this story at The Australian.

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