BEIJING (Reuters) - China has jailed for 18 months a man who tried to stage a repeat of the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protest, rights group Amnesty International said on Monday, in another sign of the ruling Communist Party’s intolerance of dissent.
Public discussion of the Tiananmen crackdown, in which rights groups say hundreds were probably killed, is still taboo in China.
Gu Yimin applied last May for permission to demonstrate on June 4, the 24th anniversary of the bloody crackdown in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, but the government rejected his application and arrested him.
A court in Changshu, in the eastern province of Jiangsu, found Gu guilty of inciting state subversion, Amnesty said in an email. Inciting subversion is a charge commonly levelled against critics of one-party rule.
Gu had also forwarded several photographs commemorating the movement on his microblog, including one that said: “By the expiry date of 2013, remove the Chinese Communists; on June 4, the city was slaughtered”.
In the statement, Anu Kultalahti, a China researcher for Amnesty, said: “Gu Yimin should be released immediately and unconditionally. Nearly 25 years on from the Tiananmen Square crackdown the authorities continue to stop at nothing to bury the truth of 1989.”
“Rather than ratchet up such persecution the authorities should acknowledge what really happened and deliver justice for the victims.”
Gu’s charge of suspicion of inciting subversion of state power was the first time it had been used since President Xi Jinping took office in March of last year.
The Communist Party has banned references in state media, the Internet and books, to the Tiananmen crackdown, leaving most young Chinese ignorant of the events of June 3 and 4, 1989, when the country’s leaders ordered troops to open fire on demonstrators and sent in tanks to crush a student-led movement.
Xi’s ascendancy in a once-in-a-decade generational leadership transition had given many Chinese hope for political reform, mainly due to his folksy style and the legacy of his father, Xi Zhongxun, a former reformist vice-premier.
But since he assumed office the party has detained or jailed dozens of dissidents, including anti-corruption activist Xu Zhiyong and ethnic Uighur professor Ilham Tohti.
Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Clarence Fernandez