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Hong Kong to mark Tiananmen anniversary with huge vigil
by Staff Writers
Hong Kong (AFP) June 03, 2013

Obama urged to raise rights on Tiananmen anniversary
Washington (AFP) June 3, 2013 - US lawmakers and activists called Monday on President Barack Obama to speak firmly on human rights when he meets his Chinese counterpart, 24 years after Beijing crushed protests in Tiananmen Square.

President Xi Jinping heads to California on Friday for his first talks with Obama since assuming office in Beijing, with alleged Chinese support for cyber attacks on US companies and government set to be high on the agenda.

The State Department called last week on China to "end harassment" of survivors of the pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square, which China suppressed at the cost of hundreds if not thousands of lives on June 3-4, 1989.

Representative Chris Smith, who has long been active on human rights, called on Obama to raise concerns directly with Xi after China's foreign ministry accused the State Department of interference through its statement.

"A robust discussion of human rights abuses in China must be on the agenda and not in a superfluous or superficial way. It's time to get serious about China's flagrant abuse," said Smith, a Republican from New Jersey.

"Can a government that crushes the rights and freedoms of its own people be trusted on trade and security issues?" he said at a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee hearing.

Testifying before the subcommittee, Yang Jianli, an activist who witnessed the Tiananmen crackdown, said that a growing number of Chinese saw themselves as "shitizens" whose rights are disregarded by the state.

But Yang voiced guarded optimism for the future.

"The people of China are obviously experiencing revolutionary change. Above all else, we must maintain our faith in my compatriots that we can and will join the vast majority of the world's peoples who now live in free or at least partly free countries," he said.

Chai Ling, a key leader of the Tiananmen protests who later moved to the United States and embraced Christianity, spoke about her faith at the hearing.

"President Xi Jinping, unlike Deng Xiaoping, you don't need to use terror and massacre to maintain order. All you need is the love of Jesus," she said, referring to China's paramount leader during the Tiananmen protests.

More than 100,000 people are expected to attend a candlelight vigil on Tuesday in Hong Kong, the only Chinese city to openly mark the 24th anniversary of the bloody crackdown in Tiananmen Square.

Residents of the former British colony gather each year at the city's Victoria Park to commemorate the victims, thought to number at least hundreds, of the brutal military intervention in Beijing that ended weeks of nationwide democracy protests in 1989.

Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, the organisers of the event, said they expect 150,000 people to attend and make impassioned calls to never forget the students who sacrificed their lives for democratic reforms.

"I think all of us, even the new generation in Hong Kong, would have the same feeling that it is a tragedy and also an offence of the government to shoot people like that," Alliance vice chairman Richard Choi told AFP.

"The problem is still not resolved, that's why Hong Kong people have the same feelings and the same demands as they did 24 years ago," Choi said.

An official Chinese Communist Party verdict after the Tiananmen protests branded the movement a "counter-revolutionary rebellion", and the events of 1989 have largely been expunged from Chinese official history.

But pro-democracy advocates in the southern Chinese city have constantly sought ways to remind locals and mainland Chinese visitors of the events which took place that year.

More than a thousand protesters walked to the city's government headquarters and then to the Chinese liaison office in late May to call for the vindication of those who died in the June 4 crackdown.

A large tank made with white cardboard with slogans "never forget June 4", and "One party rule, politics murders people" written in red was seen in the busy shopping district of Mong Kok.

Local students also staged a three-day hunger strike in a posh shopping district popular with mainland Chinese tourists, re-enacting student leaders in Beijing as they demanded a dialogue with top political leaders.

A survey conducted by the Hong Kong University last month found around 68 percent of the people interviewed thought the Chinese government acted wrongly in 1989.

The survey, which carried out more than 1,000 interviews also found that around 68 percent of Hong Kongers believe that the city should incite the development of democracy in China.

In China, more than 100 people whose relatives were killed in the Tiananmen Square crackdown hit out at the country's new president Xi Jinping in an open letter, days ahead of the anniversary of the deaths.

Hong Kong reverted to Chinese rule in 1997 as a semi-autonomous territory with its own mini-constitution that guarantees basic rights and freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland, including freedom of speech and assembly.


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