China boosts security ahead of Tiananmen anniversary

Wed Jun 3, 2009 10:06am EDT
 
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By Ben Blanchard and Lucy Hornby

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese security forces blanketed Tiananmen Square on Wednesday ahead of the 20th anniversary of the June 4 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, and a day after Twitter and other Internet services in China were blocked.

Black police vans lurked at the side of the Forbidden City, near the square, while police and paramilitary forces patrolled through crowds of tourists enjoying a sunny summer morning.

Tanks rolled into Tiananmen Square before dawn on June 4, 1989 to crush weeks of student and worker protests. The ruling Communist Party, which has never released a death toll, fears any commemoration of the crackdown could challenge its continuing hold on power.

"Business is poor today. You'd think most people are tourists but they aren't, they are plainclothes security," said a trinket peddler surnamed Li, before a plainclothes policeman told her to stop talking to foreigners.

"They are scared there will be a big blow-up because of tomorrow, but I don't think anything will happen."

The government has also sought to stifle any risks of protest by confining dissidents. Among them has been Yu Jie, a writer in Beijing, who said he can only leave his home on the city outskirts for short outings accompanied by two police officers.

Yu said the tight security showed that memories of 20 years ago remained politically volatile.

"I don't think June 4 has been forgotten, but under pressure of fear, people are afraid to speak out," he said.   Continued...

 
<p>Chinese soldiers carry red flags during a welcoming ceremony for Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak outside the Great Hall of the People at Tiananmen Square in Beijing June 3, 2009. Chinese security forces blanketed Tiananmen Square on Wednesday ahead of the 20th anniversary of the June 4 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, a day after Twitter and Hotmail Internet services in China were blocked. REUTERS/Reinhard Krause</p>