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Tiananmen Square anniversary treated with silence in China

People overseas found themselves blocked from posting anything to popular Chinese social media site Weibo.

Chinese authorities stepped up security around Tiananmen Square in central Beijing (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
Chinese authorities stepped up security around Tiananmen Square in central Beijing (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

China imposed an information blackout on the 30th anniversary of its bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters at Tiananmen Square.

Extra checkpoints and street closures greeted tourists who showed up before 5am to watch the daily flag-raising ceremony at the square in the centre of Beijing.

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A Chinese couple hold national flags after attending the daily flag-raising ceremony in Tiananmen Square (Andy Wong/AP)

People overseas found themselves blocked from posting anything to a popular Chinese social media site.

China has largely succeeded in wiping the events of June 3-4 1989 from the public consciousness at home, where the anniversary of the crackdown passed like any other weekday.

The seven-week-long Tiananmen Square protests and their bloody end, in which hundreds if not thousands of people are believed to have died, snuffed out a tentative shift in China toward political liberalisation.

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Soldiers fought their way on to Tiananmen Square on the night of June 3-4 to reclaim it from student-led demonstrators (Terril Jones/AP)

The mantra of the ruling Communist Party has become stability over all else, and the party says the stability it has delivered has been a necessary underpinning to the country’s economic growth.

For many Chinese, life is better. Incomes have risen, and social restrictions such as family size and where people can live have been loosened. It is political freedom that remains strictly controlled.

Under current President Xi Jinping, the government has tightened control over everything from religion to the internet in an apparent bid to make the Communist Party central to the future of China.

Chinese overseas reported on Twitter that they were blocked from posting on Weibo, a popular social networking site.

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A security official stands guard as a tour group walks along a street next to Tiananmen Square in Beijing (Mark Schiefelbein/AP)

Any commemoration of the event is not allowed in mainland China, though tens of thousands turned out for an annual candlelight vigil in Hong Kong. The Chinese territory has relatively greater freedoms than the mainland, though even there, activists are concerned about the erosion of those liberties in recent years.

US secretary of state Mike Pompeo issued a statement saluting what he called the “heroes of the Chinese people who bravely stood up 30 years ago … to demand their rights”. He said that US hopes that China would become a more open and tolerant society have been dashed.

He and his European Union counterpart Federica Mogherini urged China to come clean about what happened and how many died.

“Acknowledgement of these events, and of those killed, detained or missing in connection with the Tiananmen Square protests, is important for future generations and for the collective memory,” Ms Mogherini said.

China’s foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said: “Some people in the US always regard themselves as others’ teachers and interfere in other countries’ internal affairs under the guise of so-called democracy and human rights, while turning a blind eye to problems at home. The Chinese people have seen through their hypocrisy and sinister intentions.”

PA

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