China blocks protests at Tiananmen Square on Constitution Day

China blocks protests at Tiananmen Square on Constitution Day
Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

BEIJING - China marked its first national Constitution Day on Thursday with readings at schools across the country, activities promoting the rule of law, and the blocking of protests at Tiananmen Square.

The National People's Congress, China's rubber-stamp legislature, last month designated December 4 as National Constitution Day to promote the document adopted in its current form on that date in 1982.

State broadcaster China Central Television showed footage of judicial employees swearing an oath to the constitution at Beijing's high court.

On Wednesday, President Xi Jinping said China's constitution "guarantees the socialist path with Chinese characteristics", according to the state-run Global Times newspaper.

Schools across China were to hold readings of the constitution, according to an education ministry directive, and tables were set up on some central Beijing streets with posters and materials promoting the document.

Yet at Tiananmen Square, the vast public space in the heart of the city, citizens seeking to protest were blocked by police from doing so.

A middle-aged man was stopped and got into an altercation with officers at a security checkpoint after he attempted to enter the square with briefcase containing a pile of flyers.

One officer videotaped as another yelled at the man, grabbed him by the front of his coat and thrust him into a chair.

Half a dozen people were also seen being bundled by police into a van at the centre of the square on Thursday morning, although it was unclear whether they were seeking to demonstrate.

Metres away from the square, an electronic billboard -- adorned with at least three CCTV cameras -- carried messages promoting the new commemoration, previously known as Legal Day.

"December 4 is National Constitution Day and National Day of Promoting the Legal System," it read. "Promote the spirit of the Constitution, establish constitutional authority."

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