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China: Hold Independent Inquiry into 1989 Tiananmen Square Crackdown
LONDON - Chinese authorities should hold an open
and independent inquiry into the 1989 violent military crackdown on
peaceful demonstrators in and around Tiananmen Square, Amnesty
International said today.
The Chinese government has thwarted any attempts to shed light on the
military crackdown that resulted in hundreds of deaths and injuries in
June 1989. In the lead up to the twentieth anniversary of the protests,
the authorities have even intensified a current crackdown on activists
The Chinese government has not made official figures public, but
several non-governmental organizations estimate that at least 20 and
maybe as many as 200 individuals remain in detention for their
involvement in the 1989 pro-democracy protests.
“The National People’s Congress has within its powers the ability to
lead the way in calling for an account of all those who died, those who
were imprisoned and those who remain in prison still as a result of the
crackdown,” said Amnesty International in an open letter sent to Wu
Bangguo, the Chairman of the National People’s Congress of China, on 13
“A number of people who remain in prison were convicted of ‘counter
revolutionary’ crimes that were removed from the Chinese Criminal Code
in 1997,” said Roseann Rife, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific
Deputy Director. “The Chinese authorities should immediately release
these prisoners as a first step towards accountability.”
Not all of those who have been imprisoned for their association with
the Tiananmen pro-democracy movement actually participated in the
protests 20 years ago. The Chinese authorities’ ongoing suppression of
public discussion of the events means that many have been sentenced to
imprisonment after 1989 simply for exercising their right to freedom of
expression, for example, by hosting online discussions or posting poems
commemorating the crackdown on the Internet.
Imprisonment is not the only method that the Chinese authorities use
to stifle public debate of the 1989 events. The prominent leaders of
the Tiananmen Mothers group, Ding Zilin and Jiang Peikun are frequently
subjected to police harassment and arbitrary detention.. In May they
were forbidden from attending a mourning ceremony that 50 other members
of the group were allowed to attend, after they promised the Ministry
of State Security that no outsiders, especially journalists, present in
At the launch of the Amnesty International Annual Report, Amnesty
International Secretary General Irene Khan called on China to sign and
ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Although the Chinese government’s recent initiative in launching the
National Human Rights Action Plan, which has provisions to eradicate
unlawful detention and protect human rights guaranteed in the Chinese
Constitution, was welcomed by Amnesty International, the Plan’s success
hinges on the actual implementation.
“In the midst of a global economic downturn, the Chinese government
has demonstrated its readiness to take up leadership in stabilizing the
world economic system. When it comes to the protection of human rights,
however, the Chinese government has consistently failed to live up to
the world’s expectations. The number of people still in prison for
their actions in Tiananmen Square twenty years ago is testament to the
lack of commitment to human rights that still prevails in China,” said
As the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown approaches,
Chinese authorities have intensified the suppression of human rights
activists across the country. Amnesty International has documented at
least one hundred cases of activists who have been detained briefly or
faced violence from authorities in 2009 as they defended land rights,
housing rights and labour rights and signatories of the Charter 08, a
petition calling for legal and political reforms, continue to face
questioning. Several of these cases are related to the surveillance of
activists ahead of the anniversary.
In the first four months of 2009, Amnesty International documented
at least four cases of lawyers who were threatened with violence by the
authorities as they defended their clients, at least ten cases where
lawyers were hindered from meeting or representing clients, and at
least one case in which a lawyer has been detained for doing his work.
Lawyers recently have been threatened with denial of the licenses in
retaliation for their work on rights defence cases.
To follow are details of several individuals detained in connection
with the 1989 protests who are scheduled to be released from prison in
the coming years:
Jiang Yaqun was in his forties at the time of his
arrest. He was originally sentenced to a suspended death sentence for
‘counter-revolutionary sabotage’. After receiving three sentence
reductions, he is scheduled for release from Beijing’s Jinzhong Prison
in October 2014.
Li Yujun was originally sentenced to death with a
2-year reprieve for arson, and is detained in Beijing No. 2 Prison.
After six sentence reductions, Li is due for release in November 2014.
Zhu Gengsheng was also convicted of
‘counter-revolutionary sabotage’ because he waved a flag while shouting
“We win!” on a tank that was set on fire. Zhu was originally sentenced
to death with a 2-year reprieve, and is currently jailed at Beijing No.
2 Prison. He has received five sentence reductions, and his scheduled
release is due in April 2013.
The following individuals continue to be persecuted by the Chinese
authorities for their human rights activism in connection with the
Tiananmen pro-democracy movement
Huang Qi, was sentenced to five-years’ imprisonment
for hosting an online discussion about the protests in Tiananmen
Square. The ‘evidence’ against him included reference to an Amnesty
International document about the Tiananmen crackdown which had been
posted on his web-site. He was released on 4 June 2005. Following his
release, he continued to maintain his website and his human rights work
and was detained again in June 2008, apparently for his assistance to
five families whose children died in the Sichuan Earthquake last year.
Qi Zhiyong, who was left disabled by a gunshot
injury during the 1989 Tiananmen violence, told reporters in a text
message on 15 April that he had been detained by the police. It is
believed that his detention is associated with the 20th anniversary of
the death of Hu Yaobang. Hu’s death marked the beginning of the
Zhou Yongjun, an exiled student leader of the 1989
pro-democracy protests, offers yet another example of arbitrary
detention. Zhou Yongjun was sentenced to two-years’ imprisonment for
his involvement in the 1989 pro-democracy protests. When he was
released, he was exiled to the United States. He returned to China in
1998 when he was sent to Re-education Through Labour for another three
years. In a recent attempt to re-enter China via Hong Kong last
October, he was again detained by the Chinese authorities in Shenzhen.
According to his sister, the Chinese authorities denied any repeated
detention of Zhou Yongjun. However, international media including the
Associated Press reported in May 2009, that Zhou Yongjun had been
formally charged with fraud.
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