Uniformed and plain-clothed security personnel were out in force on Tiananmen
Square, Thursday, the 20th anniversary of a bloody crackdown against
demonstrators who had been protesting there for greater political freedom and
against official corruption.
Police were everywhere around Tiananmen
They checked foreigners' bags and
prevented foreign journalists from actually going onto the square. Uniformed
agents patrolled in pairs. Others, dressed in plain clothes, mingled in with the
crowds of tourists.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang was asked
at a regular briefing why the security presence was so visibly
Qin only gave a very brief answer, saying the square is
stable, as usual.
Two of the best known government critics - former
senior government official Bao Tong and activist Ding Zilin - could not be
reached, amid reports that they had been ordered to leave Beijing because of the
June Fourth anniversary.
In an interview earlier this year, Bao Tong said
he is confident the government will have to reassess its verdict that the 1989
Tiananmen Square protests were counter-revolutionary and, therefore,
Bao says, if the protests are reassessed, it would be like a
rebirth for China and a restoration of human rights for the Chinese
Bao is the highest-ranking person to have spent time in jail for
supporting those in the government who, at the time, wanted to talk to the
students, not shoot them. He was director of the Communist Party's political
Ding Zilin is a retired professor who has a personal stake
in pushing for an official accounting of what happened 20 years ago. Her
17-year-old son was killed by a stray bullet near Tiananmen Square, in the early
hours of June Fourth, 1989.
Ding says everything seems like it just
happened yesterday. She says the sorrow and pain grow stronger each year, as she
She helped found a group called Tiananmen Mothers, made up of
parents whose children were killed in the crackdown. She says the group's most
powerful cohesive force is a sense of shared tragedy.
Ding says the
mothers did not know each other, 20 years ago. Now, they are bound by the
memories of their children.
The group has issued what has almost become
an annual tradition - an open letter calling for an official investigation,
compensation to the victims' families and punishment for those
The Chinese spokesman did not directly answer repeated
questions as to the official death toll for the 1989 crackdown. He indicated the
government is not planning to reconsider its verdict, at least not any time