China's Communist government employed its police and propaganda machinery today in a double-barreled warning to the country's fractured dissident movement that it should not try to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the violent army crackdown on democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square.
An editorial in the state-run People's Daily called on citizens to preserve "unity and stability" above all else as the sensitive June 4 anniversary approaches. In an unusual public reference to the Tiananmen bloodshed, the editorial said that the government's "firm and resolute" actions to suppress the 1989 demonstrations -- which left hundreds dead -- were "extremely timely and completely necessary."
At the same time, at least seven political dissidents were detained by plainclothes police today in an apparent effort to prevent them from publicly honoring the Tiananmen victims. More than 70 dissidents have been detained and questioned in recent weeks, and at least 28 remain in police custody, according to the Hong Kong-based Information Center of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China.
The government's efforts to keep demonstrators off the streets on June 4 come less than a month after it provided buses to bring students to protest at the U.S. diplomatic mission here following NATO's accidental bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade. The difference is the target of the public's ire.
Although 10 years have passed since the student-led demonstrations of 1989 -- which were joined by millions of other citizens -- the Beijing government still insists that the protests were a "counterrevolutionary" outburst. Relatives of those killed have long demanded that the government deem the movement "patriotic."
Li Peng, who as premier declared martial law just prior to the Tianannmen crackdown, is still the No. 2 man in China's ruling bureaucracy and has declared that there is no room for assigning "blame" in today's China.
"Hostile forces in and out of China are unwilling to see a prosperous socialist China marching forward," the People's Daily editorial said. Chinese should safeguard social stability and national unity "the same way we cherish our eyes," it said, adding that any divergent activities should be "stopped resolutely in the embryonic stage."
In an effort to buttress its control of information and censor Beijing-based foreign broadcasts of Tiananmen retrospectives, the government has been steadily tightening its control on U.S. and European media outlets over the past two weeks. Initially, European satellite broadcasts were barred to Chinese apartment dwellers, and CNN was added to the list Tuesday.
It is illegal for apartment buildings here to receive the all-news channel, but some skirt the rules. Certain hotels had been allowed to carry CNN, but network transmission to them has now been blocked. CNN has been heavily criticized in the Chinese media for its coverage of the NATO bombing in Yugoslavia; it also plans to air a special on the Tiananmen anniversary on Thursday.