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China Premier U.S. Visit Protested

August 23, 2000

BEIJING (AP) _ Relatives of victims of the Chinese army’s brutal 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters are urging an international parliamentary body to exclude China’s No. 2 leader from a U.N. gathering next week.

Li Peng, chairman of China’s national legislature, should be barred because he bears criminal responsibility for the crackdown on demonstrators in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, the relatives said in a letter dated Tuesday and publicly released Wednesday.

Premier at the time, Li was strongly identified with the crackdown. He went on national television to declare martial law, presaging the military assault that came two weeks later. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, were killed in the crackdown, although the government has never provided a credible accounting.

Li is scheduled to attend the Conference of Presiding Officers of National Parliaments at the United Nations in New York from Aug. 28 to Sept. 1, China’s official Xinhua News Agency reported. Li is scheduled to deliver a speech and help lead meetings as a vice chairman of the conference, organized by the Inter-Parliamentary Union, Xinhua reported.

As one of the ``prime culprits″ behind the crackdown, Li has no right to represent the Chinese people and his presence would make a mockery of the IPU and U.N. commitments to human rights, the letter said.

The letter, addressed to IPU Secretary-general Mr. Anders Johnsson, was signed by 110 people who claim their relatives were killed or wounded in the military assault. It was distributed over the Internet by New York-based Human Rights in China, whose members include many exiled democracy activists.

The protests were formally labeled an attempt to overthrow Communist Party rule and discussion of the crackdown remains taboo. Demands for an investigation, an apology and compensation to victims’ families have been ignored.

The Geneva-based IPU works in coordination with the United Nations to promote the role of legislative bodies and foster exchanges. Established in 1889, its membership is made up of national parliaments from more than 100 countries.

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