Tiananmen protesters still jailed in China, 22 years on

Fri Jun 3, 2011 7:34am EDT
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By Sui-Lee Wee

BEIJING (Reuters) - Twenty-two years after China's bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protests, at least five people remain in jail for joining in the tumult.

For China's ruling Communist Party, the 1989 demonstrations that clogged Tiananmen Square in Beijing and spread to other cities remains a taboo topic, all the more so this year when the government has launched a campaign to stamp out dissent after the uprisings in several Arab countries.

The anniversary of the suppression of the student-led movement falls on Saturday, and three men who joined in the protests, Jiang Yaqun, 75, Miao Deshun, 48, and Yang Pu, 47, remain in Beijing's Yanqing prison, where sick inmates are held.

Two others -- Chang Jingqiang, 43, and Li Yujun, 48, -- are being held in another Beijing jail.

They were among a million students and workers who had gathered on Beijing's streets in 1989 to join pro-democracy demonstrations that ended before dawn on June 4 when tanks rolled into Tiananmen Square.

Jiang and Miao have been jailed for an unusually long time, said Joshua Rosenzweig, a Hong Kong-based researcher for the Dui Hua Foundation, a U.S. group that works for the release of Chinese political prisoners.

Originally given suspended death sentences, which were then commuted to life imprisonment before being commuted to roughly 20-year sentences, Jiang is due to be released in October 2013, while Miao's sentence is set to end on September 2018, according to Dui Hua.

Jiang, who was convicted on charges of "counter-revolutionary sabotage," suffers from mild mental retardation, according to former prisoners who were in jail at the same time.   Continued...

<p>A man stands in front of a column of tanks on Chang'an avenue near Tiananmen Square in Beijing in this June 5, 1989 file photo. REUTERS/Arthur Tsang/Files</p>