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China's Tiananmen verdict unchanged

1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations
1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests  

HONG KONG, China -- The Chinese Communist Party leadership has vowed never to overturn its verdict on the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

A party source in Beijing said the reaffirmation of the official assessment of the 1989 pro-democracy movement -- that it was a "counter-revolutionary turmoil" aimed at overthrowing the administration -- was made at a recently held central-level party meeting.

The high-level conclave, details of which were not reported in the official media, was attended by Politburo members and regional leaders.

The party source said a major resolution of the meeting was that "as long as the Communist party is in power, it will not overturn the official verdict on the Tiananmen Square turmoil."

In 1989, the Chinese government put a bloody end to student protests in Tiananmen Square. Students had gathered to demand freedom of the press and demoractic reform. The number of casualties from the crackdown has never been made public.

'Resolute action'

It is understood that National People's Congress (NPC) Chairman Li Peng spoke at length on why leaders including late patriarch Deng Xiaoping had to take "resolute action" against the students and other demonstrators.

"The tide of liberalization had risen to dangerous levels by 1989," Li said, referring to the students' demands for Western-style reforms.

"If this trend had continued for three more years, something similar to the fall of the Berlin Wall would have happened to China and the Communist party would have crumbled."

Analysts said Li, 72, was trying to take credit for his role in the crackdown -- and that he wanted to preserve political influence after his expected retirement from the NPC in 2003.

The Beijing party source said President Jiang Zemin went along with Li's arguments. This was despite the fact that in an interview with an American TV station late last year, Jiang seemed to depart from the official line when he said he could understand the feelings of the students at the Square.

At the central-level party meeting, Jiang, Li and other Politburo members made an implicit link between the party's tough stance on the Tiananmen Square issue -- and on the Falun Gong sect.

Beijing has fingered the role allegedly played by "hostile foreign forces" in both the 1989 demonstrations and the Falun Gong quasi-Buddhist movement.

Jiang reportedly pointed out at the meeting that the Falun Gong was the party's No. 1 enemy and that more resources had to be mobilized against it.

He added stamping out the sect was a foremost priority for the nation this year.

Jiang also reprimanded officials at the Ministry of State Security and the Ministry of Public Security for their unsatisfactory performance in containing the sect's activities.

How to up the ante on the anti-Falun Gong crusade is a top concern for deputies attending this week's annual plenary session of the NPC in the capital.

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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