BEIJING REUTERS AND THE ASSOCIATED PRESS WIRE SERVICES CONTRIBUTED TO THIS ARTICLE. — BEIJING -- The contrast was foreboding.
In Hong Kong, tens of thousands of people staged a solemn memorial to mark the eighth anniversary of the Chinese government's massacre of pro-democracy demonstrators in Beijing during the Tiananmen Square uprising.
Here, in the place ruled by the same government that will take over Hong Kong on July 1, no protests were allowed.
In Hong Kong yesterday, demonstrators sang anthems and held a dramatic candlelight vigil. A 30-foot-high "Pillar of Shame" statue of twisted human bodies depicting oppression stood spotlighted in the dark.
"What we're doing here is against the Communist Party. They won't allow us to do this. That's why many people are here this time, because it's the last time," Lam Ling-fat, 55, a travel agent, told the Associated Press.
In Beijing, uniformed police guarded the crosswalks and pedestrian tunnels that lead into Tiananmen Square. Plainclothes officers wearing earphones watched for anyone who might be carrying flowers or banners to express sympathy or support for the hundreds who died in the 1989 massacre.
A young couple embraced in the middle of the square, quietly remembering those who died.
"Of course we haven't forgotten," said the young man, who did not give his name. "But how can you commemorate it?"
A pair of soldiers circled the Monument to the People's Heroes, a granite obelisk in the center of the square that honors the revolutionary war dead and served as the students' headquarters during the 1989 uprising. One plainclothes officer in a tan windbreaker dropped the pretense of being a tourist and openly cradled a walkie-talkie in his arm.
In the spring of 1989, students and workers seized control of Tiananmen Square, the political heart of China, and demanded an end to government corruption and freedom of speech. After their numbers swelled to 1 million, tanks smashed through barricades and soldiers opened fire on unarmed demonstrators. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, died.
The death of Deng Xiaoping in February, recent bombings in Beijing and the imminent handover of Hong Kong have made China's leaders more nervous than usual about dissent this year. China's top politicians are particularly concerned that protests in Hong Kong after the transfer could spark unrest on the mainland.
China has all but silenced the dissident movement here by jailing government opponents and forcing others into exile.
In an apparent gesture to critics yesterday, police released one dissident, Bao Ge, who was arrested in 1994 before a planned prayer service for victims of Tiananmen Square.
His release and call for more dissent was one of the few open acts of defiance on the anniversary.
"I absolutely have no intention of changing my position because I know in my heart I am representative of what is in people's hearts," Bao told the Associated Press in a telephone interview from Shanghai.
But many dissidents remain in prison. Among the best-known student leaders in 1989, Wang Dan is in prison, Wu'er Kaixi lives in Taiwan and Chai Ling is studying at Harvard University.
With no chance to express themselves in Tiananmen yesterday, the families of victims turned to suburban cemeteries for remembrance, carrying incense and flowers. While plainclothes police looked on, some parents swept their children's tombs while others brought their loved ones' favorite dishes as offerings.
"It's impossible to forgive. I cannot forget," Ding Zilin told Reuters. Her 17-year-old son, Jiang Jielian, was among those killed during the 1989 crackdown. Ding and other family members of victims signed a petition last month urging the Chinese legislature to make an official inquiry into the massacre.
But for some young Chinese, yesterday's date did not seem to have as much resonance.
"Oh, yeah. June 4th," said a woman from northeastern China when reminded of the anniversary.
The woman, who was visiting Beijing for the first time, said she had come to the square not to remember those who had died but to see its latest attraction: a giant digital clock that is counting down the seconds to the Hong Kong handover.
Pub Date: 6/05/97