Edgy police personnel, hundreds of them, kept watch on the Tiananmen Square in the heart of Beijing on Wednesday, a day that marked the 25th anniversary of protests by pro-democracy civilians put down brutally by the army around the Square 25 years ago.
The security on Wednesday was matched by what preceded it: detentions of scores of activists and lawyers who were linked to the protests that rocked China two decades ago.
Foreigners walking to the Square were closely watched and stopped for questioning. Journalists were prevented from entering it as authorities monitored a blanket censorship of any mention of the protests through weeks leading to the day.
Wednesday’s heavy deployment of security personnel around the vast square meant that there were random checks of people walking into the Square. Even domestic tourists were asked for identification and their bottles of water and soft drinks — on a muggy, polluted Beijing day — were
Thousands of domestic and foreign tourists saunter in everyday to the Tiananmen Square to see the sights. It wasn’t an easy touristy spot on Wednesday and nor was it bereft of incidents. Soon after 4 in the afternoon, two people were whisked away by the security personnel after they tried to distribute leaflets along the road that divides the Square and the Forbidden City, an old palace site that has the iconic Mao Zedong poster adorning its walls.
Anyone around at that time was shooed away; the orders were barked as nearby trained police dogs kept a wary watch. Foreigners were targeted. Passports were demanded from them.
Security personnel questioned reporters, asked for their identification, took photos of accreditation cards and asked why they were there around the Square.
“Why are you here today? Go back home,” said an officer as his colleague took away the HT reporter’s identity card. The card was returned after the mobile phone was checked for photographs. The security personnel were polite.
It is not that no one knew what was happening in Beijing. United Nations human rights chief Navi Pillay has called on China to reveal the truth about what had happened 25 years ago.
The security deployment is expected to continue through the week.