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US Congress urges China to free Tiananmen inmates

Jun 3, 2009

Washington, Jun 3, 2009 - The US Congress has called on China to launch a UN-backed probe of its crackdown in Tiananmen Square 20 years ago and to free all political prisoners.

The House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday for the resolution offering sympathy to those who died on June 4, 1989 when Chinese troops crushed a pro-democracy uprising in Beijing's vast central square.

A total of 396 lawmakers voted in favor of the resolution and only one opposed it. Thirty-seven lawmakers did not vote.

It called on China to free the dozens of prisoners believed still to be in jail for taking part in the protests 20 years ago.

The resolution also demands China end "harassment" of activists including signatories of Charter 08 -- a petition last year for political reform -- and the Tiananmen Mothers, a group of relatives seeking a probe of the crackdown.

The resolution is likely to upset China, which regularly bristles at foreign criticism of its human rights record or its treatment of minorities in Tibet and Xinjiang.

However, President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the main US leaders handling foreign policy, have not made any public comments yet ahead of the anniversary.

The House resolution was backed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi -- a longtime advocate for human rights in China, particularly Tibet, who surprised observers last week with her mild tone during a visit to China to discuss climate change.

But Pelosi on Tuesday said she directly petitioned President Hu Jintao for the release of 10 prisoners, including human rights activists Hu Jia and Liu Xiaobo and rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng.
Some members of Congress minced no words on the House floor when pressing China on Tiananmen Square.

"Twenty years ago this day, the government of China affirmed to the world that it is a criminal enterprise that is perfectly willing to murder unarmed people to stay in power," said Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican from California.

Frank Wolf, a Republican from Virginia, denounced Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner for not bringing up human rights on his ongoing visit to China, the biggest holder of US debt.

Wolf voiced hope that due to the House resolution, "he will at least say something."

"Many millions are praying here in the West for the collapse of the Chinese Communist Party so the good people of China will be able to live in freedom and there can be a rally in Tiananmen Square," Wolf said.
Original Article: AFP on Google News