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June 28, 2017

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Democracy's 'fire' still alive after Tiananmen massacre: dissident

BEIJING -- The yearning for democracy and freedom remained alive in China after the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, a prominent Chinese political dissident and social activist said ahead of the 25th anniversary of the incident.

"The 'flames' of freedom and democracy were extinguished in China that year, but the 'fire' was passed on," Hu Jia, who remains under house arrest, said in a telephone interview recently.

Especially anxious this year because it is the 25th anniversary of the massacre, Chinese authorities have prolonged the "stability maintenance period" this year, said Hu, who has been closely monitored by authorities since January.

He has only been allowed to leave his home twice a month to be treated at a hospital for a liver ailment.

The 40-year-old said he was not afraid to be jailed and was ready to face any adversity ahead, explaining that many people inevitably have to pay the price if a country is to walk toward democracy.

Compared to his parents, who were labeled as rightists during Mao Zedong's Anti Rightist Movement, "what I have suffered is nothing," he said.

Hu noted, meanwhile, that he envies Taiwan's free and democratic society but warned that Taiwan will not be able to safeguard its freedom and security unless China, too, becomes a democracy.

He said he was aware of Taiwan's White Terror period, referring to the authoritarian Kuomintang regime's persecution of political dissidents in Taiwan for nearly four decades until the lifting of martial law in 1987.

But "the Chinese Communist Party's Red Terror rule of China is even worse than the White Terror rule," he said.

The European Parliament awarded its Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to Hu in 2008, when he was still serving a three-and-a-half-year sentence on charges of "inciting subversion of state power."

He was released in June 2011, but is currently under house arrest in Beijing.

The Tiananmen Square massacre, commonly known as the June Fourth Incident in Chinese, remains a taboo subject in China.

After weeks of pro-democracy protests in 1989, Chinese troops and tanks fired on civilians at Tiananmen Square in Beijing on June 4. Estimates of the death toll range from several hundreds to thousands.

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