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China Cracks Down on Dissidents

May 25, 1999

BEIJING (AP) _ A dissident who urged Chinese to light candles in memory of those killed in the assault on the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy protests has been detained and may be sent to a labor camp without trial, a rights group reported today.

Police took Jiang Qisheng from his home in Beijing on May 18 and have refused to tell his wife where he is being held, the New York-based Human Rights in China said. Authorities can send people to labor camps without trial for three years.

Also today, a Hong Kong-based human rights group said police in the central industrial city of Wuhan detained two law students who put up a poster at Huazhong Technology University calling on the government to overturn its assessment that the Tiananmen protests were an anti-government rebellion.

Liu Xiaoming and Li Qun, students at Zhongnan Politics and Law Academy, put up the poster May 4, the 80th anniversary of another student movement, and were immediately detained, the Information Center of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China said.

Jiang was a doctoral candidate at People’s University and helped lead the demonstrations at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989. He spent over a year in prison after the crackdown that ended the protests on June 4, 1989.

In recent years, Jiang has been among China’s most persistent activists for democracy and human rights, organizing petitions calling for civil rights and social justice. Last week, he wrote open letters to the government protesting the alleged police beating of fellow activist Cao Jiahe.

Last month, Jiang and 15 other dissidents called on Chinese to mark June 4 by wearing plain clothing, lighting candles and forgoing entertainment.

The government has increased its surveillance and harassment of dissidents and their families recently in what has become a seasonal crackdown to prevent commemorations of the Tiananmen movement and the hundreds if not thousands who were killed there.

Chinese leaders are especially concerned that dissidents will use the anniversary to unite with workers and farmers upset over rising unemployment and stagnating incomes.

The government also is sensitive to external critics. The Foreign Ministry today criticized U.S. lawmakers who condemned Chinese human rights abuses in resolutions marking the 10th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown.

Spokesman Zhu Bangzao accused lawmakers of ``willfully distorting the human rights situation in China and making unwarranted remarks on China’s internal affairs.″

A small group of senior intellectuals who have called for reforms released an open letter to President Jiang Zemin and Premier Zhu Rongji today calling for Jiang Qisheng’s release.

The letter, also sent to U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson, argued that Chinese have the right to commemorate the victims of the military assault.

Among those signing the letter were Xu Liangying, a scientist who has written articles urging democratic reform, and Ding Zilin and Jiang Peikun, professors whose 17-year-old son was killed in the Tiananmen Square attack.

Update hourly