Tiananmen Square crackdown

World Cup pushes June 4 memories aside

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 June, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 June, 2002, 12:00am

Over the next week the world's attention will be fixed on soccer, and it will be hard for anything else to get a show in the global media. Therefore, it is a stroke of luck for the authorities that China's first game takes place on June 4, which will certainly help obscure memories of 13th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown.

Millions of Chinese fans will have to settle for watching the competition on regular CCTV channels, including one very important person who did not join the 60,000 to 70,000 mainland soccer fans who travelled to South Korea for the competition.

Jiang Zemin did not attend the opening ceremony in Seoul last Friday ending speculation that he would meet with South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

On the playing field, China will find inspiration in Senegal's' sensational 1-0 defeat of France in the competition's opening game. Chinese fans will be hoping that their team can pull off of a similar feat and somehow find a way to humble Brazil, Turkey and Costa Rica. The team's long-awaited opening match against Costa Rica takes place on Tuesday, so expect most business activity to grind to a halt between 2.30pm and 4pm.

Amnesty International has documented the cases of 195 people in China who are still imprisoned after swift and unfair trials, either for their involvement in the 1989 pro-democracy protests, or more recently for calling for a review of the official 'verdict' on the protests. Amnesty said in an e-mail statement that the real figure is much higher as stories of those imprisoned for their 1989 activities still continue to reach the organisation.

'The circle of victims continues to increase each year,' Amnesty
International said. 'Those seeking to commemorate the anniversary of
the crackdown, which culminated on 4 June 1989, continue to be arrested
and held in labour camps. Those calling for a review of the events -
some through posting appeals on the Internet - have also being arrested
and sentenced for drawing attention to the crackdown.'

It is clear that authorities on the mainland are keen to track down the compilers of the Tiananmen Papers, the book released by US-based academics Andrew Nathan and Perry Link, which claims to reveal the true story behind the suppression of the 1989 democracy protests.

Over the weekend news agencies reported that 23 people had been detained for leaking documents last year. They said that President Jiang Zemin and former premier Li Peng were determined to track down the source of these classified documents.

On Monday Mr Jiang announced the promotion of seven new generals as part of the military revamp ahead of the Communist Party Congress in August.

Just as the World Cup has brought former adversaries Korea and Japan closer together, perhaps some of the goodwill will rub off on China and Taiwan. Taiwan's President Chen Shui-bian has toned down his independence rhetoric, but he doesn't seem to have warmed the still chilly relations over the Taiwan Strait.

Air travellers will hope to see some strong action taken in the wake of three air disasters in the region over the past six weeks. Taiwanese search teams are still looking for more bodies, the two black box data recorders from flight CI 611 and any evidence as to what caused the Boeing 747-200 to disintegrate on its flight from Taipei to Hong Kong killing all 225 people on board.

One positive element to emerge from the tragedy has been the co-operation between the mainland and Taiwan in searching for survivors and the exchange of radar data.

The migrant issue may see new developments this week. What is certain is that China does not seem to be able to stem to flow of asylum seekers to foreign embassies in the capital. The Chinese government has insisted that Seoul give up four North Koreas holed up in that country's embassy, one of whom is a former officer in North Korean President Kim Jong-il's guard unit.

And back in Tiananmen Square, where all has been quiet on June 4 over the past few years, Beijing is probably hoping that a national fixation with the World Cup will obscure any protests designed to mark the anniversary. As Mark O'Neill writes from Beijing in Monday's Beijing Briefing 'For the next month, it [the Chinese government] need not worry about social unrest - thanks to the excellent coverage provided by CCTV, live and free and beamed into millions of homes.'