BEIJING - China has lodged a diplomatic protest over US remarks on the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown, issuing a sterner rejection of Washington's call for it to account for those killed in pro-democracy protests.
Tens of thousands of people held a candlelight vigil in Hong Kong on Wednesday to mark the anniversary of the crackdown, while mainland China authorities sought to whitewash the 1989 event.
The White House had honoured those who gave their lives in the action to crush the protests and said in a statement that it would always speak out in support of the fundamental rights that the protesters sought.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said China was "strongly dissatisfied" and "firmly opposed" to the US statement, the official Xinhua news agency said in an English-language report late on Wednesday, adding that it had "lodged solemn representations" with Washington. "The US statement on that incident shows a total disregard of fact. It blames the Chinese government for no reason, gravely interferes in China's internal affairs and violates the basic norms guiding international relations," Hong said.
Hong's comments marked an intensification of an earlier response to the White House statement, which called on Washington to respect China's judicial sovereignty and not interfere in its internal affairs.
For the ruling Communist Party, the 1989 demonstrations that clogged Tiananmen Square in Beijing and spread to other cities remain taboo. The government has never released a death toll for the crackdown, but estimates from human rights groups and witnesses range from several hundred to several thousand.
Chinese leaders have defended the use of the army to quell the protests and said they had chosen the correct path for the sake of the people. China had stepped up its detention of rights advocates befor the anniversary and was incensed by an outpouring of criticism from governments and rights groups.
Amnesty International said two of its employees were assaulted by Chinese officials on Wednesday after they tried to lay flowers on the steps of China's embassy in London to commemorate the anniversary.
A video from the BBC posted to Amnesty's website showed an official shoving UK Director Kate Allen and Wang Ti-Anna, the daughter of an imprisoned Chinese dissident, into a crowd and hurling a bouquet of roses off the steps.