Reporter held after asking China’s leader about Tiananmen crackdown
A Hong Kong reporter briefly threw Chinese president Hu Jintao’s tightly scripted visit to the semi-autonomous city off course yesterday by asking about the 1989 military crackdown on protesters in Tiananmen Square.
The reporter for the Apple Daily newspaper said he was detained for about 15 minutes after the incident by three or four security officers, who told him he was too noisy and had broken rules. Other reporters also shouted questions to Hu, but they were not detained.
Hu was touring a new cruise ship terminal when the reporter shouted out a question from behind a security cordon. “President Hu, have you heard that Hong Kong people hope to reverse the 4 June verdict?” the reporter, Hon Yiu-ting, asked. “Have you heard?”
Many in Hong Kong have long called for Beijing to overturn its condemnation of the weeks-long 1989 pro-democracy protests that the military crushed on the night of 3-4 June, killing hundreds, possibly thousands.
On mainland China, dissidents, intellectuals, relatives of the victims and even ordinary citizens also have called for a reassessment of the incident.
Hu did not respond to the reporter’s question and it was not clear whether he even heard it. The encounter was shown on local television.
Yesterday’s incident was one small flaw in a carefully orchestrated visit by Hu that underlines the widening tensions between Hong Kong and its mainland rulers 15 years after the end of British rule. Hu is on a three-day visit to the southern Chinese financial hub to mark the handover’s anniversary today. The last governor was Chris Patten, now BBC Trust chairman.
While the visit is aimed at strengthening ties and coincides with a raft of measures to boost Hong Kong’s economy with the mainland’s help, stark differences remain. Hong Kongers have grown increasingly uneasy about life under Beijing’s rule and the mainland’s growing influence on the territory.
A group of pro-democracy protesters scuffled with police yesterday, with the two sides pushing on metal barricades outside the hotel and conference centre where Hu was scheduled to attend a concert.
Police used pepper spray on the demonstrators, who had been corralled into a small protest zone across the street from the site. The protesters were far outnumbered by hundreds of police.
“We want Hu Jintao to hear from us,” said Lee Cheuk-yan, a pro-democracy lawmaker who helped organise the protest. The group wanted to give Hu a letter outlining their concerns about the death of Li Wangyang, a labour activist who was freed from a Chinese prison last year and whose death in June was labelled a suicide. Activists said years of beatings had taken such a toll on his body that he would not have been able to kill himself that way. “We are demanding to investigate the truth behind his death and release his family. People in Hong Kong are very angry,” said Lee.
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