Groups slam China's "worst repression in a generation"
Jun 2, 2011, 10:15 GMT
Beijing - Human rights groups on Thursday accused China of conducting its worst repression of dissent since troops put a brutal end to the country's 1989 democracy movement.
When recent democracy movements in North Africa and the Middle East inspired calls for similar anti-government protests in China in February, the government reacted with the 'worst repression in a generation,' the Hong Kong-based China Human Rights Defenders said.
'The current leaders of the Chinese Communist Party have instituted the most severe repression of dissent and activism since the post-Tiananmen crackdown,' it said, referring to the 1989 protests centred in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.
'The steady backsliding on human rights and the rule of law in China, which began in earnest during the run-up to the 2008 Olympic Games, has reached a peak in recent months as the government has mobilized police across the country to detain, disappear and intimidate hundreds of individuals,' it said.
In another statement timed to coincide with the anniversary of the military suppression of the Tiananmen protests on June 3-4, 1989, US-based Human Rights Watch said China's treatment of dissidents had improved little since 1989.
'The Chinese government's efforts to silence perceived sources of 'instability' since mid-February are eerily reminiscent of the campaign of denial about the Tiananmen massacre,' said Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director for Human Rights Watch.
The two groups said security officers had detained, placed under house arrest or tried to intimidate scores of dissidents, rights activists and lawyers in the past four months.
At least 48 activists were detained on criminal charges while more than 20 prominent lawyers and activists were 'subjected to enforced disappearances, some for as long as 70 days,' China Human Rights Defenders said.
Human Rights Watch said it believed about a dozen people remained imprisoned on charges linked to the 1989 protests.
Veteran dissident Qin Yongmin, who has been imprisoned for a total of 22 years for his democracy activism, last month appealed to the United Nations to appoint a working group to examine human rights in China.
The Tiananmen Mothers, a group of relatives and supporters of victims of the Tiananmen Square crackdown, on Tuesday also called the current clampdown the worst suppression of dissent since 1989.
China's Foreign Ministry on Thursday again defended the government's decision to prioritise economic development and suppress calls for political reform since 1989.
'We believe that to maintain social and political stability, promote social harmony and guarantee living and working in peace and contentment is the common will of the vast majority of the people,' ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters.
The Tiananmen Mothers said the government recently broached the issue of 'under the table' compensation to the family of one of the hundreds of people who died during the 1989 crackdown.
For the past 16 years, the group has demanded an official investigation into the military action and a public announcement of the death toll and the names of the dead.
It has confirmed the deaths of 203 people but said the total number of casualties is probably much higher.