Chinese police out in force to patrol Tiananmen massacre anniversary

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Journalists barred from reporting at scene of 1989 pro-democracy protests

A bewildering level of security surrounded Tiananmen Square yesterday, with thousands of plain-clothes officials, uniformed police, and soldiers patrolling the vast plaza as China uneasily marked 20 years since the crackdown on the Beijing pro-democracy movement.

Yet there is not really anyone left to protest in the Chinese capital – all of the main dissidents and democracy activists are in exile, in prison, have been told to leave Beijing, or are dead.

The area was, in theory, open to the public but passing through tight security around the square, where the same kind of tents were used to screen visitors during the Olympic Games last year, this correspondent was blocked when identified as a journalist and his companion was rudely jostled. Moments later, he was prevented from shooting video footage of the square from the nearby road.

Government censors maintained their blackout of social networking and image-sharing websites such as Twitter and Flickr, and every time CNN news went to its reporter in Tiananmen, the screen went black.

There is no doubt that China has changed dramatically in the past two decades. Market reforms have lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty and transformed the country into the world's third largest economy. This has won widespread public approval, making protests on the same scale as in 1989 highly unlikely today.

But yesterday the authorities were taking no chances on a repeat performance. Some of the police on duty were specially trained, plain-clothed officers trained in kung fu and wearing earphones and red badges. Non-security forces were in a definite minority; at times it felt as if the ratio of military personnel to civilians was even higher than 20 years ago.

Xu Jue, part of the Tiananmen Mothers group, whose son Wu Xiangdong was killed in the massacre, said she had planned to attend a memorial service with Ding Zilin, whose son Jiang Jielian, 17, also died. "We wanted to go to Muxidi to show respect and hold a small memorial ceremony for our sons. But those people just do not allow me to go anywhere. It has lasted for four days," she said during a rare moment where her phone was working. "Right now, my home phone works. But I am not sure for how long. We do not have basic human rights. I will keep trying. I am a 70-year-old woman now. I hope the international world can give us some help," she said.

According to data gathered by the Chinese Human Rights Defenders group, 65 activists have been subjected to harassment from officials to prevent them from organising or taking part in activities to commemorate the Tiananmen massacre.

To Beijing's irritation, the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, called on China to release all those still imprisoned in connection with the protests, to stop harassing those who took part and to begin a dialogue with the victims' families.

"A China that has made enormous progress economically and is emerging to take its rightful place in global leadership should examine openly the darker events of its past and provide a public accounting of those killed, detained or missing, both to learn and to heal," she said in a statement.

In Hong Kong, which enjoys a high degree of political autonomy, tens of thousands of people took part in a candlelight vigil in Victoria Park.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?