'This Should Never Have Happened, But It Happened to Me'

china-you-weijie-2011-305.jpg You Weijie at a Chinese New Year party in 2011.
Photo courtesy of Tiananmen Mothers

Twenty-five years after the People's Liberation Army (PLA) suppressed the Chinese student-led democracy protests of 1989 with tanks and machine guns, 79-year-old Ding Zilin, founder of victims' group the Tiananmen Mothers, has handed over the reins of the organization to a younger woman. Her successor 61-year-old You Weijie, whose husband died in the crackdown, spoke to RFA's Mandarin and Cantonese Services recently about her new role:

I hope [Ding Zilin] takes good care of her health. She has been fighting on the front line for the Mothers for 25 years now. But I, as the wife of a victim, also have a responsibility to take on some of the burden. For example, some of the group are in poor health, and we can go and visit them.

The responsibility is now falling to the younger generation.

I was 42 years old back then, and my husband Yang Minghu was working for the government. He heard our neighbors saying in the early hours of the morning [of June 4] that the government was firing on the students, so he went out all alone to see what was going on.

He was shot by the troops upholding martial law. He took a bullet in his bladder, and died two days later.

We have a son, who was five years old at the time. But I don't want to talk too much about him, because I want to protect him.

I don't feel pressured by this role. I'm guessing that I will become a target for the authorities. But it was totally wrong of the government to suppress the democratic movement with violence on June 4.

I will continue to fight unwaveringly for the authorities to overturn the official verdict on June 4, and for them to make public the truth of what actually happened on June 4, and to apologize to the families of the victims.

'Face the families'

What we really hope for is that the Chinese government can take a look at the information we gathered from interviewing the families of victims. Our ultimate goal is ... that the Chinese government will be able to face the families of victims, and meet our demands.

I told [police who detained me last week] that they should reflect on themselves, and that I hadn't actually broken any of China's laws.

I want everyone, [the Tiananmen Mothers], the [local] police, the state security police, and myself, to sit down and discuss the human rights situation in China.

I want them to be able to talk about this massacre, this "June 4th," that took place on Chinese soil, and about whether or not that was the right thing to do.

The biggest pressure will come from the government itself, but I'm not afraid. This [massacre] should never have happened. But it happened to me. I am the family member of a victim. Of course I want justice.

Reported by Grace Kei Lai-see for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by An Pei for the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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