US asks China to free activists held ahead of Tiananmen anniv

US called on the Chinese authorities to release all the activists, journalists and lawyers detained ahead of the 25th anniversary.

By: Press Trust of India | Washington | Published:June 4, 2014 11:13 am
A Chinese plainclothes security person pulls a concrete block near a portrait of late Chinese leader Mao Zedong on Tiananmen Gate in Beijing. (AP) A Chinese plainclothes security person pulls a concrete block near a portrait of late Chinese leader Mao Zedong on Tiananmen Gate in Beijing. (AP)

Pressing China on human rights issues, the US has asked the Communist giant to release all activists, journalists and lawyers rounded up ahead of the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown. “We very clearly called on the Chinese authorities to release all the activists, journalists and lawyers who have been detained ahead of the 25th anniversary,” State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf, told reporters.

“China is a growing country. We’ve talked a lot about the fact that this is not a zero-sum game here. As they grow, I think it’s time to allow some more space, quite frankly, for discussion in their own country, particularly around this kind of anniversary,” Harf said.

Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, in a statement said 25 years later, the spirit of Tiananmen Square endures, yet challenges remain. “The Chinese government censors any mention of the events of June 4th. Liu Xiaobo remains the world’s only imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, a symbol of all who languish in prison for exercising their rights. Chinese officials abuse and intimidate the families of activists with impunity and the human rights situation in China and Tibet continues to deteriorate,” she said.

“Though many Chinese don’t know the truth about Tiananmen, they do know that government corruption is rampant; that the rule of law is not applied in a fair manner; that air and water pollution threatens their health and environment; that injustice is perpetrated without any redress of grievances,” Pelosi said.

Senator Ben Cardin, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said, “On this important anniversary, we must continue to voice our concerns on restrictions and abuses against freedom of speech, internet freedom, freedom of association and persecution of religious and ethnic minorities in China.”

Noting that June 4 marks a painful history for many within China and around the world, Cardin said the images of Tiananmen Square on that day, 25 years ago, are seared into memory. “We hope the tragedy of the events can be the foundation for an accounting of and discussion of the past and modern day reforms that will ensure that these events are never repeated,” Cardin said.

A quarter century later, it is disappointing that more progress has not been made and that individuals associated with the events continue to face harassment and imprisonment,” he said.

Representative Chris Smith, Co-chair of Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), said, “It is outrageous and sad that the Chinese government today defended its violent crackdown on the 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations by saying it took ‘the correct path for the sake of the people’.”

“Some may want to look past or trivialise the Tiananmen Massacre, but the remembrance of the dead and those jailed and tortured, and their remarkable courage, vision and tenacity requires us to honour their noble aspirations for democracy and liberty,” he said.

“The 25th anniversary of the bloody crackdown on student dissent therefore must re-inspire and re-energise our efforts to make human rights and freedom a top priority of US foreign policy and engagement with China,” Smith said. Congressman Frank R Wolf said, “By nearly every measure, China is today as intolerant of dissent as it’s ever been, if not more so. With the 25th anniversary of Tiananmen on the horizon there are steps that the Administration can take, symbolic and tangible alike, that would communicate to the Chinese people that their struggle has not been forgotten.”

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