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Rights advocate warns of China violence

Protesters today face the same fate as victims of the Tiananmen massacre in 1989 staff reporter, Asia Desk, Bangkok

June 3, 2011

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Anti-government protesters in China today face the same fate as victims of the Tiananmen massacre, in what rights groups have called the “harshest” climate of repression since 1989. Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), said June 1 in a statement: "There is little reason to believe the lethal response to peaceful protests in 1989 could not happen again. "The recent crackdown speaks volumes for the Chinese government's contempt for rule of law, and the heavy-handed responses to protests in Tibet, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, and elsewhere show the government is no more willing than it was two decades ago to peacefully resolve popular discontent." The government’s denial of the Tiananmen Square crackdown and the systematic persecution of dissidents in its aftermath have paved the way for the forceful suppression of recent anti-government protests. Since mid-February, the communist party has taken pre-emptive measures to contain the agitation for political freedom that has engulfed the Middle East and North Africa. According to HRW, dozens of lawyers, activists and bloggers have been detained on criminal charges, more than 20 people have been abducted by the state, and up to 200 have been subjected to repressive measures including house arrest. The state has also tightened internet censorship, fired liberal news editors and further restricted activities of foreign journalists in an effort to disrupt and control communications The Tiananmen Mothers, founded by the relatives of Tiananmen victims, described the past few months as the worst since the 1989 massacre. “It has been the harshest period since 4 June 1989. Silence has reigned across the country," the group said in a report which links the Tiananmen killings and subsequent cover-up to China's current wave of repression. Richardson also recognises the parallels between the communist party’s methods to silence current “sources of instability” and the Tiananmen cover-up. Warning of further violence, she said: "By refusing to repudiate the military crackdown on 4 June 1989, the Chinese government effectively says that the same brutal strategy remains on the table." TH4384
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