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Wary China keeps close watch as Tiananmen anniversary arrives

Published on Jun 4, 2014 6:56 AM
Zhang Xianling, whose son Wang Nan was killed by soldiers at the Tiananmen Square in 1989, holds his picture after journalists were turned away, at the window of her home in Beijing, on April 24, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (REUTERS) - Twenty-five years ago, Wang Nan took his camera and headed out to Beijing's Tiananmen Square, where tens of thousands of people had gathered calling for democratic reforms. The 19-year-old told a friend he wanted to record history.

Before he left his home late on June 3, 1989, he asked his mother: "Do you think the troops would open fire?" She said she did not. Around three hours later, he was shot dead by soldiers.

As his 77-year-old mother, Zhang Xianling, prepares to mark the 25th anniversary of her son's death, she is under around-the-clock surveillance by eight police and security officers.

Zhang said the level of scrutiny this year was unprecedented. As early as April, police officers barred foreign journalists, including Reuters reporters, from visiting her home. "I find it ridiculous, I'm an old lady," Zhang told Reuters by telephone. "What can I say (to reporters)? I don't know any state secrets. All I can talk about is the matter concerning my son. What is there to be afraid of?" The Chinese Communist Party's harshest crackdown on political dissent in recent years would suggest plenty.

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