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TIANANMEN – 19 YEARS ON

05-06-2008

Tianemen demo

Dr David Nicholl joins protestors outside the Chinese embassy in London marking the anniversary of an atrocity that still hasn’t been acknowledged by those responsible.

300 demonstrators gathered outside the Chinese embassy in London yesterday to mark the 19th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre when hundreds of pro-democracy activists were killed by the Chinese authorities on June 4th 1989.

The demonstration was organised by Amnesty and had a sombre mood, in part, because of the sensitivities in relation to the recent Chinese earthquake.

With the Olympics only 2 months to go, the spotlight is very much on China and relatives and survivors of Tiananmen confirmed that the Chinese government has been extending its human rights abuses in preparation for the Olympics.

The cousin of one of the people who was killed in June 1989 confirmed that her aunt had been put under house arrest for a week for collecting signatures for a petition for an investigation into her son’s death.

Channel 4 news last night confirmed that China is detaining pro-democracy activists indefinitely as being “criminally insane” in a throwback to the worst days of the Soviet gulags.

At the end of the demonstration I was struck by how almost 20 years later, in spite of its huge economic growth, how little in China has changed, where Chinese people do not have the right of religious expression, a right to free speech, and, in many cases, do not have a right to a fair trial.

Fundamental rights which we take for granted in this country. No-one from the Chinese embassy was available for comment, but strangely they didn’t want to fly the Chinese flag outside the embassy today. Meanwhile in Tianamen square itself there were extra levels of security to ensure there was no disruption to the flag raising.

If there is a glimmer of hope, it has been the recent openness of the Chinese media in its reporting of the Sichuan earthquake, in contrast to the actions of the Burmese government over the recent typhoon disaster.

As the director of Amnesty, Kate Allen, stated at the demo, we need China to be as open with a man-made atrocity as they have been about a natural disaster.

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