Wed, Jan 05, 2011 - Page 5 News List

Tiananmen leaders plead to attend Szeto ceremony

‘WILLING TO COOPERATE’:Wang Dan and Wuer Kaixi, currently based in Taiwan, have asked to be allowed to enter Hong Kong for the memorial later this month

AFP, HONG KONG

Two leaders of China’s 1989 Tiananmen protests have urged Hong Kong to let them attend the funeral of democracy icon Szeto Wah (司徒華), arguing it would be inhumane not to do so.

Szeto, a long-time legislator who helped many student leaders escape China following the 1989 crackdown by the Chinese military, died on Sunday from lung cancer at age 79.

Wang Dan (王丹), who teaches at a university in Taiwan, and Wuer Kaixi (吾爾開希), another prominent Tiananmen activist also based in Taiwan, said they fear being denied entry to the former British colony, which maintains semi-autonomous status within China.

Wang said yesterday an online petition supporting his bid to attend Szeto’s memorial had garnered more than 3,000 signatures.

“As long as they allow me entry to Hong Kong, I am willing to cooperate with the Hong Kong government’s requests,” Wang said in posts this week on social networking sites Twitter and Facebook.

He called Szeto “the person I respect most on the face of the earth.”

“I am willing to not see -reporters, not hold press conferences and not participate in any public events. As long as I can [pay my respects], I can agree to any of the above conditions. If they refuse this, I can only say the Hong Kong government is too inhumane,” he said.

Szeto was best known for founding the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, which routinely criticized Beijing for -human-rights abuses and pushed for political reforms in Hong Kong.

Critics argue that Hong Kong and nearby Macau routinely turn back people deemed unwelcome by Beijing.

Wuer Kaixi said he had been denied entry to Hong Kong “countless times,” including a request several weeks ago to visit the terminally ill Szeto.

“Allowing me entry will not have a negative effect on Hong Kong,” he said.

In a statement, Hong Kong’s immigration department said it would make any decision based on “all relevant factors and circumstances.”

The memorial is scheduled for late this month.

The Alliance Szeto founded dedicated itself to helping victims of the Tiananmen crackdown, which resulted in the deaths of hundreds if not thousands of demonstrators.

Lee Cheuk-yan (李卓人), a legislator and Hong Kong activist, said he had asked for a meeting with Hong Kong officials to green-light the pair’s visit.

“I’m sure they are banned from entering Hong Kong,” he said. “We’re asking for a government agreement to let them come.”

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