UN rights chief urges China to release activists on Tiananmen anniversary News
UN rights chief urges China to release activists on Tiananmen anniversary

[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official website] called [press release] on Chinese authorities Tuesday to release activists that have been detained for “creating a disturbance” by discussing the twenty-fifth anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. Pillay urged China to relax the anniversary-related restrictions placed on the media, encouraging the country to instead “facilitate dialogue and discussion as a means of overcoming the legacy of the past.” Additionally, she stressed the importance of an independent investigation to uncover and establish the true events that transpired between June 3 and June 4, 1989. She stated that “learning from events of the past will not diminish the gains of the past 25 years, but will show how far China has come in ensuring that human rights are respected and protected.”

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 Chinese government has never publicized official figures, but the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights & Democracy [advocacy website] reported last year that unnamed sources had estimated 600 people were killed [ICHR report, in Chinese]. In 2012 Chinese authorities detained hundreds of activists [JURIST report] in Beijing marking the twenty-third anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown. In 2011 the US State Department urged the Chinese government to release protestors arrested for peaceful protests in the square in 1989. Human rights and democracy advocates in 2009 called on the Chinese government [JURIST report] to investigate the 1989 uprising, provide an accurate count of those killed in the government’s response to the uprising, and to accept reform outlines set forth in the Charter 08 proposal. In August 2008 Chinese authorities released [JURIST report] activist Hu Shigen, sentenced to 20 years in prison for carrying out counterrevolutionary propaganda, including organizing events commemorating the uprising.