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Security tight for June 4 anniversary

June 4, 2002

Activists watched closely and warned against massacre protests

Police continued to keep watch for signs of trouble yesterday and warned activists not to organise activities to mark today's 13th anniversary of the June 4 crackdown.

Police in Guangzhou held dissident Li Wensheng for seven hours on Sunday after rejecting his request to hold a candlelight vigil with about 30 people to remember the victims of the massacre on June 4, 1989, the Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said.

Police refused to grant permission, citing rules on demonstrations, and saying the vigil would harm public security.

In Tiananmen Square, police continued their routine checks of visitors, but the security situation remained normal. Last Saturday, two dissidents - Hua Huiqi and Liu Fenggang - were taken away by police and their whereabouts remained unknown yesterday.

Dissidents in Guangzhou, Beijing and other cities, meanwhile, have been put under 24-hour surveillance, followed and warned against leaving their homes during the anniversary, the centre and dissidents said.

In Beijing, at least 20 dissidents were under constant police monitoring, a phenomenon which has been common in the run-up to the June 4 anniversary, the centre reported. But dissidents in the provinces of Hunan, Shaanxi and Sichuan said police seemed to be on higher alert this year.

The anniversary coincides with China's first match in the football World Cup finals, with millions of Chinese set to watch live today as the China team takes on Costa Rica.

Ding Zilin, whose son was killed in the crackdown, said the Government might be hoping that the game distracted people from the anniversary.

"People may watch the game and not think about the anniversary - that's their choice. But for us, we'll remember and continue to push our country's leaders to open this historical knot," Ms Ding said.

A staff member at Peking University - a centre of demonstrations in 1989 - said the campus had received an order from higher authorities to supervise student viewing of the match.

But some Beijing residents said World Cup or not, most people were too concerned about their own lives to notice one of the most politically sensitive dates in China. "Average Chinese people will spend it like any other day. It's been so many years. Many of them don't think about what happened any more," said Gao, 23, a mail worker in Beijing.

Many people, especially the younger generation and those in rural areas, are not even sure what happened.

Gao, who was only 10 in 1989, said all he knew was that a lot of people died, but he was unsure whether the Government or the demonstrators were right.

Asked which was more important to him - the Tiananmen anniversary or the World Cup - Gao, who is not a football fan, said: "The World Cup is more important. It's China's first time."

South China Morning Post
June 4, 2002

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