China locks down Tiananmen news
Virtually no evidence seen on 20th anniversary of clash
BEIJING – Mainland China remained quiet Thursday on the 20th anniversary of the bloody Tiananmen Square crackdown, while tens of thousands of people staged a protest in Hong Kong.
Beijing, the capital, was on virtual lockdown. Key foreign news Web sites were blocked, dissidents were placed under house arrest, and police blanketed the vast square where a still-undetermined number of pro-democracy activists were killed in a violent clash with the military June 4, 1989. Journalists were kept away from the scene.
Over the years, Beijing has taken a two-pronged approach to the massacre. Domestically, the incident is ignored in history books, and discussion about it is banned to the point that many young people know nothing of what happened. In arguments directed to the international community, Beijing has said the crackdown was necessary to ensure social stability, which it says was a precondition for the market-driven changes that have since transformed China into the world’s third-largest economy.
On Thursday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang limited his remarks to a sentence: “On the political incident that took place in the 1980s, the party and the government have already reached a conclusion.”
In the weeks before the anniversary, authorities erased most traces of the massacre from the capital. Twitter and other Internet services that people could have used to coordinate gatherings were blocked, as were news Web sites such as CNN and the BBC. Foreign newspapers and magazines that had been covering commemorative protests in Hong Kong were delivered with pages ripped out. Writers, activists and even mothers of victims were put under surveillance or house arrest.
On Thursday, the only place on Chinese soil where a large-scale protest took place was Hong Kong, the former British colony that has maintained its own legal system since it reverted to Chinese rule in 1997.
Police estimated that 62,800 people, dressed either in white or funereal black, showed up for a vigil in downtown Victoria Park. Organizers put the figure closer to 150,000.
Xiong Yan, one of the 21 student leaders placed on Beijing’s “most wanted” list in 1989 and now a U.S. resident, attended the vigil, but Wuer Kaixi, No. 2 on the list, was back in Taiwan after being denied entry.