Call For Tiananmen Probe

Activists demand a revision of the official verdict on the failed Chinese democracy movement.
2011-03-01
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Tiananmen Mothers founding member Ding Zilin in an undated photo.
Tiananmen Mothers founding member Ding Zilin in an undated photo.
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

The relatives of victims of the 1989 military crackdown on student-led pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square have called on China's parliament to overturn the official verdict on the movement, amid growing calls for protests similar to those that have swept through the Middle East.

"The massacre of June 4, 1989 happened nearly 22 years ago," the victims' group Tiananmen Mothers wrote in a open letter to China's National People's Congress (NPC).

"In those long years, the National People's Congress, as the highest political power in the land, has never discussed or debated the killings that happened on the Square in 1989, nor has the verdict delivered by Deng Xiaoping at the time ever been changed," it said.

The letter was published online and signed by 128 people, including Tiananmen Mothers founder member Ding Zilin, a retired Beijing university professor whose 17-year-old son was killed in the crackdown.

"Every year, we have sent a joint open letter to the annual parliamentary meetings so as to make clear what we are calling for to the delegates," Ding said on Tuesday. "Of course, we have never once received any kind of response."

Ding said the relatives of the victims had decided nonetheless to keep writing the letters.

"Even though the authorities take no notice of us, and the delegates to the parliamentary meetings are indifferent to us, at the very least we can say that we are not indifferent," she said.

"We continue to uphold the principles of rational and peaceful measures to continue to support our ... demands."

Call for commission

The letter called on the NPC to set up a special inquiry commission for independent investigation into the events of June 3 and 4, 1989, and to report the results to parliament, including a list of those who died and their number.

It also asked that the authorities assess the case of each victim's family separately for compensation, and for compensation to be paid to them.

Finally, it called on the NPC to set up its own prosecution process to call to account those who were responsible for the killings.

"This year the international community is being swept by demands for democracy," said fellow signatory Zhang Xianling, in an apparent reference to a wave of popular uprisings sweeping the Middle East.

"Our country puts on a show of democracy and respect for human rights to the outside world, but here in China these problems remain unresolved."

She said all the relatives of victims were under tight police surveillance ahead of the parliamentary session, which begins on March 5, with an annual session of a nationwide consultative body opening on March 3 in Beijing.

"Right now there are four officers on duty, watching me, 24 hours a day," Zhang said.

The Tiananmen Mothers were not alone in addressing complaints ahead of the annual parliament.

Beijing-based political activist He Depu, who was released earlier this year from an eight-year jail term for subversion, also wrote to the NPC complaining about conditions in Chinese prisons.

"Prison food isn't really enough to satisfy the needs of the body," He said. "It is much easier to get sick, and then you don't get reliable medical treatment."

"The death rate is very high," he added.

Security tightened

Ordinary Chinese who have been pursuing complaints against official wrongdoing, often for many years, said security was now very tight in Beijing ahead of the NPC and in the wake of a series of calls for Middle-East-style "Jasmine" protests against government corruption.

"We are now all being kept under surveillance at home," said a Beijing-based petitioner surnamed Wang. "We have to ask permission to go anywhere and, when we do, the police follow us."

"We're not allowed to go to Tiananmen Square or the Wangfujing [shopping district]."

She said petitioners were also being prevented from communicating with each other.

"Our phone calls are all being recorded," Wang said.

Chinese activists reported further detentions and house arrests this week triggered by calls for "Jasmine" protests at the weekend inspired by recent protests in Egypt and Tunisia.

Chinese authorities responded to calls for more pro-democracy protests for the second Sunday in a row with a strong security presence in major cities.

Reacting to anonymous online appeals for citizens to protest and press the ruling Communist Party for greater openness, hundreds of uniformed and plainclothes policemen turned out in areas designated as protest sites in Beijing and Shanghai.

Many of the student leaders of the 1989 protests fled overseas, while dozens of others were handed heavy jail terms for their part in the movement.

Officials have characterized the demonstrations as "political turmoil," charging participants with "counterrevolutionary activity," and have ignored calls from a vocal minority of activists for a public reckoning with the crackdown.

No one has yet compiled reliable figures of the number who died, but the number may be in the hundreds, or possibly thousands.

Reported by Xin Yu for RFA's Mandarin service and by Grace Kei Lai-see for the Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

CH. 1: MANDARIN | CANTONESE

CH. 2: VIETNAMESE | BURMESE | KOREAN

CH. 3: KHMER | LAO | UYGHUR

CH. 4: TIBETAN

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