China - Tiananmen Square massacre still a taboo subject in press and online on 19th anniversary - IOC to meet in Athens on anniversary



    MONTREAL, June 4 /CNW Telbec/ - On the eve of the 19th anniversary of the
Tiananmen Square massacre of 4 June 1989, Reporters Without Borders calls for
the release of the four journalists and cyber-dissidents who are in jail for
taking a position on this taboo subject and condemns the relentless censorship
about the massacre, in which at least 2,000 Chinese students and workers died.
    All the Chinese media are forbidden to refer openly to what was a major
event in contemporary Chinese history. Censorship is also extremely severe on
the Internet.
    "The Chinese authorities are trying to use the Olympic Games to make
people forget what happened on 4 June 1989 in Tiananmen Square," Reporters
Without Borders said. "But the sports events and the festivities that will
take place in this central Beijing square in August will not be able to erase
this dark page in China's history. It is deplorable that the Communist Party
has spent the past 19 years using censorship and repression in an attempt to
wipe out the memory of the Beijing Spring."
    The press freedom organisation added: "While the International Olympic
Committee's executive committee meets tomorrow in Athens, we asks its
president, Jacques Rogge, to call for the release of prisoners of conscience
before the start of the Beijing Olympics. Those freed should include
journalist Shi Tao, who is serving a 10-year sentence for sending an email
about the Tiananmen Square events."
    Reporters Without Borders, which gave a news conference in Athens on
30 May about the games, recently revealed that an IOC memo defended the choice
of Tiananmen Square as the venue for an Olympic torch ceremony on the grounds
that it was "one of the world's most famous public squares." The IOC also
described the decision to start the Olympic marathon in Tiananmen Square as a
matter for the Chinese. "The IOC is a sports organisation," the memo said. "It
is not appropriate for us to dictate the usage of sites that may have an
historical and political significance for large numbers of people."
    As the Red Army's tanks crushed the Beijing student uprising on 4 June
1989, the authorities launched a massive crackdown in which thousands of
people were arrested. According to Human Rights Watch, at least 130 people are
still in prison for taking part in the student insurrection.
    The Chinese people are still prevented from making free use of the
Internet to find out what happened on 4 June 1989 in Beijing and other Chinese
cities. Any attempt to search for "Liu Si," the Chinese abbreviation for
4 June, on the Baidu or Sohu search engines is completely blocked and results
in the connection to the site being reinitialised.
    If the same search is made on Sina or Google.cn, the overwhelming
majority of results are not about the 1989's bloody events but about Tiananmen
Square as an historic place. The links to articles overtly about 4 June 1989
are blocked. When you click on these links, the connection is reinitialised.
    No reference to 4 June is allowed in the press without specific
permission from the government. Several senior members of the staff of the
newspaper Chengdu Wanbao were fired in June 2007 for permitting the
publication of an announcement on its website paying homage to the courageous
mothers of 4 June - a reference to the mothers of the Tiananmen Square victims
who defend their memory.
    Shi Tao of the daily Dangdai Shang Bao (Contemporary Business News) is
one of the journalists and cyber-dissidents who are in prison because of the
stance they have taken on the massacre. Shi was convicted of "illegally
divulging state secrets abroad" on 30 April 2005 because he forwarded an
internal email message about Tiananmen Square anniversary coverage to a friend
based outside the country.
    Shi acknowledged forwarding the message, which warned of the dangers of
social unrest and destabilisation linked to the return of dissidents to
Beijing for the anniversary, but he disputed its confidential nature. Since
his arrest on 24 November 2004 in the northeastern city of Taiyuan, he has
been held in a detention centre in the southern city of Changsha, where he is
forced to work.
    Agence France-Presse has reported a reinforcement of the normal police
presence in Tiananmen Square on the eve of the anniversary. Surveillance had
also been stepped up outside the homes of several dissidents. Chen Xi, a
dissident based in the in the central city of Guiyang, was prevented from
boarding a flight to Beijing, where he had intended to participate in
activities in solidarity with the victims.
    "I could not go to Beijing but I will nonetheless protest at a distance
to show our disapproval of the government," he wrote on the overseas Chinese
website Boxun. He said he planned to organised a silent gathering and
commemorative activities on the Internet.
    The same Boxun article also reported that surveillance of Qi Zhiyong, who
lost a leg during the repression, was stepped up three weeks ago.
    Ding Zilin, the mother of one of the massacre victims, posted an open
letter to the authorities on the Tiananmen Mothers website
(www.tiananmenmother.org) calling for the national flag to be flown at half
mast in honour of the Tiananmen victims as it was for the victims of the
recent earthquake.
    On the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, Reporters Without
Borders calls on the Chinese authorities to:

    
    - release the 31 journalists and 48 cyber-dissidents who are currently in
      prison
    - abolish press and Internet censorship about the events of 4 June 1989
    - stop harassing journalists who participated in "Beijing Spring" and
      stop employing abusive measures (including house arrest, tailing and
      phone tapping) against them
    - allow exiled journalists and dissidents to return to China in complete
      safety
    - allow the Chinese and international press to report freely on the
      activities of dissident groups.
    

    Reporters Without Borders Canada alongside Amnesty International will be
among the millions who will be demonstrating across the globe in commemoration
of the 19th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square events. Wear the Beijing 2008
tshirt at the Metro Mont-Royal Wednesday, June 4, from 12 to 7pm !




For further information:

For further information: Katherine Borlongan, secretary general,
Reporters Without Borders, (514) 521-4111, Cell: (514) 258-4208, Fax: (514)
521-7771, rsfcanada@rsf.org

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