China to deport Australian artist after Tiananmen remarks

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BEIJING (Reuters) – A well-known Chinese-born Australian artist will be deported from China, Australian officials said on Friday, for his comments on the 25th anniversary of the bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.

Guo Jian, 52, a former Chinese soldier, was detained last week after an interview with the Financial Times regarding his experiences as a protester during the army’s violent dispersal of the demonstrators on June 4, 1989.

His detention was seen as part of a wider effort by authorities to stifle criticism of the government and remembrance of those who died in connection with the events 25 years ago.

“Chinese authorities have advised Mr. Guo was detained on a visa-related matter,” an official of Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade told Reuters in an email.

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“We understand Mr. Guo will be detained for 15 days and then required to depart China.”

Australian consular officials visited Guo on Thursday, and had sought an explanation for his detention since June 1, the spokesperson said, adding that he would receive “all appropriate consular assistance” while being held.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Guo had violated visa rules, but gave no details.

“On June 1, Australian Guo Jian committed fraud to obtain a temporary residence permit and was discovered by the Beijing police. Beijing police acted in accordance with the law,” Hong told a regular news briefing.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that authorities had smashed one of Guo’s works at his Beijing studio, a large diorama of Tiananmen Square that he had at one point last month covered in raw minced pork.

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For the ruling Communist Party, the 1989 demonstrations that clogged Tiananmen Square in Beijing and spread to other cities remain taboo.

The anniversary of the date on which troops shot their way into central Beijing has never been publicly marked in mainland China, though every year there are commemorations in Hong Kong, which returned to Chinese rule in 1997, as well as in self-ruled Taiwan, which China claims as its own.

The government has never released a death toll for the crackdown, but estimates from human rights groups and witnesses range from several hundred to several thousand.

The run-up to Wednesday’s anniversary was marked by the detention of at least 66 rights activists, according to rights group Amnesty International, increased security in Beijing, and tighter controls on the Internet.

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Chinese leaders have defended the use of the army to quell the protests, saying they chose the correct path for the sake of the people.

China was incensed by an outpouring of criticism from governments, political leaders and rights groups around the world on the anniversary, urging Beijing to account for those killed.

Authorities on Thursday released on bail three activists – dissident writers Liu Di and Hu Shigen, and Xu Youyu, a researcher at a government think tank – who had been detained for a month for attending a meeting to mark the protests.

(Reporting by Michael Martina, Sui-Lee Wee and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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