Families vow to fight on
Security was tightened in Tiananmen Square and other sensitive spots in Beijing yesterday, with the authorities jittery about activities and gatherings to commemorate the 23rd anniversary of the crackdown on the student-led democracy movement.
A dozen family members of four victims of the 1989 crackdown were able to pay tribute to their loved ones at the Wanan Cemetery in the capital's western suburbs, but many said security was heavy-handed.
'We have just endured what happened during the 20th anniversary,' said Zhang Xianling, a representative of Tiananmen Mothers whose 19-year-old son is buried in the cemetery.
Zhang read out an oration while paying respects to her son. She called on the central government to vindicate those who died on June 4, 1989.
She accused the authorities of using 'tank and machine gun' to crush the public's desire to have the crackdown reassessed - 'forcing the public to forget the whole incident'.
'Those in power have no alternative but to redeem and compensate [for] what they have done wrong,' she said. 'My son, I will pay my respects to you every year. Mum will work hard for you until everything is clear.'
Members of other families vowed to fight for democracy. 'You have sacrificed yourself for the democracy of China. We are determined to continue your fight,' said one father.
Another mother said: 'I have been visiting you each year over the past 23 years. I am determined to continue with that until June 4 is vindicated'.
Despite being allowed to enter the cemetery, Zhang said public security officials kept a tight watch over them, forbidding the families from paying tribute as a group.
All family members were transported to the cemetery from their homes in official cars. One of them, Huang Jinping, was taken home by security personnel without paying her respects to her dead husband, Yang Yansheng, after she insisted that they should be allowed to pay tribute as a group.
Zhang said two other elderly women were forbidden from entering the cemetery but 'were allowed in after a long fight'.
She said at least eight security personnel were deployed for each family and that the gate of the cemetery was closed when they were there.
'My sadness over my son was overwhelmed by anger because of the heavy security,' she said. 'We did not carry bombs.
'We neither chanted any slogans nor took part in protests. We have not violated the laws. On what grounds can the government deploy so many people to watch us and forbid us from getting together?'
Tiananmen Square still bustled with tourists yesterday morning, but security checks on visitors were stepped up.
Three Hong Kong reporters were barred from entering the square after they were found carrying recording equipment, with officials saying they needed prior approval to gain access.
All visitors had their bags searched and in some cases security personnel even checked papers carried by visitors.
On Sunday, the US State Department called on China to release those still serving sentences for taking part in the demonstrations and to do more to protect human rights. But Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said yesterday that Beijing was 'strongly dissatisfied' with those calls.
Police surrounded several areas where petitioners were gathered, including Beijing South railway station, where at least 30 activists from Wuxi, Jiangsu, were taken away and forced to return home.