The 4th of June 2008 will mark the 19th anniversary of the repression of the democratic movement in Tiananmen Square. The Communist Party attempts through its propaganda to consign to oblivion the countless victims of this massacre, the many demonstrators condemned to death and the anonymous prisoners incarcerated to this day in the country’s jails. However, there is still hope that the Chinese authorities will eventually decide to ease the restrictions imposed on the victims’ families and the human rights activists and allow them to organize public ceremonies in memory of their dead.
The 18th anniversary of the events of Tiananmen was a poignant time for Ding Zilin, a retired university professor whose 17-year-old son was shot dead by soldiers in June 1989. In June 2007, Ding Zilin and several others were for the first time given permission to light candles in front of the photos of their children, brothers and husbands during a short memorial service in Tiananmen Square, where Ding Zilin’s son died. Around this date, about 20 activists and victims’ loved ones were able to organize an informal seminar in Beijing. This was apparently the first time that they were permitted to do so.
Ding Zilin is the founder of the Tiananmen Mothers group, which brings together some 130 people, mainly women, whose parents or close relatives were killed or injured during the events of the 3rd and 4th of June 1989. This association has managed to establish a list of more than 180 names of people killed and at least 70 others injured during the suppression of the peaceful demonstrations. However, the real number of victims is thought to be around several hundreds. The association regularly calls upon the Chinese authorities to authorize the families to organize public memorials for their loved ones. The Tiananmen Mothers are also calling for the release of all those imprisoned following the demonstrations of 1989 and for a public enquiry into these events. This exposes its members to constant harassment, intimidation and random detention.
In the name of the country’s stability and under the current pretext of security in the run-up to the Olympic Games, a discreet system of repression has been put in place to control the population and information. In this context, censorship with regard to the events at Tiananmen Square remains implacable : the massacre of 4 June 1989 is not yet part of the official history of China. It therefore seems difficult to demand that Chinese leaders acknowledge their responsibility for the bloody repression which they persist in denying. That would be tantamount to admitting that they have been lying all these years.
However, along with the Tiananmen Mothers, we are simply demanding the victims’ right to the truth and respect for their memory, and the release of the activists who remain in prison to this day.