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Chinese govt orchestrates steps to suppress commemorations of upcoming Tiananmen Square protests, says HRW

Tiananmen Square protest (Photo: ANI)

The Chinese administration has orchestrated several arrests of activists who sought to organise the commemoration ceremonies of the 35th anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre to be held on Tuesday in China and Hong Kong, a report by the Human Rights Watch (HRW) stated on Sunday.

Additionally, the administration has also rejected all acknowledgement of the mass killings during the same incidents, and any redressal being given to the families of the victims.

Maya Wang, acting China director at Human Rights Watch the report mentioned that “The Chinese government is seeking to erase the memory of the Tiananmen Massacre throughout China and in Hong Kong. But 35 years on, the government has been unable to extinguish the flames of remembrance for those risking all to promote respect for democracy and human rights in China.”

The HRW report, On April 3, Xu Guang, a student leader from 1989, was sentenced to four years in prison for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” after he demanded that the government must acknowledge the Tiananmen Massacre holding a sign calling for redressal against the local police station in May 2022. Xu was reportedly tortured, shackled, and mistreated while in detention by the defence personnel.

In another case, a group called Tiananmen Mothers consisting of relatives of victims of the 1989 massacre, claimed in the HRW report that Zhan Xianling one of their founders was put under severe surveillance outside her house. Additionally, Pu Zhiqiang a human rights lawyer and Ji Feng a student leader from Guizhou, were put under serious police surveillance.

Moreover, on May 28 and 29, Hong Kong police arrested seven people, including the already detained lawyer-activist Chow Hang-tung, and her 65-year-old mother, for alleged “seditious” posts regarding an “upcoming sensitive date.” Chow was amongst the organizers of Hong Kong’s annual Tiananmen vigil being organized by the now-disbanded Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China.

These were the first arrests under the city’s recently adopted Safeguarding National Security Ordinance, known as “Article 23,” which punishes peaceful speech and civil society activism with heavy prison sentences. In January this year, a Hong Kong Court overturned Chow’s acquittal plea, all when she had been released in December 2022 of the charge of “inciting others to take part in an unauthorized assembly”. Raising its voice against the concern the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention determined that Chow’s arrest was arbitrary and has called for her immediate and unconditional release.

The HRW report claimed that the members of the Hong Kong Alliance face a probable life sentence on the charges of “inciting subversion” under Hong Kong’s National Security Law, awaiting a trial date. In November 2023, Hong Kong authorities did not renew the work visa of a Canadian-Chinese history professor, Rowena He. The Chinese University of Hong Kong subsequently fired her. She is the author of Tiananmen Exiles: Voices of the Struggle for Democracy in China, which the authorities removed from Hong Kong public libraries in May 2023.

The Chinese government has long ignored domestic and international calls for justice for the Tiananmen Massacre. Some of the sanctions that the European Union and United States imposed at the time have over the years been weakened or evaded. The repeated pressure exerted by the international community has caused a severe increase in human rights violations in China, the HRW report added.