Exiles, Hong Kongers break silence on Tiananmen

A group of elderly Chinese visit Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China, Friday, June 4, 2010. Chinese authorities tightened security on the vast square during the anniversary of the deadly 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protestors, which is marked today. A group of elderly Chinese visit Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China, Friday, June 4, 2010. Chinese authorities tightened security on the vast square during the anniversary of the deadly 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protestors, which is marked today. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)
By Min Lee
Associated Press Writer / June 4, 2010

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HONG KONG—Exiled student leaders, Hong Kong citizens and Taiwan's president on Friday challenged China's silence on the 21st anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown with tributes outside the mainland -- and on the Internet.

Tens of thousands of people held aloft white candles at a large park in the former British colony of Hong Kong, which enjoys freedom of speech as part of its special semiautonomous status. Democracy activists laid a wreath at a makeshift monument dedicated to the Tiananmen victims, bowing three times in line with traditional Chinese mourning customs.

"Hong Kong people have the right to voice their opinion and this is much better than the mainland, where people are not allowed to say anything. I hope Beijing will at least see that Hong Kong people want to right the wrong," said 62-year-old businessman Lee Sum, one of the estimated 113,000 that police say attended.

"I came here today in the hope that the next generation will be aware of this issue. We will do anything to help, even though we are not optimistic that Beijing will take heed," said 27-year-old Fay Liu, who works for a nongovernmental organization.

In Tokyo, former student leader Wu'er Kaixi stormed into the grounds of the Chinese Embassy, but was quickly arrested by Japanese police, according to local news reports. The now-Taiwanese citizen said in a prerecorded video that he wanted to return home so he could lobby Chinese leaders to openly discuss the 1989 military action.

"Today, I take this action to go back to China to continue to press the Chinese government for dialogue -- even if this dialogue has to take place in a courtroom," he said.

Wu'er, who rose to fame during the Tiananmen protests by haranguing then-Chinese Premier Li Peng during a televised meeting, was No. 2 on China's list of 21 wanted student leaders.

The exile who topped the list remembered the dead by hosting an online discussion on his Twitter account.

"In the past 21 years, we have never and will never forget them. We are just the lucky survivors. They are the true heroes," Wang Dan, who now lives in Los Angeles, said in a Tweet.

In Washington, the Obama administration urged China to provide full disclosure of events surrounding Tiananmen and to protect the rights of citizens expressing dissent.

"We ask the Chinese government to provide the fullest possible public accounting of those killed, detained or missing, and to cease harassment of those who participated in the demonstrations and the families of the victims," said State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley.

In Taiwan, which split with China amid civil war in 1949, President Ma Ying-jeou issued a statement urging Beijing to "take any necessary action to heal the trauma of the victims and their relatives and correct any unfairness."

In China, the government enforced its long-standing censorship of Tiananmen. On Friday in Beijing, the square was open but tightly guarded as tourists attended the early morning flag-raising ceremony and others flew kites above the massive space.

The Web service Foursquare -- which lets users alert their friends to their locations through their mobile phones -- was blocked after many users had "checked in" from Tiananmen Square to mark the anniversary.

Late Thursday, police officers blocked reporters from watching activist Ding Zilin mourn her son at the spot in western Beijing where he was killed during the crackdown. A group of strangers surrounded the small candlelight vigil, apparently trying to block television journalists from shooting.

The Chinese government has never fully disclosed what happened when the military crushed the weekslong, student-led pro-democracy protests, which it branded a "counterrevolutionary riot." Hundreds, possibly more, were killed. Asked by a reporter about the demonstrations on Thursday, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said, "There has already been a clear conclusion."

In a purported manuscript of Li's memoir whose excerpts were released by a Hong Kong publisher on Friday, the former premier defended the military action, saying Chinese soldiers acted in self-defense when they fired on citizens. Li says 313 people died, including 42 students and 23 soldiers -- but no one was killed on the square itself.


Associated Press writers Cara Anna, Alexa Olesen and David Wivell in Beijing; Annie Huang in Taipei; Shino Yuasa in Tokyo; Joyce Woo in Hong Kong contributed to this report. top stories on Twitter

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