BEIJING: China on Thursday put up its customary defence of the ruling Communist Party's massive crackdown on students' protests in Beijing's iconic Tiananmen Square in 1989 in which hundreds were killed as "fully correct" and said the socialist political model it pursued is the "right choice".
Hundreds of pro-democracy protesters are believed to have been killed on June 4, 1989 in and around Tiananmen Square in the Chinese military's brutal crackdown to quell the demonstrations against the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC).
The massive square where the foreign journalists were turned away on Thursday became famous all over the world with an iconic picture of a young man standing before a row of battle tanks in a bid to stop them.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with some of the survivors of the Tiananmen Square crackdown in Washington ahead of the 31st anniversary.
Pompeo met with four Tiananmen protest participants – Wang Dan, Su Xiaokang, Liane Lee and Henry Li – in a closed-door meeting at the State Department in Washington, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported.
Answering a spate of questions on the protests, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian termed the Tiananmen Square protests as a "political disturbance".
"The Chinese government has clearly drawn a conclusion on the political disturbance that took place at the end of 1980s. After the founding of the People's Republic of China the past 70 years witnessed great achievements in China which is a full testament to the fact that our development path is the right choice that suits our national conditions and has been endorsed by the Chinese people," he said.
"We will stay committed to socialism with Chinese characteristics", he said.
He asked the US to "reject the ideological bias, correct mistakes and stop interfering in China's domestic affairs in any form".
The US State Department spokeswoman, Morgan Ortagus, said in a statement that "thirty-one years later, the total number of missing or dead Tiananmen protesters is still unknown. We reiterate our call for a full, public accounting of those killed or missing".
Asked whether there is any addition to the earlier official announcement that 319 people were killed in the crackdown, Zhao said that he has no information to offer.
"China's great achievement of development shows that Chinese government's action is fully correct, which upholds the development and the progress of the Chinese nation," he said.
To another question that if it's a fully correct decision, why China has blocked the Tiananmen Square protests on the internet, he said China handles the internet according to the relevant laws.
This year's Tiananmen Square protests have political significance for Hong Kong as it is for the first-time that the people of the former British Colony were barred from observing the anniversary with participation of thousands.
China last month passed a new security law under which it could open its security agencies offices in Hong Kong. The administration in Hong Kong for the first time barred the Tiananmen Square protests.
"For the first time since 1990, there will be no mass June 4 vigil at Victoria Park to commemorate the military crackdown on students-led democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square in 1989 that left hundreds, perhaps thousands, dead," the South China Morning Post said in its editorial.
"Police have refused permission to ensure compliance with coronavirus restrictions on social gatherings. But what happens still matters", it said.
"There may be no headcount on the 31st anniversary to compare with past observances as a measure of the relevance of the tragedy to Hong Kong's identity and a whole new generation. But the organisers have vowed to adapt to the times" with candlelight protests across Hong Kong, it said.