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Copyright 2000 Agence France Presse  
Agence France Presse

June 3, 2000, Saturday

SECTION: Domestic, non-Washington, general news item

LENGTH: 350 words

HEADLINE: Chinese dissidents launch US hunger strike on Tiananmen anniversary


   Chinese dissidents exiled in the United States launched a two-day hunger strike Saturday to mark the moment in 1989 when tanks rolled into Beijing's Tiananmen Square to crush mass pro-democracy protests.

Thirty activists, many of whom fled China after playing key roles in the protests, gathered outside the Chinese embassy here, chanting "We want freedom, we want democracy."

"We have to let the world know that the massacre of June 4 will not be forgotten," said Lian Shengde, a former political prisoner and prominent dissident.

"The Chinese government still denies there was a massacre, still denies that any students were killed," he said.

Soldiers of China's People's Liberation Army opened fired on unarmed protesters in Tiananmen Square 11 years ago on the night of June 3-4, killing hundreds, if not thousands, of demonstrators.

The protests, which called for greater democracy and an end to corruption and nepotism in government, have been labelled an "anti-revolutionary rebellion" by the communist authorities.

Another dissident at the Washington protest, Zhao Pingu, fought back tears as he remembered the events in Tiananmen Square.

"I feel very very bad that there are still people from 11 years ago in jail and labour camps," he said.

Activists planned to remain in a grassy grove opposite the US embassy here throughout the hunger strike, which will include a candelit vigil.

Celebrated Chinese dissidents Wang Dan, Wei Jingsheng and Harry Wu used a rally here late Friday to lambast China's communist government and called for immediate democratic change.

Wei, who was released from prison in China in 1997, said he was convinced the communist leadership in Beijing would eventually lose its grip on power.

"We must persist and I think we will win in the end," he said.

Authorities in Beijing Saturday kept a special watch on dissidents, including members of the Falungong spiritual group to head off any 11th anniversary action.

The democratic movement has been largely silenced in China, with top leaders in jail or sent into exile.



LOAD-DATE: June 3, 2000

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