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China Cracks Down on Dissidents 15 Years After Tiananmen Square

By Jim Yardley

The New York Times -- BEIJING

Human rights groups and family members said on Thursday that several Beijing dissidents had disappeared or been placed under house arrest as part of a government sweep to prevent any protests on the politically sensitive 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

Among them is Jiang Yanyong, who in March wrote a letter calling on the government to admit it was wrong in ordering the military assault against demonstrators in Tiananmen Square that killed hundreds and wounded thousands on June 4, 1989. The letter was widely circulated on the Internet.

Jiang and his wife, their daughter says, have been missing since Wednesday morning, when they left their Beijing apartment with officials from the government hospital where he works.

Jiang, 72, a semiretired military surgeon, became a national hero last year after he helped expose the government’s initial cover-up of the SARS outbreak in Beijing. In a statement released on Thursday, his daughter, Jiang Rui, said hospital officials had been evasive when asked about her parents’ whereabouts and had cautioned against publicizing their disappearance.

“They are safe,” officials told the family, according to the statement. “You should not go beyond the authority to whom you report.”

A Foreign Ministry spokesman, asked about Jiang during a regular briefing, said he had no information. On Thursday the telephone to Jiang’s apartment had been cut off.

Other dissidents have also reportedly been placed under house arrest or taken to locations outside Beijing until the anniversary of the crackdown has passed, according to human rights groups.

At the center of the square, two young businessmen from southern China, ages 20 and 18, posed for tourist photographs. They were in Beijing trying to sell gems. Asked about the events of 1989, both men were quizzical. The news media rarely discusses the crackdown, and the men said they had never heard of it.