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China government detains outspoken ex-Tiananmen Square soldier

[JURIST] The Chinese government on Friday detained a former soldier who has called for an investigation into the 1989 killings of pro-democracy protesters at Tiananmen Square [BBC backgrounder]. Chinese human rights organization Civil Rights and Livelihood Watch (CRLW) [official website, in Chinese] said that Zhang Shijun, a former member of the Chinese army's 162nd motorized infantry division, has been detained (CRLW report, in Chinese] after he wrote an open letter to Chinese Premier Hu Jintao calling for an investigation into the killings. Zhang was recently interviewed about the events of that day, lamenting his own role, and was then detained [AP reports] by local authorities.

A report by Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) [advocacy website] suggests that Chinese authorities have intensified arrests of dissidents because of the approaching 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests. The Tiananmen protests began in April 1989 with mainly students and laborers protesting the Communist Party of China. The Chinese government declared martial law in May, and initiated the violent dispersal of protesters by the People's Liberation Army on June 4. The government has never publicized official figures, but the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights & Democracy [advocacy website] reported last June that unnamed sources had estimated 600 people were killed [ICHR report, in Chinese]. Rights groups have continued to urge the Chinese government to release [JURIST report] the remaining imprisoned protesters.

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