A US-based dissident who took part in the 1989 pro-democracy protests in Beijing's Tiananmen Square was denied entry to discuss the demonstrations at a Hong Kong conference, an organizer said.
The student protests, which the Chinese military crushed, killing at least hundreds of people, remain a taboo in mainland China, where the government still considers them a "counterrevolutionary" riot. Beijing has never given a full accounting of the military crackdown. Yang Jianli, was denied entry when he arrived at the Hong Kong airport three weeks ago, Hong Kong political scientist Joseph Cheng said on Monday.
Yang, a US permanent resident, protested at Tiananmen and later served a five-year jail term in China on charges of spying for China's rival Taiwan and entering China illegally. He was also turned away at the Hong Kong airport in August just before the Beijing Olympics.
Cheng also said Monday that two other US-based dissidents who were invited to his conference, Wang Dan and Wang Juntao, were also denied visas when they applied at Chinese consular offices, but corrected himself on Tuesday, saying that Wang Dan was never invited and Wang Juntao had not applied for his visa yet. A fourth dissident, Beijing-based Chen Ziming, was also invited but has not accepted, Cheng said.
Wang Juntao and fellow scholar Chen were founders of a private think tank on social issues and advised students during the protests. Both intellectuals were sentenced to 13 years in jail and freed on medical parole in 1993. Chen was rearrested in 1995 and released in 1996.
Cheng said he had invited the four dissidents to attend a panel discussion on the Tiananmen protests as part of an academic conference scheduled to be held at the City University of Hong Kong on June 2 and June 3, just ahead of the 20th anniversary of the military crackdown on June 4.
The overall conference is about changes in China since the Tiananmen protests, Cheng said. While the Tiananmen movement remains a sensitive topic in mainland China, it is openly discussed and commemorated in Hong Kong, a Beijing-ruled former British colony that's promised Western-style civil liberties.
Tens of thousands of people usually attend an annual candlelight vigil honoring victims of the Tiananmen crackdown.
Hong Kong's Immigration Department said in statement it won't comment on Yang's case.