Friends of outspoken mainland political analyst and journalist Gao Yu yesterday expressed concern about her whereabouts after she failed to turn up at a low-key gathering to commemorate an event that led to the crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square 25 years ago.
Gao's friends said she had planned to attend the private gathering on Saturday that commemorated the anniversary of the publication of the People's Daily's April 26 editorial in 1989, which called the Tiananmen pro-democracy movement an "anti-party and anti-socialist upheaval".
It is widely blamed for sharpening the conflict between the government and the students. The military crackdown on June 4, 1989, left hundreds, or thousands, of civilians dead.
Gao's home phone rang unanswered yesterday and her mobile phone was switched off. Her son could not be reached.
Her friends, including retired official Yao Jianfu, yesterday said they had no idea of her whereabouts. Yao said people who had tried to visit her said the front gate of her Beijing home was locked.
Gao, 70, had planned to travel to Hong Kong to take part in a conference on May 3. She suffers various health problems and is on medication.
Bao Tong, a friend of Gao and a former top aide of reformist leader Zhao Ziyang, said he was anxious about her apparent disappearance. "If the government has made her lose her freedoms, it should by law announce the reasons," he said.
He said that whether it was the government or others who were responsible for Gao's disappearance, it was the government's responsibility to protect her.
Gao spent a total of seven years in jail for her political writings. She was arrested on June 3, 1989, just before the Tiananmen crackdown and was arrested again in October 1993, accused of having "published state secrets".
Bao, 82, who was jailed for seven years over the Tiananmen movement, lives mostly under house arrest. In past years, he had been taken away ahead of protest anniversaries. When asked whether he would be similarly treated this year, Bao said: "If they can illegally strip others of their freedoms, they can illegally strip me of my freedoms".
"I know an old gentleman called Xi Zhongxun, he advocated the protection of different opinions. The protection of different opinions is the manifestation of a country being healthy, confident and full of vitality," he said, referring to late reformist party elder, Xi Zhongxun, the father of President Xi Jinping.
Bao said he had been “admonished” not to talk about the Tiananmen anniversary this year.