Fifteen years after Tiananmen : still no roo m for dissent...

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Tomorrow marks the fifteen anniversary of the Tiananmen violent suppression of the peaceful student movement for democracy. On June 4th 1989, the crackdown on the main Beijing square resulted in the death of more than 1000 people and many injured.

The Tiananmen Mothers, a group of relatives of victims, is fighting in China for accountability and truth regarding the Tiananmen massacre. They have been asking in vain for a dialogue with the authorities and for an independent investigation into the June Fourth events. “Up to now, their requests have been ignored. They are obliged to hide to mourn their deaths and to commemorate the Tiananmen crackdown in secret”, said Sidiki Kaba, President of the FIDH.

According to Human Rights in China, a member organisation of the FIDH, members of the Tiananmen Mothers and other dissidents have even been placed under virtual or actual house arrest in a pre-June 4th crackdown and the Tiananmen Mothers have been prevented to file a legal complaint against former Prime minister Li Peng on behalf of 126 people who lost their relatives in the 1989 crackdown.

China has changed a lot since fifteen years, reforming its economy and opening it to foreign investments, entering the World Trade Organisation and developing rapidly its technological infrastructure. However, the economic reforms are resulting in growing intra-country inequalities : the gap between rich urban coastal regions and poor rural interior provinces is widening.

An increasing number of people are deprived of their basic rights to health, education and housing. The healthcare infrastructure is deteriorating, especially in the rural areas, and the price of drugs is increasing. The government’s policy of secrecy in the management of the SARS crisis or AIDS is having devastating consequences. The right to housing is increasingly violated as a result of the forced relocation programs in Chinese main cities. Without fair compensation, people cannot afford to acquire another house. More than 1,8 million migrant children coming from rural zones to major cities are deprived of their right to education because their parents have no residence permit or cannot afford the schooling fee.

Violations of the rights to freedom of expression, association and information are still widespread in China. The number of people condemned to re-education through labour or executed every year since the end of the 1990s remains the same. Falun Gong or underground churches practitioners are ruthlessly repressed as labour leaders and internet dissidents.

Han Chinese settlers colonisation of Tibet and Xinjiang (where live a Muslim Uighur minority) is accelerating as well as socio-economic disparities between the minority ethnic groups and the settlers. Since September 11, 2001, the Chinese authorities label Uighur opposition in Xinjiang as terrorist and closure of places of worship, crackdown on religious activities, sentencing of people after grossly unfair judicial processes and execution of political prisoners are commonplace.

The new leadership in China rose hopes for changes in the field of rights and freedoms. However, nothing changed... “We believe that economic opening must go hand in hand with political opening. Otherwise, growth and development will be at the expense of the majority of the Chinese people, who has no say in the process”, concluded Sidiki Kaba.

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