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This month, people around the world noted the fifteenth anniversary of the Chinese government’s brutal crackdown on demonstrators in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square and elsewhere in China. Hundreds of unarmed demonstrators were killed in June 1989, when Chinese army tanks and troops were used to suppress the peaceful pro-democracy protests. Many other people were wounded, and thousands were arrested.

Marking the anniversary this year, tens of thousands of people in Hong Kong held a candlelight vigil. The demonstration came at a time when the Chinese government has made moves to limit democratic reforms, including direct elections, in Hong Kong.

In Beijing, according to news reports, sixteen people were detained on or near Tiananmen Square. Others that the Chinese government considered likely to demonstrate were detained ahead of time or were forced to stay in their homes. Officials with the C-N-N television network say that the Chinese government cut off a satellite feed that included a report on Chinese authorities detaining Chinese citizens who wanted to take part in this year’s commemoration.

Many Chinese have called for the government to reverse its verdict that the peaceful demonstrations in 1989 were a so-called “rebellion.” They include Jiang Yanyong, the courageous physician who spoke out last year when many Chinese officials were trying to cover up the epidemic of SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome. U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli says it is time for the Chinese government “to reassess” the events of June 1989:

“The right of people to participate in government decisions that affect their lives, the right of people to have a say in who leads them. To live in a nation governed by law, and to be able to speak and write freely, to express their views without persecution. And when they are arrested or found to be in violation of the law, to be given a fair and impartial trial with legal representation. These are all things that we believe it’s important to look at, and important to act on behalf of, in China.”

The Chinese people should have the full freedoms and rights, including a voice in their government, that are the hallmark of a modern country.