- The Washington Times - Friday, June 4, 2004

BEIJING — Police kept Tiananmen Square free of demonstrators yesterday, detaining at least 16 persons while activists abroad marked the 15th anniversary of the deadly military attack on demonstrators for democracy by pressing their demands for political change.

Since the June 4, 1989, military crackdown that killed hundreds, and possibly thousands, of demonstrators, communist leaders have made many changes demanded by the dissidents, including scrapping rules dictating where Chinese could work and whom they could marry. A decade of stunning economic growth has given millions of Chinese new choices in life.

But the closed, secretive ruling party that crushed the protests still permits no independent political activity and has jailed or driven into exile most of China’s active dissidents.

Reporters saw 16 middle-aged men and women picked up yesterday on the square in small groups and dragged to waiting police vans. It was not clear whether the detentions were related to the anniversary, but security forces had been trying to block public commemorations for people killed in the crackdown.

The square was open to the public and hundreds of tourists with their children strolled under a sprinkling of rain.

Though extra guards were on duty, security was relatively light compared with other politically sensitive dates. Troops from the paramilitary People’s Armed Police dozed aboard two parked buses.

In advance of the anniversary, authorities detained activists and relatives of people killed in 1989 or ordered them out of Beijing.

Yesterday, broadcasts of CNN to hotels and apartment compounds for foreigners in the Chinese capital were blacked out repeatedly when the network showed reports on the crackdown.

In contrast to the calm in Beijing, veterans of the protests and other activists commemorated the deaths with vigils, marches and hunger strikes in Hong Kong, Washington, and Taipei, Taiwan.

In Hong Kong, police said at least 48,000 people held candles, sang and chanted last night to commemorate the anniversary and to protest China’s hard line against democracy in the former British territory.

“Hong Kong should be democratic,” university student Rocker Tsui said at an annual vigil that was highly charged by the recent bitter dispute over the territory’s political future.

Hong Kong school officials said last month that students in the territory will be taught about the 1989 bloodshed for the first time in new history textbooks expected to be released in September. Discussion of the topic is still forbidden on the mainland.

In Washington, a veteran of the demonstrations was in the midst of a fast outside the Chinese Embassy that began Tuesday.

“We should not just sit and wait for change. We’ve been waiting for 15 years and it hasn’t happened,” Liu Junguo said.

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