Lockdown ahead of Tiananmen 25th anniversary

Paramilitary policemen on guard at the Monument to the People’s Heroes at Tiananmen Square in Beijing yesterday. Some 85,000 volunteers have been deployed to patrol the streets, as the authorities step up security to prevent any attempts to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the crackdown today.

CHINA - China has thrown a massive security dragnet over its capital to prevent any attempts at commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown today, a sensitive event that continues to result in the detention of activists and heavy media censorship.

While most Chinese are going about their daily activities unconcerned and unaware about the bloody events of June 4, 1989, when the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) used force to quell a massive political demonstration at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, the authorities are taking no chances.

For one, a higher number of rights activists have been arrested in the run-up to this year's anniversary than in previous years.

Activists and rights groups are livid over reports that China- born Australian artist Guo Jian, 52, was detained on Sunday night over an artwork marking the 25th anniversary of the crackdown.

Others who have been held include lawyer Pu Zhiqiang and journalist Gao Yu, who wrote articles critical of the armed crackdown that killed hundreds, if not thousands, of people.

Across Beijing, some 85,000 volunteers and 650 police dogs have been deployed to act as "informants" and patrol the streets. All who enter Beijing on long-distance coaches must present identity cards, and mid-journey stops have been prohibited.

The authorities did not say how long they would enforce the additional security measures, which are also aimed at deterring repeats of the terror attacks that have rocked China since last October.

China also strictly censors media and online references to the Tiananmen crackdown, which started when protesters began massing at the square from April 15, 1989, to mourn former party chief Hu Yaobang's death. Grieving for the reformist leader turned into a demonstration against the CCP and social ills.

A split in the party led to then CCP boss Zhao Ziyang being ousted and strongman Deng Xiaoping approving the use of force advocated by hardliners such as then Premier Li Peng.

This year, Beijing appears to have stepped up online censorship by blocking several Google websites such as its search engine and Gmail services, said monitoring group GreatFire.org.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry yesterday defended Beijing's handling of the incident, saying the country chose the correct path.

This article was first published on June 4, 2014.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.