According to news reports, Chinese police mistreated and physically intimidated a group of people, some of them elderly, who were trying to pay their respects to former Chinese Communist Party leader Zhao Ziyang. Zhao died on January 17th at the age of eighty-five. Following his death, more than one hundred people were reportedly arrested for visiting his house.
Zhao is being remembered for opposing the 1989 military crackdown on the Tiananmen democracy movement. That crackdown came on the night of June 3-4, 1989. The Chinese government sent tanks into Beijing's Tiananmen Square, where hundreds of thousands of protesters, many of them students, had peacefully gathered to call for democracy and human rights. Security forces reportedly killed hundreds of the demonstrators and later arrested hundreds more.
Because of his opposition to the unwillingness of the government to negotiate with the people of Tiananmen square, Zhao was stripped of his post as Communist Party secretary general and spent the last fifteen years under house arrest. Since 1989, the Chinese government has rejected all calls to reassess its suppression of the Tiananmen Square demonstrators and to rehabilitate Zhao.
Political repression continues in China, even as it enjoys greater economic success and fewer social controls. As Human Rights Watch reports, the Chinese government has responded to the growing dynamism of domestic media and the Chinese-language Internet by imposing tighter controls.
President George W. Bush says that human rights will remain an issue for the United States in its dealings with China:
"In my meetings with the Chinese leadership in the past, and my meetings with Chinese leadership in the future, I will constantly remind them of the benefits of a society that honors their people and respects human rights and human dignity."
"The leaders of governments with long habits of control need to know: To serve your people you must learn to trust them," President Bush said in his second inaugural speech. "Start on this journey of progress and justice, and America will walk at your side."