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Tiananmen mothers seek global support for campaign to end impunity

June 2, 2000

Eleven years after the June Fourth 1989 Massacre (See "Report" session at our website), Ding Zilin and the Tiananmen Mothers are appealing for global support in their campaign for accountability by taking their cause to cyberspace and by allying with regional and international groups against impunity.

On June 4, 2000, an on-line petition is being launched to Demand Accountability and Support the Tiananmen Mothers in their demands to the Chinese government for:

  • The right to mourn peacefully in public;
  • The right to accept humanitarian aid from organizations and individuals inside and outside China;
  • No more persecution of June Fourth victims, including those injured in the massacre and the families of the dead;
  • The release of all people still suffering in prison for their role in the 1989 protests;
  • A full, public accounting for the June Fourth Massacre, ending impunity for the perpetrators of this crime.

This petition is being launched at www.FillTheSquare.org, a new Web site initiated by Human Rights in China. The new Web site uses the dynamism of e-activism, allowing supporters to endorse the petition on-line and to enlist as virtual volunteers to promote the cause of the Tiananmen Mothers at the grass-roots level within China and throughout the world. As well as supporting the Tiananmen Mothers Campaign, FillTheSquare.org also aims to empower netizens to take immediate action for human rights, breaking through boundaries inside and outside China.

FillTheSquare.org is a bilingual site in English and Chinese that will continue to develop beyond the launch date. Within weeks, the site will have enhanced interactivity, allowing supporters to place a bouquet of flowers in a virtual Tiananmen Square to commemorate the victims of the June Fourth 1989 massacre. This action works toward fulfilling the dream of an anonymous Chinese student who participated in the 1989 demonstrations and posted a message on the Internet years after the massacre, explaining her ritual of preparing a bouquet of six white and four red roses, marking the 6.4 date of the massacre on each anniversary. She wrote of her hope that one day she would be able place such a bouquet in Tiananmen Square, publicly to commemorate the massacre victims without risking reprisals from the authorities. Until that time comes, FillTheSquare.org allows supporters to realize this dream in cyberspace.

"Eleven years after the June Fourth massacre, political repression is at a new high," said Xiao Qiang HRIC executive director. "Even in such a climate, the Tiananmen Mothers are joining the global campaign of citizens against impunity. Their insistence that crimes such as the June Fourth Massacre cannot go unpunished addresses the root of the systematic human rights abuses occurring in China: impunity."

The global trend towards insistence on accountability, evidenced in the Pinochet case and many other recent events, is not an initiative of governments. It emerges from years of pressure from citizens’ movements that carry out investigations, insist on revealing the truth about human rights violations and on finding justice for their victims. In many cases, mothers of people detained, disappeared and killed have been at the forefront of such campaigns, bravely facing down intimidation and persecution. The Tiananmen Mothers are just one example of such a struggle.

Through their supporters outside China, including HRIC, the Tiananmen Mothers are linking up with organizations in Asia and around the world involved in this struggle. Ding Zilin was invited to represent the Tiananmen Mothers in the founding regional congress of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) which convened in Manila last week. AFAD is a coalition of grass-roots organizations in Asia seeking cooperation in the fight against impunity and in the prevention of disappearances and other human rights abuses.

Because Ding Zilin remains under the strict surveillance of Chinese authorities, she was unable to participate in the AFAD congress in person. But she sent a statement that was delivered by an HRIC representative. In her statement, Ding Zilin wrote, "Because our struggle for our own individual rights has long been circumscribed to a very narrow space within China, we hope to join our own campaign with the greater global trend. At the same time, we wish to contribute to the regional and international cause of freedom and justice." Ding expressed the Tiananmen Mothers' intention of becoming a member of AFAD and said, "I hope to establish contact and communication with all federation members so we can give each other mutual comfort and support in times to come."

The Tiananmen Mothers and their cause were also presented at the 20th Anniversary Commemoration of the Kwangju Massacre held in Kwangju, South Korea mid-May. The event, which brought together family members of the killed and disappeared from across Asia, was organized by the May 18 Foundation of Kwangju, the Association of Family Members of the Killed and Disappeared in Kwangju and the Asian Human Rights Commission.

To date the Tiananmen Mothers’ Petition has obtained the endorsement of Amnesty International, Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND) in the Philippines, the Organization of Parents and Family Members of the Disappeared (OPFMD) in Sri Lanka, the Commission for Involuntary Disappearances and Victims of Violence (Kontras) in Indonesia, the Relatives Committee of May 1992 Heroes in Thailand, the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) in India, the Jammu Kashmir Human Rights Movement's Truth and Justice Commission in Pakistan, the Linking Solidarity Project of the Humanist Committee on Human Rights in the Netherlands, and the Latin American Federation of Associations of Relatives of Disappeared Detainees (FEDEFAM), a network of 20 groups throughout South and Central America.

In Hong Kong, the Tiananmen Mothers Campaign has become a major focus of activities to commemorate the eleventh anniversary of the June Fourth Massacre. HRIC has joined with Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Regional Office, the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of the Patriotic Democratic Movement in China, the Justice and Peace Commission of the Catholic Church and other organizations to coordinate a variety of events. On June 3, the groups are sponsoring an evening of readings from the testimonies of the Tiananmen Mothers entitled, "Reclaiming Rights: Tribute to the Tiananmen Mothers," at the Shum Oi Church in Kowloon. A package of materials about the Mothers and their work has been mailed to 550 Hong Kong secondary schools, a postcard with information about the campaign is being given out to the public at all events and there has been extensive media coverage in the territory.

Over a decade has passed since the Chinese government ended the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 by turning tanks and guns against the unarmed people of Beijing. The massacre that ensued took the lives of young and old all over the city. But this crime remains unpunished.

Despite continued harassment by government authorities, including intimidation, round-the-clock surveillance and the confiscation of humanitarian donations, the Tiananmen Mothers have been steadfast in their mission. To date, they have identified over 160 victims killed and disappeared in the June Fourth massacre, and have found 70 individuals who were injured. On the eve of the massacre's eleventh anniversary, the Tiananmen Mothers appealed to China’s top prosecutorial body, demanding a reply to their last-year’s request for a criminal investigation. They also wrote to China's leaders reiterating their demands for dialogue and accountability.

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