Tomorrow marks the anniversary of the violent 1989 military crackdown on protesters at Tianamen Square, meaning that the annual round-up of dissidents and rights activists across China is well underway.
Chinese authorities have detained dozens of people in the past week, Radio Free Asia reports, placing some of them under house arrest and forcing others to go on a police-chaperoned “vacation”. The latter was the case for 82-year-old Bao Tong, a former aide to purged Communist Party leader Zhao Ziyang. Bao served a seven-year prison term for “revealing state secrets and counter-revolutionary propagandizing” in the wake of the 1989 democracy movement, and has remained under house in Beijing arrest ever since.
State security police arrived at his home on Saturday, told him to gather his belongings and took him “on vacation”, according to Bao’s wife, Jiang Zongcao.
“I don’t know [where they took him], and they didn’t say when he was coming back,” Jiang said.
While the couple might not have received a notice in advance about the visit from the authorities, it was hardly a surprise. Bao, who’s banned from making public comments or speaking to reporters around the June 4 anniversary, was taken to his hometown of Haining, Zhejiang province around the same time last year and returned on June 11.
Activists in Xi’an have likewise received phone calls or visits from state security police.
“Some people in Xi’an have already been contacted,” activist Ma Xiaoming told RFA on the phone yesterday. “They told me that there was one guy, Ma Yuzhong, who they tried to force to go on vacation.”
“I can’t really talk about this right known because they are right here with me now,” said Ma.
More than 20 activists in Hunan are under surveillance or are incommunicado, the report said, while 1989 activist Wang Debang, now living in Guangxi, also received a cryptic warning from authorities that he would have to “take a vacation”.
“They are so jumpy and paranoid … I think that all the Tiananmen Mothers [victims’ group] are under surveillance in Beijing right now,” Wang said.
Tiananmen Mothers, an activist group composed of family members of victims from the 1989 crackdown, made headlines on Monday when it released an open letter through NY-based Human Rights in China, urging the government to take responsibility for “historical crimes”.
The letter referenced remarks made by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in March about Japan’s failure to atone for its wartime past. Li said that “the leaders of a state not only inherit their predecessors’ successes, but should also bear historical responsibility for their predecessors’ crimes”.
“By the same logic, shouldn’t today’s Chinese leaders bear responsibility for the series of crimes – manmade famine and slaughter – perpetrated in their own country by China’s leaders at the time: Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping?” the group wrote in the letter, according to the NY Times.
Meanwhile, various student unions from universities will notably be absent from Thursday’s candlelight vigil in Hong Kong, the only place in Greater China that allows mass gatherings in honor of the bloody June 4 crackdown. According to SCMP, this is due to disagreement over the organizers’ slogan: “Build a democratic China”.
“The future of Hong Kong has to be based on universal values at the cornerstone of democracy and human rights … that was what the 1989 [democracy movement] was for,” Chinese dissident Zhou Fengzhou told the Post. Zhou landed fifth on Beijing’s most-wanted list after the events in the capital 26 years ago, and now lives in the United States.
“The commemoration was part of Hong Kong’s heritage and future and rejecting it is definitely going in the wrong direction.”
Previously on Shanghaiist: Tiananmen dissident blocked from Hong Kong in attempt to see dying mother