View Full Version : China bars reporters from Tiananmen

03-06-09, 15:55
On 20th anniversary of bloody crackdown, government clamps down on Net


BEIJING - Foreign journalists were barred from Beijing's Tiananmen Square on Wednesday as an Internet clampdown that blocked Twitter expanded to include more blogs on the eve of the 20th anniversary of a bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protests.

In a further sign of the government's unwavering hard-line stance toward the protests, the second-most-wanted student leader from the 1989 protests said he had been denied entry to the southern Chinese territory of Macau.

In exile since fleeing China after the crackdown, Wu'er Kaixi traveled to Macau on Wednesday to turn himself in to authorities in a bid to return home. Immigration officers at Macau's airport pulled him aside and demanded he fly back to Taiwan.Authorities have also shut photo-sharing site Flickr and confined dissidents to their homes or forced them to leave Beijing, as they ramped up efforts to prevent online discussions about or commemorations of those who died in the military assault on demonstrators on June 3-4, 1989.

The sweeping measures have been imposed even though there were few signs of efforts to mark the protests within mainland China, where the government squelches all discussion of them.

Beijing has never allowed an independent investigation into the military's crushing of the 1989 protests, in which possibly thousands of students, activists and citizens were killed. And young Chinese know little about the events, having grown up in a generation that has largely eschewed politics in favor of nationalism and economic development.

But authorities have been steadily tightening surveillance over China's dissident community ahead of this year's anniversary, with some leading writers already under close watch or house arrest for months.

Dissidents reined in
Ding Zilin, a retired professor and advocate for Tiananmen victims whose teenage son was killed in the crackdown, said by telephone that a dozen officers blocked her and her husband from leaving their Beijing apartment Wednesday morning.

Another leading dissident voice, Bao Tong, was taken by police to southeastern China over the anniversary, said his son, Bao Pu.

Bao Tong, 76, is the former secretary to Zhao Ziyang, the Communist Party leader deposed for sympathizing with the pro-democracy protesters.

As in past years, foreign media reports on issues related to the protests in print, on television or the Internet were blocked.

In another sign of trying to downplay the anniversary, authorities in the southern Chinese territory of Macau on Wednesday refused to allow entry to exiled protest leader Wu'er, who said he wanted to turn himself in to authorities.

Wu'er rose to fame as a pajama-clad hunger striker haranguing then-Chinese premier Li Peng at a televised meeting during the protests in Beijing.

Named No. 2 on the Chinese government's list of 21 wanted student leaders after the military crushed the protests, Wu'er escaped and has lived in exile in the self-ruled island of Taiwan, where he has worked as a businessman and political commentator.

The student leader who topped that most-wanted list, Wang Dan, was jailed for seven years after the crackdown before being expelled to the United States in 1998 amid international calls for his release.

Muzzling dissent
Over recent days, journalists attempting to film on Tiananmen Square or interview dissidents have been detained for several hours on apparently trumped-up charges of creating disturbances, according to the Foreign Correspondents Club of China.

However, the blocking of social-networking sites marks a new chapter in the authorities' attempts to muzzle dissent, one that testifies to the burgeoning influence of such technology among young Chinese in an authoritarian society where information is tightly controlled.

Government Internet monitors have shuttered message boards on more than 6,000 Web sites affiliated with colleges and universities, apparently to head off any talk about the 1989 events, according to the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy.

Numerous Chinese sites were also disabled Wednesday, including mini-blogging site Fanfou and video sharing site VeryCD. Notices on their home pages said they would be closed through Saturday for "technical maintenance."

The text-messaging service Twitter and pictures on photo-sharing site Flickr could not be accessed within China starting Tuesday. Video-sharing site YouTube has been blocked within China since March.

Jason Khoury, spokesman for Yahoo, which owns Flickr, said no explanation had been given and the company believed the restrictions were "inconsistent with the right to freedom of expression."

Officials from Twitter did not respond to a request for comment.

In Hong Kong, where the anniversary of the protests is openly commemorated, a second dissident who took part in the 1989 events was denied entry to the territory on Wednesday.

U.S. Consulate General spokesman Dale Kreisher said the decision to deport Xiang Xiaoji, an American citizen, was "particularly regrettable in light of Hong Kong's well-known reputation as an open society."

Xiang had planned to attend Hong Kong's annual candlelight vigil to honor victims of the crackdown.