• Press Release

China: No Investigation, No Redress and Still No Freedom of Speech!

March 27, 2011

China: No Investigation, No Redress and Still No Freedom of Speech!

Human rights activists targeted for discussing the Tiananmen Crackdown

3 June 2010

Twenty-one years since the military crackdown on pro-democracy protests in and around Tiananmen Square on 3-4 June 1989, the Chinese authorities still refuse to hold an open and independent inquiry. Instead, they continue to prosecute citizens who criticize the crackdown or commemorate its victims, accusing them of "inciting subversion" and imposing lengthy imprisonment after unfair trials.

In 1989, millions across China gathered peacefully to pursue fundamental freedoms promised in the Chinese Constitution. Their demands remain highly relevant today. As the 21st anniversary of the Tiananmen Crackdown approaches, Amnesty International once again urges the Chinese authorities to uphold the Constitution by guaranteeing freedom of expression.

Article 35 of the Chinese Constitution stipulates that "Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration." The Chinese government’s National Human Rights Action Plan 2009-2010, released in April 2009, also states that "the state will guarantee citizens’ rights to criticize, give advice to, complain of, and accuse state organs and civil servants". Yet Chinese citizens continue to risk severe punishment if they publish or circulate materials the authorities deem unwarranted criticism.

Liu Xiaobo, a former participant in the 1989 pro-democracy student movement was sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment on 25 December 2009, for initiating and signing Charter 08, a manifesto calling for political accountability and human rights protection. Articles he wrote about 4 June 1989 were cited in his verdict as evidence of "inciting subversion".

Freedom of expression and association are fundamental rights enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which China signed in 1998 but has not yet ratified. Amnesty International urges the Chinese government to stop suppressing citizens who exercise these fundamental rights.

The 1989 crackdown remains a major official taboo in China. Any public discussion is strictly prohibited. The "Great Firewall", the official internet filtering and censorship system, prevents Chinese citizens from accessing any online information related to the crackdown and other sensitive topics, unless they know how to climb over the Wall through proxy servers.

4 June 1989 is remembered in public events held every year in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. Amnesty International Hong Kong Section (AI HK) criticised unwarranted police curtailment of commemorative activities organized by The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China (The Alliance) on 29 and 30 May. The organizers had followed procedures for regulating public assemblies, but the police claimed additional ‘entertainment’ licences were required, confiscated exhibits including two statues of the Goddess of Democracy and arrested 15 people.

Case updates:

The following individuals are still imprisoned for their web communications about the 1989 crackdown:

Tan Zuoren, a Sichuan-based environmentalist was sentenced to five years in prison on 9 February 2010 for "inciting subversion of state power". He was convicted for criticizing the Chinese Communist Party and the government, including their handling of the 1989 crackdown, in articles and diaries posted on-line and on overseas websites.

Hu Jia, was convicted of "inciting subversion of state power" and sentenced to three and a half years in prison in April 2008. The verdict issued by Beijing Municipal No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court accused him of publishing articles related to the 1989 pro-democracy movement.

Shi Tao, a journalist and poet based in Hunan province, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2005 for "illegally providing state secrets to foreign entities" for sending an email, through his Yahoo email account to foreign websites, summarizing a Chinese Central Propaganda Department communiqué on how journalists should handle the 15th anniversary of the 1989 crackdown. His conviction was partly based on information provided to the Chinese authorities by the Internet company Yahoo!.

Other individuals previously imprisoned for expressing their opinions on the 1989 pro-democracy movement and crackdown have been subjected to tight surveillance and harassment by the Chinese authorities since their release, particularly around the anniversary of the crackdown. These include Xu Yonghai, Jiang Qisheng, Sun Baoqiang (f), Yan Kun and Zhang Lin.