WORLD

Legacy of repression

China’s crackdown on dissidents continues

MARY NEMETH July 17 1989
WORLD

Legacy of repression

China’s crackdown on dissidents continues

MARY NEMETH July 17 1989

Legacy of repression

CHINA

China’s crackdown on dissidents continues

One month after the Chinese army launched its bloody attack on prodemocracy demonstrators in Beijing, the crackdown continued. Police arrested more protesters last week, as well as a Taiwanese reporter whom they accused of aiding a fugitive student leader. And on July 5, soldiers confiscated film from three busloads of terrified Japanese tourists who had been photographing troops stationed in the capital’s Tiananmen Square. China’s hard-line leaders also launched a series of blistering attacks on Zhao Ziyang, who had been ousted as Communist party general secretary in the midst of the crisis for failing to crush the demonstrations. Still, there were increasing signs that many Chinese remained critical of their government. In Beijing bookstores, Zhao’s biography proved so popular that the cover price doubled. “It’s a hot-selling item,” said one shop assistant. And hundreds of people used official telephone “hotlines”—set up for citizens to report

“counterrevolutionaries”—to denounce Premier Li Peng. Moreover, snipers shot one soldier last week and the bodies of two strangled soldiers were pulled from a Beijing canal.

China’s leaders also found themselves under attack from abroad. In a joint statement issued on July 4 from Paris, student leader Wuer Kabd and dissident intellectual Yan Jiaqi launched an international movement-in-exile to topple the regime. “At present, China is shrouded in silence,” they said. “But that just means that a new and bigger storm is brewing.” Wuer and Yan—who evaded a nationwide manhunt to flee China after the military crackdown on June 4—also called for a public trial of Chinese leaders Deng Xiaoping, Premier Li and President Yang Shangkun. At the same time, the U.S. Embassy in Beijing formally protested what it called a “premeditated” June 7 military attack on a compound in Beijing housing foreign diplomats. That protest led to a further deterioration in U.S.-Chinese relations.

The continued tensions in China also spilled over last week into Hong Kong, where an emotional outpouring of fear and anger greeted British Foreign Secretary Sir Geoffrey Howe when he arrived for a three-day visit. Crowds jeered Howe when he refused to meet demands to grant citizens of the colony—which Britain has agreed to surrender to China in 1997—the right to asylum in Britain. “We are very angry that the United Kingdom is to hand six million Hong Kong people to a government that massacred thousands of students at Tiananmen Square,” said Lee Wing-tat, one of eight people who walked out of a luncheon at which Howe addressed 250 colonial officials.

In China, meanwhile, Communist leaders attempted to foster an air of normalcy. A government spokesman called the incident involving Japanese tourists “minor,” and other officials reassured foreign investors that China’s decade-old policy of economic reform would continue. And in what Chinese sources said was an effort to prove the government’s commitment to reform, Communist leaders decided to meet one of the main demands of the prodemocracy movement—a crackdown on official corruption. Last week, several local officials were arrested for fraud. But whether those measures will be enough to win the hearts of the Chinese people—or restore international confidence—remains uncertain.

MARY NEMETH

LOUISE BRANSON