Police TIghten Public Access to Tiananmen Square in Advance of Zhao Ziyang Death

January 24, 2006

According to a Beijing News article, public security officials have tightened access to Tiananmen Square for the morning flag-raising ceremony. The Public Security Bureau evidently has ordered People’s Armed Police (PAP) officers to escort groups of ordinary citizens into the square to observe the flag ceremony from designated points.

Officials said that they intend the measures to ensure security and order in the square, to prevent problems caused by the sporadic groups of protesters and petitioners who seek to demonstrate there. Mass petitions and demonstrations of disaffected groups, such as migrant workers seeking to recover unpaid back wages, often punctuate the Chinese New Year period (the New Year falls on February 9 this year).

But the security authorities very likely acted to prevent mass gatherings in and around Tiananmen Square during the several weeks of illness and the coma of the former Premier Zhao Ziyang that preceded his death on January 16. The death of Hu Yaobang, Zhao's predecessor, in April 1989 prompted the “Beijing Spring” student and worker protests in Tiananmen Square that ended in a bloody military crackdown on June 4, 1989.