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Jailed Chinese activist urges fasting on Tiananmen anniversary

China’s communist regime has forcibly suppressed the public mourning for the victims of the 1989 crackdown for years
Chinese citizens gathered in Tiananmen Square in 1989 to demand democracy and freedom

Chinese citizens gathered in Tiananmen Square in 1989 to demand democracy and freedom. (Photo by CATHERINE HENRIETTE/AFP via Getty Images.)

Published: June 02, 2023 10:51 AM GMT
Updated: June 02, 2023 11:03 AM GMT

A Chinese jailed rights activist has urged the people to observe a day of fasting on June 4 in remembrance of the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown.

In a letter from prison, Xu Zhiyong urged his supporters to fast but also warned them of retaliation from the government, Radio Free Asia reported on June 1.

The letter was published by the Rights Protection Network website and the Twitter account of US-based activist Teng Biao.

“I have fasted for a day on June 4 every year over the past decade, in prison and outside," Xu said further adding that "others have also fasted over the years, but silently."

"I may fall silent for some time after this," he said hinting at possible retaliation for his letter to the public.

 "When I disappear into the darkness, please continue to work hard as citizens, and fight for universal suffrage and freedom of speech,” Xu further added.

China’s communist regime has forcibly suppressed the public mourning for the victims of the Tiananmen crackdown for years.

The People’s Liberation Army, through a violent crackdown, ended the months-long student-led protests in Beijing on June 4, 1989. It is estimated that hundreds, some say thousands, died in the brutal military action.

China has banned public mourning about the event and has removed, blocked, or deleted all references to the event on Chinese social media sites.

Xu has urged the public to take up fasting and make the practice widespread.

"Fasting isn't just a personal thing -- it should awaken people, rebuild the national character, and create a new national spirit," Xu wrote.

"We should make it a public affair, and work together to awaken the [Chinese] people," Xu further added.

In April, a Linshu County People's Court in the eastern province of Shandong handed down a 14-year jail term to Xu and a 12-year sentence to rights lawyer Ding Jiaxi.

They were found guilty of “subversion of state power” – a charge often used to target critics of the government – after they attended a 2019 dissident gathering.

Ding and Xu were the founders of the "New Citizens' Movement" – a campaign for government transparency.

They were detained after they attended a dinner with prominent activists in December 2019 in Xiamen, southeastern China.

Teng Biao who was in high school during the peak of the 1989 pro-democracy movement found the idea inspiring and pointed out that the movement still has an impact on the Chinese ethos.

"June 4, 1989, was an extremely important and profoundly influential event in Chinese politics. It still has a profound impact on China, even though 34 years have passed. It will never be a thing of the past." Teng said.

Teng warned that the victims of the Tiananmen massacre must be remembered, or else such unfortunate events would repeat themselves.

“The way Xu Zhiyong sees it, we must always remember this day, or this tragedy from history is likely to repeat itself," Teng said.

Describing Xu as his “best friend,” Teng pointed out that Xu was abused in prison.

"The way the Chinese prison guards treat him is inhumane -- there are many ways to threaten and abuse prisoners," Teng said.

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