China: UN rights chief urges release of detained activists ahead of Tiananmen anniversary

High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay addresses the opening of the twenty-fifth regular session of the Human Rights Council. UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

3 June 2014 – The United Nations human rights chief today voiced concern about the detention of civil society activists, lawyers and journalists in China ahead of the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests, while also stressing the need to establish the facts surrounding what transpired between 3 and 4 June 1989.

“I urge the Chinese authorities to immediately release those detained for the exercise of their human right to freedom of expression,” the High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said in a news release. Dozens of individuals have allegedly been detained by the authorities ahead of the 4 June anniversary, including several reportedly detained and charged with “creating a disturbance” for participating in a private discussion about the 1989 Tiananmen Square events.

There are also reports that the authorities have been placing anniversary-related restrictions on social media, traditional media and internet usage.

“Rather than stifle attempts to commemorate the 1989 events, the authorities should encourage and facilitate dialogue and discussion as a means of overcoming the legacy of the past,” stated Ms. Pillay, who also stressed the need to carry out a truth-seeking process into the events.

“Much remains unknown about what exactly transpired between 3 June and 4 June 1989. In the absence of an independent, factual investigation, there are dramatically differing accounts. The death toll, for example, ranges from hundreds to thousands, and many families of victims are still awaiting an explanation of what happened to their loved ones,” she said.

“It is in the interests of everyone to finally establish the facts surrounding the Tiananmen Square incidents,” the High Commissioner added.

“China has made many advances over the past 25 years, particularly in the area of economic and social rights, as well as legal reforms. Learning from events of the past will not diminish the gains of the past 25 years, but will show how far China has come in ensuring that human rights are respected and protected.”


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