'We Want The Truth To Be Told': Tiananmen Mothers

2015-05-07
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Eleven citizens of Shandong who lost family members in 1989 meet to commemorate the 26th Anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown in late April.
Eleven citizens of Shandong who lost family members in 1989 meet to commemorate the 26th Anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown in late April.
Photo courtesy of an RFA listener

Twenty-six years after the People's Liberation Army (PLA) suppressed the Chinese student-led democracy protests of 1989 with tanks and machine guns, members of the Tiananmen Mothers victims' group say they won't give up the struggle for recognition of their loved ones' innocent deaths at the hands of China's ruling Communist Party.

Group spokeswoman You Weijie, whose husband died in the crackdown, said the group will continue to call on the government to respond to calls for a reappraisal of the crackdown, which Beijing says was a necessary move to suppress a "counterrevolutionary rebellion."

"We have maintained through all these long years that we want the truth to be told," You said. "We want those responsible to be pursued, and we want compensation," she said.

She said the group faces routine harassment from Chinese law enforcement.

"Last year, there were some things we were unable to do, because of close surveillance from the police," You said.

Beijing forbids any show of public mourning for those who died on the night of June 3-4, while high-ranking leaders, often pressed by foreign journalists, have repeated their view that the party's verdict of "political turmoil" is accurate, and that the debate is closed.

But You said the Tiananmen Mothers are hoping that this year will be slightly easier, now that the landmark 25th anniversary is past.

"This year, we will behave as we have done in previous years, and try to carry out [memorial activities] again," she said.

"But it's hard for me to tell you to what extent we'll be able to carry them out, because we don't know if state surveillance will be as strict as it was last year," You said.

'We want justice'

Fellow Tiananmen Mothers activist Zhang Xianling, who lost her 19-year-old son during the crackdown, said her grief hasn't diminished one bit in the past 26 years.

"I still feel the same way I did back then, even 26 years later," Zhang said. "As a mother who has lost her child, I will never be able to forget it."

"But the immediate pain has diminished somewhat, and my resolve has got stronger," she added.

"We want justice for [the victims of] June 4, and we want a reappraisal," Zhang said. "This issue should have been dealt with a long time ago, but the leaders of the ruling party have kept putting it off."

"There will come a day when it can't be put off any longer," she said.

Last March, for the first time in two decades, the Tiananmen Mothers victims group sent no letter detailing their demands to China's rubber-stamp parliament, the National People's Congress (NPC).

Retired university professor Ding Zilin, whose 17-year-old son Jiang Jielan was killed in the crackdown, said the group had never received a word of reply or recognition for their pains.

The is no definitive figure for the number of people who died when People's Liberation Army (PLA) troops entered the capital in tanks, raking bystanders and buildings alike with automatic weapons fire, although estimates range from the hundreds to the thousands.

The crackdown brought down late premier Zhao Ziyang, whose attitude to the students was judged to be too liberal, and sparked several years of arrests and compulsory political studies sessions the length and breadth of China.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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