High security in Tiananmen Square
Chinese policemen mix with tourists on Tiananmen Square
China has boosted security in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, ahead of Thursday’s anniversary of the killings in 1989.
Many dissidents say they have been told to leave Beijing or are confined to their homes.
Hundreds, possibly thousands, of people died in the Tiananmen crackdown, and open discussion of the events of 20 years ago remains taboo in China.
Even in Hong Kong, where freedom of expression is guaranteed, some dissidents have been denied entry.
Xiang Xiaoji, now a US citizen, was trying to come to Hong Kong on Wednesday to join commemorative events being held to mark the anniversary. But he was refused entry and returned to New York.
On the eve of the anniversary, police have been examining visitors at checkpoints dotted around Tiananmen Square, and checking the bags and papers of people in the area.
Some journalists say they have been turned away from the site.
Ding Zilin, the head of a group called Tiananmen Mothers – made up of women whose children were shot dead in the crackdown – has reportedly been blocked from leaving her home, as has the wife of jailed dissident Hu Jia.
Bao Tong – a former official who was purged for sympathising with the Tiananmen protesters – was escorted out of Beijing last week.
The Chinese Communist Party has never held an official inquiry into what happened in and around the square 20 years ago, and discussion of the issue is banned on the mainland.
In the run-up to the anniversary, the authorities are also blocking social networking sites such as Twitter and Flickr.
Even the architect of Beijing’s Bird’s Nest Olympic stadium, Ai Weiwei, says his blogs have been blocked.
“Three of my blogs have all been shut down,” he told the BBC. “I don’t know the exact reason, but I can sense it’s about the coming-up anniversary.”
Influence from Beijing?
In Hong Kong, too, there is evidence of pre-anniversary sensitivities.
HK students are on hunger strike to press China to re-examine 1989
While one exiled Tiananmen leader, Xiong Yan, was allowed into Hong Kong at the weekend, another student leader, Xiang Xiaoji, and a Danish sculptor who made a statue entitled Pillar of Shame were both denied entry.
As a former British colony, Hong Kong is guaranteed autonomy and freedom of expression by the Chinese, but bans on Mr Xiang and others are adding to a growing sense of unease over how solid the territory’s rights record really is.
According to the BBC’s Vaudine England in Hong Kong, the ruling elite of Beijing-appointed civil servants and powerful business figures believes closeness to Beijing is the only guarantee of survival.
Yet the majority of Hong Kong people consistently suggest in surveys that they want the freedoms they were promised.