Monday, June 04, 2007

Tiananmen protesters still in jail

BEIJING, China (Reuters) -- Eighteen years after the crushing of the Tiananmen Square protests, at least 13 little-known Chinese are still behind bars for their roles in the pro-democracy movement, a human-rights group said.
People's Liberation Army troops and tanks put down the student-led demonstrations on June 4, 1989, killing hundreds, possibly thousands.
Then Communist Party chief Zhao Ziyang was toppled for opposing the massacre and the government labeled the protests "counter-revolutionary" or subversive.
"I want to tell those who claim that Tiananmen 'belongs to another era' that, behind the high, barbed-wire-ringed walls of the Chinese prisons, Tiananmen prisoners are still suffering and forced to engage in hard labor day and night today," the Chinese Human Rights Defenders said in an e-mailed statement, quoting an unnamed former prisoner of conscience.
Few details were known about the 13, beyond their names, the group added.
At least three were convicted of "counter-revolutionary sabotage" and one of "counter-revolutionary assault." Seven are serving suspended death sentences and six are serving life, it said.
The group said those still in jail, whom it termed "political prisoners", should be released at once.
"The government should allow open and independent investigation of the massacre, of cases in which people were allegedly tortured into confessions and of cases of wrongful imprisonment," it added.
The square was quiet on Monday, full of the usual tour groups and people flying kites, but also some plainclothes security.
In Hong Kong, tens of thousands of people were expected to turn out for a candle-lit vigil in the evening as they do every year.
More than 120 members of a Hong Kong group supporting democracy in China did an 18-km (11-mile) run on Sunday to mark the anniversary.
Key figures have been silenced at home or forced into exile abroad since 1989, but voices for reforms have mutated into a crusade involving a new generation of civil rights campaigners who have taken up the cudgels for the downtrodden

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