Beijing’s official verdict is that the student-led protests aimed to topple the ruling Communist Party and plunge China into chaos. Protest leaders said they were merely seeking greater democracy and freedom, along with an end to corruption and favoritism within the party.
Asked about the crackdown at a regularly scheduled news conference, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei did not refer directly to Tiananmen Square or the military crackdown.
“Regarding the political incident which happened in the late 1980s in China, as well as issues related to it, the Chinese government reached a conclusion a long time ago,” Hong said before launching into a defense of China’s economic reforms that have created a burgeoning middle class amid relative political stability.
Hong also denied cases of political persecution, saying: “In China, there are only law offenders. The so-called dissidents as you mentioned do not exist.”
Authorities regularly tighten security ahead of June 4, but this year’s suppression is notably harsher than in the past. Activists who previously received no more than a warning have been taken into custody and police have told foreign journalists they would face unspecified serious consequences for covering sensitive issues ahead of the anniversary.
“I urge the Chinese authorities to immediately release those detained for the exercise of their human right to freedom of expression,” U.N. Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said in a statement Tuesday. She also criticized authorities’ restrictions on social media and the press around the anniversary.
Pillay called for a truth-seeking process into the events a quarter-century ago. “It is in the interests of everyone to finally establish the facts surrounding the Tiananmen Square incidents,” she said.
A French broadcaster said its journalists were interrogated for six hours by Beijing police when they were found interviewing people on the street about the events 25 years ago.