China crackdown recalls Tiananmen: Rights groups

Hundreds, perhaps thousands, are believed to have died on June 03-04, 1989.

Beijing: China`s current crackdown on dissent mirrors its crushing of the Tiananmen pro-democracy protests in 1989, rights groups said on Thursday, calling on Beijing to account for its past and present actions.

The statements from New York-based Human Rights Watch and the Chinese Human Rights Defenders activist network in Hong Kong came two days before the 22nd anniversary of the brutal June 04 Army crackdown in the heart of Beijing.

China`s "efforts to silence perceived sources of instability since mid-February are eerily reminiscent of the campaign of denial about the Tiananmen massacre," said HRW`s Asia advocacy director Sophie Richardson.

"By refusing to repudiate the military crackdown on June 04, 1989, the Chinese government effectively says that the same brutal strategy remains on the table."

Hundreds, perhaps thousands, are believed to have died when the government sent in tanks and soldiers to clear Tiananmen Square on the night of June 03-04, 1989, violently crushing six weeks of pro-democracy protests.

An official verdict after the protests called them a "counter-revolutionary rebellion".

Since mid-February, as protests spread across the Arab world, leading to the toppling of leaders in Tunisia and Egypt, Chinese authorities have detained dozens of lawyers, activists and dissidents in a clampdown that is ongoing.

"The government is farther than it has been in years from guaranteeing Chinese citizens their basic rights and freedoms, the very cause which brought (protesters) to Tiananmen Square in Beijing" in 1989, CHRD said in a statement.

It called on the UN Human Rights Council, of which China is a member, to push for a probe into the current crackdown and "demand the Chinese government take concrete measures to address past and ongoing human rights abuses".

Following a recent spate of protests in China`s Inner Mongolia region, and past ethnic unrest in Tibet and Xinjiang, HRW warned that Beijing could again resort to violence to suppress perceived threats to social stability.

"The recent crackdown speaks volumes for the Chinese government’s contempt for rule of law, and the heavy-handed responses to protests in Tibet, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, and elsewhere show the government is no more willing than it was two decades ago to peacefully resolve popular discontent," Richardson said.

"There is little reason to believe the lethal response to peaceful protests in 1989 could not happen again."

Bureau Report

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