Police Close in on Tiananmen Mothers as Massacre Anniversary Nears

Email story
Comment on this story
Print story
The Tiananmen Mothers meet for dinner in Beijing on Feb. 2, 2015.
The Tiananmen Mothers meet for dinner in Beijing on Feb. 2, 2015.
(Photo courtesy of the Tiananmen Mothers)

Police in the Chinese capital have placed under close surveillance relatives of those who died or were maimed in the military crackdown on student-led protests in Tiananmen Square ahead of its politically sensitive 27th anniversary.

Ding Zilin, who founded the Tiananmen Mothers group after her 17-year-old son Jiang Jielan died in the massacre, is currently under close police surveillance at her home in Beijing, with communications with the outside world cut off, group spokeswoman You Weijie told RFA.

Calls to Ding's phone rang unanswered on Tuesday.

You, 61, whose husband died from gunshot wounds sustained in the crackdown, said the authorities seem keen to prevent the victims' relatives from speaking to foreign media organizations.

"Every year, they visit us just before the June 4 anniversary," she said. "The police drive us over to [the Wan'an Cemetery to make offerings] because they're afraid that we'll give interviews to journalists."

"It has been 27 years, and a lot of the parents of those who died won't now live to see the victims rehabilitated," You said.

She called on the ruling Chinese Communist Party, which has styled the weeks of student-led pro-democracy protests a "counterrevolutionary rebellion," to begin a dialogue with the victims' families.

She said she fears many of the group's members will end their lives full of anger and grief at the use of People's Liberation Army (PLA) tanks and machine guns to kill unarmed civilians, starting on the night of June 3, 1989.

Ding's husband Jiang Peikun, a former linguistics professor at Beijing's Renmin University, died of a heart attack at the age of 82 at the family home in the eastern city of Wuxi last September.

'Visited by police'

Beijing-based Wang Debang, a veteran of the 1989 student movement, said he had also been "visited" by state security police.

"They came a couple of days ago for their ritual visit to find out what I was thinking, and whether I planned any activities," Wang said.

"I told them that my ideas haven't changed in 27 years, and that I will spend my whole life fighting for democracy and human rights to become a reality in China," he said.

Wang called on the government to reappraise the official verdict on the student movement, which was sparked by memorial gatherings on Tiananmen Square after the death of much-loved former premier Hu Yaobang.

The protesting students, who put up a "Goddess of Democracy" statue in front of the portrait of late supreme leader Mao Zedong, were joined by hundreds of thousands of labor unions and community groups, as well as ordinary citizens who traveled from across the country to join the movement.

Hu's successor Zhao Ziyang visited the Square, where he famously apologized for "coming too late," before being removed from office for "mishandling" the biggest challenge to Communist Party power in decades.

A highly critical editorial in the People's Daily on April 26 was the first indication of the approach favored by then supreme leader Deng Xiaoping.

The number of people who died when PLA tanks advanced down Chang'an Avenue to clear Beijing of thousands of people encamped on Tiananmen Square remains a mystery.

Beijing authorities once put the death toll at "nearly 300," but the central government has never issued an official toll or list of names, in spite of repeated calls by the Tiananmen Mothers.

Reported by Xin Lin for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Wen Yuqing for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.





More Listening Options

View Full Site