- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 5, 2008

BEIJING | Security forces kept a close watch on Tiananmen Square during Wednesday’s anniversary of the 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protests, amid renewed calls for the release of political prisoners ahead of the Beijing Olympics in August.

No public commemorations of the protests were held, and there were few reminders of the events of 19 years ago. Instead, the square, like the rest of the Chinese capital, was adorned with symbols of the upcoming Olympics.

Exiled dissidents and human rights groups have sought to link the two events, saying releasing political prisoners and allowing exiled student leaders to return would burnish the communist government’s image before the Olympic spotlight turns on Beijing.

At access points to Tiananmen Square, police and other security officers searched bags for banners or leaflets containing dissident messages. Plainclothes officers used hand-held video cameras to supplement the dozens of permanently mounted cameras trained on the square.

Han Dongfang, formerly imprisoned for his efforts to organize workers during the ‘89 protests, said freeing prisoners could cement the image of current Chinese leaders as less corrupt and more people-oriented.

Such a step would “allow them to close the door on that era and inaugurate a new chapter in Chinese politics,” Mr. Han, who now heads the Hong Kong-based China Labor Bulletin, wrote on the group’s Web site.

In Hong Kong, tens of thousands of activists gathered at Victoria Park with white candles to mourn those killed at Tiananmen, chanting slogans calling for democracy and the release of political dissidents.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide