Tiananmen Square: 21 Years Later Still No Justice or Freedom

June 3, 2010

Twenty-one years after the massacre in and around Tiananmen Square in Beijing on June 3rd and 4th, 1989 – which killed scores of students and peaceful protesters – justice still has yet to be served for its victims, and citizens of China are still being denied their rights to freedom of expression. Any sort of commemoration and criticism of the events are strictly prohibited by Chinese authorities, as they continue to accuse citizens of “inciting subversion,” and imposing lengthy imprisonment after unfair trials. Human rights defenders in China know these obstacles all too well, and continue to risk severe punishment – especially around this time every year.

 Commemorative activities organized by the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China (The Alliance) were brought to an abrupt halt by police on May 29th and 30th.

Three girls stand in Tiananmen Square on a day of rememberence of the 1989 event
Three girls stand in Tiananmen Square on a day of rememberence of the 1989 event

The organizers had followed procedures for regulating public assemblies, but the police claimed additional ‘entertainment’ licenses were required, confiscated exhibits including two statues of the Goddess of Democracy and arrested 15 people.

Amnesty released a public statement commemorating today’s anniversary, in which we condemned the Chinese authorities’ efforts to cover up the massacre and bring those responsible into investigation.  Furthermore, we continue to urge the Chinese government to stop suppressing citizens who exercise their fundamental rights to freedom of expression.

One such case where the government’s crackdown on free expression has been apparent is that of Shi Tao, a journalist and poet based in Hunan province. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2005 for his email communications about the 1989 massacre.  After using his Yahoo! email account to send pro-democracy messages to foreign websites, he was charged with “illegally providing state secrets to foreign entities”.

Internet company Yahoo! disclosed the contents of Shi Tao’s personal email messages where he summarized a Chinese Central Propaganda Department communiqué on how journalists should handle the 15th anniversary of the 1989 crackdown.  The company’s role in turning over this information was key evidence leading to Shi Tao’s conviction.

Shi Tao, and countless other individuals, are still imprisoned for their communications about the 1989 crackdown. And after 21 years of suppressing Chinese expression, it’s painfully clear that justice and freedom are long over-due.