Death of Tiananmen student leader's mother prompts calls for end to entry ban

Wang Dan's mother dies in China as a decades-old entry ban prevents him from visiting her one last time.
By Cheng Yut Yiu
Death of Tiananmen student leader's mother prompts calls for end to entry ban Wang Lijun, mother of Tiananmen student protest leader Wang Dan, is shown in an undated photo.
Facebook / Wang Dan

Rights activists are calling on the Chinese authorities to allow exiled dissidents back home to visit ailing loved ones, after a former leader of the 1989 student-led democracy movement on Tiananmen Square announced the death of his mother from the United States.

Wang Dan, a former leader of the 1989 student-led democracy movement in China, announced the death of his mother Wang Lingyun via his social media accounts on Monday.

"The person who loves me the most in this world, the person I loved most in this world, my mother Wang Lingyun, died in hospital on Dec. 28, 2021, Beijing time, after attempts to revive her following a sudden brain hemorrhage were unsuccessful," Wang wrote on his Facebook page. "She was 86."

In a eulogy to his mother, Wang said she had had a happy life as a historian in a national museum after graduating from Peking University with a degree in history.

"Her life would have been very peaceful if it weren't for me, who became a wanted man after the events of June 1989."

He said Wang Lingyun was held in custody for days while the authorities searched for him, sustaining injuries to her legs while in custody, leaving her with a pronounced limp.

"She tried to rescue me, to protect me," Wang wrote. "She endured my grief, protested with courage against the authorities, spoke out for me to the rest of the world, all in the face of huge government pressure."

"I'm the least dutiful son in the entire world, to let my mother bear such a burden for me," Wang wrote. "In my mother's later years, her greatest wish was that I would be able to come back to Beijing to be with her, but in the end, she was unable to wait for me."

"This blood is on the hands of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)," he wrote. "A pillar of my spiritual world is gone."

Wang said he would put his savings into the Wang Lingyun Humanitarian Rescue Fund "to help the families of other political prisoners who have experienced the kind of suffering my mother endured."

Fellow 1989 student leader Xiong Yan, who also lives in the United States, said he had been through a similar experience when his mother died.

"It was so painful to read the news of Wang Dan's mother's death," Xiong said. "I immediately thought of my own mother's death and how I couldn't go back [to see her]."

"They never gave a reason, nor even told me one way or another if I could go, but in the end, it wasn't possible," he said.

Xiong's mother died after he spent years trying to get a visa to go back to visit her in the central province of Hunan, writing open letters to CCP leader Xi Jinping and premier Li Keqiang.

You Weijie, spokesperson for the Tiananmen Mothers victims' group, called on the Chinese government to relax the travel ban on 1989 exiles, and allow them to come home on a visit.

"From a humanitarian point of view, I hope that the government will ease the ban," You told RFA. 

"I think if your mother dies and you aren't allowed to come back and see her, it's going to be a matter of deep and lifelong regret."

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.


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