June 4 (UPI) — Police detained 11 Chinese activists during two small unauthorized events Sunday to commemorate the 28th anniversary of Tiananmen Square uprising and subsequent crackdown by the government in Bejijing, according to human rights groups.
In Hong Kong, the only place allowed by the Communist government to conduct open memorialization of the crackdown, about 110,000 people showed up for a vigil, according to organizers. No arrests there were reported.
Amnesty International and human rights activists described the arrests in Beijing’s Xicheng district and in Zhuzhou, in the southern Hunan province, but police there did not respond to calls seeking information. Tiananmen Square and other locations in Beijing are placed under tight security during the anniversary.
Li Xiaoling had her photograph taken at the square early Sunday. She is holding up a sign bearing an image of her with a patch over her left eye for injuries allegedly inflicted by police. Li and fellow activists Li Zhou and Pu Yongzhu were taken to Xicheng police station, activists said.
In Zhuzhou, at least eight members of an activist group were taken away by police and two others couldn’t be reached, activists and rights groups said. Activists took photographs in which they formed the Chinese characters for six and four, marking the sixth month and fourth day, the date of the crackdown.
In Hong Kong, people gathered Sunday night to remember when the government deployed tanks and troops to end weeks of pro-democracy student protests in Beijing. Hong Kong was a British colony until it was returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997.
Vigil attendees held candles and lit smartphone screens, chanted democracy slogans and sang songs. Wreaths were laid for the Tiananmen dead and a minute’s silence held. People posed for photos by a replica of the Goddess of Democracy statue, which was first erected in Beijing 28 years ago.
“It’s education through action, to let them know what happened,” Ken Chiu, a teacher in his 30s who came with his wife and two young children, told Time. He was a schoolchild when the crackdown took place and remembers his teacher crying in front of the class the day after.
“My [10-year-old] son now starts asking me what happened back then,” Chiu said.
Few young Chinese people appear to know much about the event on June 4, 1989, according to Louisa Lim, author of The People’s Republic of Amnesia: Tiananmen Revisited, due to propaganda and censorship by the Communist Party.
“For young people, they see that their lives are better than their parents, and so they buy this narrative,” she said. “It’s a very black-and-white picture — chaos or stability — which precludes the possibility of any other outcome apart from repression, but these young people, whose ideas of what happened in 1989 are very sketchy and often completely incorrect, often have no reason to question it.”
An annual survey by the University of Hong Kong’s Public Opinion Program found 46 percent of respondents believe that the Beijing students did the right thing in 1989, while 22 percent believe it was wrong. Just 12 percent supported the Chinese government’s handling of the events of 1989 and 69 percent said it was wrong.
William Nee, China researcher for Amnesty International, called on the Beijing government to end retaliation against anyone who dares mention the subject.
“Nearly three decades on, the families who lost children in the bloodshed continue to face surveillance and harassment, as the authorities continue to suppress their campaign for justice,” he wrote. “Four activists face up to 15 years in prison after they were indicted in March this year, for ‘inciting subversion of state power.’ Their crime in the eyes of the authorities was to sell wine online with a label referencing June 4, 1989, and a picture of the iconic Tank Man.”
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called for China to make “a full accounting of those killed, detained, or missing” on June 4, 1989.
“We urge China to cease harassment of family members seeking redress and to release from prison those who have been jailed for striving to keep the memory of Tiananmen Square alive,” he said in a statement. “The United States views the protection of human rights as a fundamental duty of all countries, and we urge the Chinese government to respect the universal rights and fundamental freedoms of all its citizens.”