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Tiananmen Square’s off limits

China bars foreign journalists from Beijing plaza

Chinese honor guard soldiers get ready to march next to Tiananmen Square. Foreign journalists were barred from Beijing’s plaza amid heavy security on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the bloody crackdown on 1989 pro-democracy protests.

AP PHOTO

A Chinese protester blocks a line of tanks on June 5, 1989 in front of the Beijing Hotel. The man was pulled away by bystanders.

AP file PHOTO

BEIJING — Foreign journalists were barred from Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on Wednesday as police fanned out across the vast plaza on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the bloody crackdown on 1989 pro-democracy protests.

Authorities blocked social networking and image-sharing Web sites such as Twitter and Flickr and confined dissidents to their homes or forced them to leave Beijing, as they ramped up efforts to prevent online discussions about or commemorations of those who died in the military assault on demonstrators on the night of June 3-4 1989.

Dozens of uniformed and plainclothes police guarded entrances to Tiananmen Square in the heart of Beijing that was the epicenter of the student-led protests. Officers demanded identification and turned away those whose passports said they were journalists.

The sweeping measures have been imposed even though there were few signs of efforts to mark the protests within mainland China, where the government squelches all discussion of them.

Beijing has never allowed an independent investigation into the military’s crushing of the 1989 protests, in which possibly thousands of students, activists and ordinary citizens were killed. And young Chinese know little about the events, having grown up in a generation that has largely eschewed politics in favor of nationalism and economic development.

But authorities have been steadily tightening surveillance over China’s dissident community ahead of this year’s anniversary, with some leading writers already under close watch or house arrest for months.

Ding Zilin, a retired professor and advocate for Tiananmen victims whose teenage son was killed in the crackdown, said by telephone that a dozen officers blocked her and her husband from leaving their Beijing apartment Wednesday morning.

Another leading dissident voice, Bao Tong, was taken by police to southeastern China over the anniversary, said his son, Bao Pu.

Bao Tong, 76, is the former secretary to Zhao Ziyang, the Communist Party leader deposed for sympathizing with the pro-democracy protesters.

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