China: Tiananmen Mothers Call For Justice Ahead Of Anniversary

The Tiananmen Mothers Group has released a statement about their determination to seek justice for those killed during the government crackdown on student protests in Tiananmen Square on 4 June 1989.

It states: ‘As we commemorate our loved ones on this 34th anniversary of June Fourth, we honor the deceased family members here—in order to restore history, bear witness to how the victims were killed, recall the harm and suffering inflicted on the victims’ families by the troops who perpetrated the massacre, and so that people can know their misery and remember their desire and unwavering determination to defend their lawful rights and seek justice for their loved ones. Although their lives are gone, their final wishes are still with us.’

On 4 June 1989, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regime responded to student-led peaceful protests demanding political and economic reform with military units, machine guns and tanks. To this day, the Chinese government has not revealed the actual death toll and the number of protesters imprisoned across China.

The mass pro-democracy protests lasted seven weeks and are described by survivors as the period when people of China enjoyed most freedom and had least fear.

Thirty-four years since tanks rolled into Tiananmen Square, survivors and families of victims are still struggling for truth and justice. The Chinese authorities continue to try to erase memories about the nationwide protests and subsequent bloody crackdown, known as ‘June Fourth’ in China. However, they have not succeeded because many refuse to forget.

‘I could endure and bear the difficulties in life, but there was nowhere to vent the pain in my heart; the mental anguish has accompanied me ever since,’ said Zhang Jingli, widow of Liu Yongliang, who was shot dead by martial law troops 34 years ago.

In their statement, The Tiananmen Mothers group said: ‘We, families of June Fourth victims, will not relinquish our determination to seek justice for our loved ones every single day that the authorities refuse to make public the truth about the massacre—until justice is done.’

The true events surrounding the Tiananmen massacre ‘remain in the people’s unspeakable memory and are key to determining the direction of China, ‘ wrote Zhang Zhan, before she was arrested for her reporting on the COVID-19 outbreak from Wuhan. She is serving a four-year sentence in jail.

From his prison cell, lawyer and activist Xu Zhiyong has called for fasting as ‘an irrepressible form of commemoration’. He has recently been sentenced to 14 years on subversion charges.

Censorship and internet blocks have been expanded to Hong Kong, where a candlelight vigil was held annually for 30 years until 2019. Not only has any public commemoration of Tiananmen Square protests and massacre been blocked, but relevant books have also been removed from the city’s public libraries.

Commemoration of June Fourth by ten citizens in Zhuzhou, Hunan province in 2017. They were all detained afterwards. Credit: Civil Rights & Livelihood Watch.

Pro-democracy campaigner and publisher of the Apple Daily newspaper Jimmy Lai said that if commemorating those who died was a crime, ‘let me suffer the punishment of this crime, so I may share the burden and glory of those young men and women who shed their blood on June Fourth.’ He was jailed for 13 months for participating in a 2020 candlelit vigil and faces life in prison over charges under national security law.

This year’s June Fourth anniversary is being marked with exhibitions and demonstrations around the world, including a permanent exhibition in New York and a vigil in London outside the Chinese embassy. Also known as ‘6-4’, anniversary commemorations now feature a group of people who had not been present before, young people and mostly overseas Chinese students who came forward because of last year’s White Paper protest movement, most of whom were born after June Fourth. They’re organizing 64 events around the world and giving new meaning to ‘6-4’ commemorations, connecting dissidents of different generations and cultures, and imagining together a different future for China.

The Chinese Communist Party’s efforts to deny the truth shows that its leaders are still suffering from ‘June-Fourth-phobia’, in the words of Ding Zilin, a retired professor and co-founder of Tiananmen Mothers.

CSW’s Founder President Mervyn Thomas said: ‘Every year, we remember the victims of Tiananmen Square massacre and the pain and suffering of their families and friends, and honour Tiananmen Mothers and all those who have paid the price for refusing to forget truth and give up for justice. Not being able to openly mourn the June Fourth victims indicates the deprivation of fundamental human rights and dignity of Chinese people. Thirty-four years later, we see the consequences of the sad fact that no one has yet been held accountable: worsening violations against human rights of the people of China and the CCP’s increasing export of its repression worldwide. The White Paper protests throughout China in November 2022, which brought the CCP’s Zero-Covid policy to an end, have ignited the hope of new generations of Chinese people inspired to press for human rights and freedom, but they need international support. We urge states to call on the Chinese authorities to respect international human rights norms at every opportunity.’

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