June 4, 2009 (b)
Tiananmen Square student leaders again call
for Chinese democracy
Following is the text of a news article by AFP, the French newswire:
Tiananmen leaders call for China democracy
By Shaun Tandon
WASHINGTON (AFP) — Leaders of the 1989 Tiananmen Square uprising crushed 20 years ago appealed Thursday for democracy in China, with US lawmakers pledging support amid silence in Beijing on the anniversary.
Nine of the top student leaders, who now live in exile, reunited at a Washington news conference where they observed a moment of silence for the hundreds, perhaps, thousands killed when the army sent in troops.
"It is our unfailing pursuit to build a democratic China," some 15 dissidents said in a joint statement read out by former student leader Wang Dan, who had topped Beijing's most wanted list.
"We are calling on the generation of the 1989 massacre, both in China and overseas, as well as those who came before us and those who will come after us to work together and combine our strengths," they said.
Key figures from the Tiananmen movement also enjoyed a show of support at the US Congress, where House Speaker Nancy Pelosi welcomed three men who defaced the giant portrait of Mao Zedong in Tiananmen Square.
The three men, who now live in the United States and Canada, said they endured intense abuse in custody after their arrests.
"Imagine the courage against the regime that they continue to express at the expense of their lives and liberty," said Pelosi, who dressed in white as a sign of mourning in line with a call by dissidents.
Pelosi visited China last week, where she said she personally petitioned President Hu Jintao for the release of Tiananmen Square prisoners and detained human rights activists.
China has tried to block any commemoration of the anniversary, pouring police into Tiananmen Square and blacking out foreign media reports.
Congressman Jim McGovern, like Pelosi a member of President Barack Obama's Democratic Party, said the dissidents should be encouraged by Beijing's reaction.
"If the survivors of Tiananmen Square think they were somehow defeated, just look at the impact the very idea of remembering or talking about those events is having on the Chinese government," he said. "They are scared to death."
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday called on China to provide a public account of the dead, missing and injured and to release prisoners still being held for taking part in the protests.
China flatly rejected her call, with a foreign ministry spokesman saying that "on the political incident that took place in the 1980s, the party and the government have already reached a conclusion."
Wang Dan, the former student leader, said the comment showed that China's government has not changed.
"Many Western leaders and President Ma Ying-jeou in Taiwan believe that the leadership in China is not the same one as 20 years ago. I think that what this spokesperson said shows they're wrong -- the Chinese Communist Party has not changed one bit," Wang said.
Ma, who has championed reconciliation with mainland China, had said that Beijing is now willing to discuss human rights, pointing to a Human Rights Action Plan released earlier this year by China's cabinet.
The Tiananmen dissidents voiced optimism about movements such as Charter 8, a petition drive in which leading intellectuals at great risk to themselves pushed last year for democratic reforms in China.
"We believe that China's hope lies with the efforts of the Chinese people themselves and with political reforms, which are currently turning in the direction of the people," the statement said.