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In Statement, Tiananmen Mothers Urge Government to Open Up the Internet

March 10, 2010

The Tiananmen Mothers, a group of relatives of the victims of the June 4, 1989 government crackdown, have asked Human Rights in China to make public an English translation of a statement they issued on the occasion of the current annual sessions of the National People’s Congress (NPC) and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). The statement (below) focuses on how words can shape national consciousness: that the authorities’ distortions of June Fourth in the official media and, later, on the heavily censored Internet have turned lies into “facts.” The group urges the government to end a practice that “runs against the tides of history,” and open up the Internet and the media so that the truth about June Fourth can emerge.

 

We Must Let ‘June Fourth’ Become a Topic of Public Discussion in the Media and on the Internet”

Statement by the Tiananmen Mothers

March 4, 2010

[Translation by HRIC]

 

Every year since 1995, the Tiananmen Mothers have publicly addressed every session of the “Two Congresses” to present their appeal. Regrettably, however, for fifteen years, the delegates and the permanent bodies of the “Two Congresses” have not responded to our appeals with so much as a single phrase or word, let alone had a single delegate contact any of our group members, either directly or indirectly. This kind of attitude of the delegates toward their fellow countrymen who have endured suffering is chilling and bitterly disappointing. We are therefore issuing the following statement on the occasion of the convening of this year’s National People’s Congress and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference:

In mainland media and on the Internet, “June Fourth” has to this very day been categorized as a forbidden zone. Pursuant to the principles of freedom of speech and open [access] to information, which are international common practice, “June Fourth” should be a topic of public discussion in the mainland media and on the Internet.

At the time, Chinese communist authorities defined “June Fourth” as a “counterrevolutionary rebellion,” claiming that they had “suppressed” a “rebellion.” They later gradually changed the formulation, turning “June Fourth” into a “political incident,” which, later still, they began referring to as a “disturbance” that occurred between the eighth and ninth decades, as the spring turned to summer. What is the reason for this shift in definition from a “rebellion” to a “disturbance”? The Communist Party of China (CPC) has to this day given no details. The authorities in power can change what they call it as they please, but they have no way of changing the facts of what happened. How could [the nature of] such a great massacre that shocked the world possibly be watered down by the [simple] use of the words, “political disturbance”? But the CPC has always believed in this kind of logic: that any matter will become exactly what the CPC decides to call it; that if all the official media and the Internet follow the CPC’s decisions in what they say about the matter, then it must be so. Whoever calls it something else is rumor-mongering, slandering, and distorting facts. This is a hidden rule pursued by the CPC.

During the previous years, we have appealed time and again: “Tell the truth, refuse amnesia, seek justice, call on the conscience.” We hope that more people will stand up and tell the truth about “June Fourth.” In May 2007, Mr. Tan Zuoren wrote “1989: Bearing Witness to the Ultimate Beauty—Diary of an Eyewitness from the Square,” which should have been a welcome act. Surprisingly, however, China’s communist courts refer to it as “a text that disregards objective facts, wantonly misrepresents, slanders, and vilifies the lawful handling of the ‘June Fourth Incident’ by the government of the People’s Republic of China, and incites people at home and abroad to oppose and confront the government of the People’s Republic of China.” What do “misrepresentation, slandering, and vilification” mean? Isn’t it simply because this essay does not depict the “June Fourth” Incident along official lines as a “disturbance,” as the CPC would have it? If the courts call this “disregarding objective facts,” fine, but would the courts then, please, lay out in full detail the “objective facts” of what happened that year? Let us see whose depiction, after all, matches the facts.

It’s been a long time since the media and the Internet turned “rebellion” into “disturbance,” and some of the folks in China who don’t have the inside information are following the official media and obediently calling it just that. If one person calls it that, it’s strange; if ten people call it that, it becomes a custom; but if tens of thousands of people call it that, a lie will become a “fact.” Is it possible that “objective facts” are “talked into existence” this way?

With the passage of time, when people of the post-’80s and post-’90s generation hear someone bring up “June Fourth,” they are thoroughly baffled and at a loss. In the impressions of many people, it’s as if “June Fourth” were even more remote than May Fourth, which took place ninety years ago; it’s practically already turned to debris in the dust of history.

The “1989 Tiananmen Democracy Movement,” the “June Fourth” Great Massacre, the victims of the “June Fourth” tragedy, relatives of the “June Fourth” victims, the “Tiananmen Mothers” group, and similar new terms that symbolize an era in China’s contemporary history have all been marked as “taboos” by the Chinese communist government. The media are not allowed to bring them up. The common folks are not allowed to discuss them. Since the beginning of the new century and the rise of the Internet, these new terms have become “banned” sensitive terms that have been completely filtered out in China. This is an absolutely uncivilized, stupid behavior—an outdated way to act that runs against the tide of history.

Various propaganda and information departments of the CPC authorities have deployed “web commentators” behind the immense Internet to tackle public questioning and challenge of the official information and throttle the so-called “disturbances of harmful information” in civil society. Information regarding “June Fourth” in particular bears the brunt of their attacks. What are the names of the many victims of the “June Fourth” tragedy? How did they meet their end? Where did they die? Where are they buried? The “Tiananmen Mothers” and other victims’ family members have labored through great hardships for the past 20 years to clearly record every detail we could find, and we have already made this information public. All this information, however, has been filtered out from the Internet in China by the Internet censors. Even the overseas Internet search engine Google can only operate according to the regulations, having no choice but to clearly indicate at the bottom of the search page: “In accordance with local laws, regulations, and policies, part of the search result is not shown.” This shows that it purposely follows Chinese law and that this [self-censorship] is not its own position. Not only is the information pertaining to the victims of “June Fourth” filtered out, so is all information about their parents, husbands, and wives; only the people who share their names remain.

That’s not all. A vast body of articles and materials regarding “June Fourth” has been published during the past 20 years in foreign periodicals, videos, and websites, but none of it can be seen [domestically] unless one breaches the Great Firewall of China. Every year, a variety of activities to commemorate “June Fourth” are staged overseas in many places, most notably the annual Victoria Park candlelight vigil in Hong Kong, attended by tens of thousands or even over a hundred thousand people, but there is absolutely no trace of information about them in mainland Chinese media and on the Internet. Even if something occasionally leaks out, it is immediately treated as a “news incident” that everyone has a different opinion about. As a result, the post-1989 China has ended up becoming a mainland in which “June Fourth” never happened. All has become well, streets are bustling with cars and people, it’s all song and dance to celebrate the good times … .

Yet, since 1989, the individuals of good conscience who have been upholding justice on behalf of the 1989 Democracy Movement and the “June Fourth” tragedy, if not sentenced to imprisonment, monitored by the public security, and deprived of personal freedom, have been treated as “hostages” and driven out of the country. During last year’s twentieth anniversary of “June Fourth,” the great majority of Tiananmen Mothers in Beijing and other parts of the country were subjected to monitoring. Even the victims’ family members who were temporarily residing in a village on the outskirts of Beijing were put under the surveillance of people sent from their counties. In fact, this kind of surveillance and control of the “June Fourth” victims’ families by the authorities has never stopped. During every “June Fourth” anniversary and the Two Congresses, or during some sensitive periods, there are always plainclothes policemen on duty in front of the homes of some of the “Tiananmen Mothers,” preventing them from meeting with foreign individuals. To counter this behavior, we have already protested and demanded many times: “Revoke the monitoring and personal restrictions of the ‘June Fourth’ victims and their family members, allow the family members of the dead victims to publicly mourn their dear ones without interference… .” But to this very day, there has been absolutely no change in the monitoring measures the authorities use against us.

On the eve of “June Fourth” last year, Mr. Jiang Qisheng [江棋生] published the “Non-governmental Report on the Conditions of Victims of the June 4, 1989 Suppression,” in which he revealed in a fairly comprehensive manner the conditions of some of the fatalities, the wounded, and the imprisoned, as well as of the “thugs” executed in the “June Fourth” tragedy. This report similarly revealed the truth of “June Fourth,” but even before the manuscript was finished, the Beijing Public Security raided his house on two occasions, confiscated his computer and other material, and even threatened him with detention. What could be more vicious than the CPC authorities’ repression and interception of this kind of information!

We believe that China today is at a crucial moment of decision of what direction it will take; will it take bold steps forward, or will it make large strides in retreat? Here, what needs to be decided first is this: Either you follow international practice and abide by the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the two related human rights covenants, and protect the citizens’ freedom of speech without any hesitation, or you protect your vested interests, and continue as in the past to stifle citizens’ freedom of speech. Freedom of speech is precisely to open up the media, Internet, and access to information. To the general public, this means allowing “June Fourth” to become a public topic of discussion in China’s media and on the Internet. This is not only relevant to the rights to express and to access information, rights to which citizens should be entitled, but also to the expansion of the space for diverse opinions, allowing citizens to reexamine “June Fourth,” in the hopes that an open, just, and fair resolution of the “June Fourth” Incident can be achieved.

 

Signers:

丁子霖 Ding Zilin 张先玲 Zhang Xianling 周淑庄Zhou Shuzhuang
李雪文 Li Xuewen 徐珏 Xu Yu 尹敏 Yin Min
杜东旭 Du Dongxu 宋秀玲 Song Xiuling 于清 Yu Qing
郭丽英 Guo Liying 蒋培坤 Jiang Peikun 王范地 Wang Fandi
袁可志 Yuan Kezhi 赵廷杰 Zhao Tingjie 吴定富 Wu Dingfu
钱普泰 Qian Putai 孙承康 Sun Chengkang 尤维洁 You Weijie
黄金平 Huang Jinping 贺田凤 He Tianfeng 孟淑英 Meng Shuying
袁淑敏 Yuan Shumin 刘梅花 Liu Meihua 谢京花 Xie Jinghua
马雪琴 Ma Xueqin 邝瑞荣 Kuang Ruirong 张艳秋 Zhang Yanqiu
张树森 Zhang Shusen 杨大榕 Yang Darong 刘秀臣 Liu Xiuchen
沈桂芳 Shen Guifang 谢京荣 Xie Jingrong 孙宁 Sun Ning
王文华 Wang Wenhua 金贞玉 Jin Zhenyu 要福荣 Yao Furong
孟淑珍 Meng Shuzhen 田淑玲 Tian Shuling 邵秋风 Shao Qiufeng
王桂荣 Wang Guirong 谭汉凤 Tan Hanfeng 孙恒尧 Sun Hengyao
陈梅 Chen Mei 周燕 Zhou Yan 李桂英 Li Guiying
徐宝艳 Xu Baoyan 狄孟奇 Di Mengqi 杨银山 Yang Yinshan
管卫东 Guan Weidong 高婕 Gao Jie 索秀女 Suo Xiunü
刘淑琴 Liu Shuqin 王培靖 Wang Peijing 王双兰 Wang Shuanglan
张振霞 Zhang Zhenxia 祝枝弟 Zhu Zhidi 刘天媛 Liu Tianyuan
潘木治 Pan Muzhi 黄定英 Huang Dingying 何瑞田 He Ruitian
程淑珍 Cheng Shuzhen 轧伟林 Zha Weilin 郝义传 Hao Yichuan
萧昌宜 Xiao Changyi 任金宝 Ren Jinbao 田维炎 Tian Weiyan
杨志玉 Yang Zhiyu 齐国香 Qi Guoxiang 李显远 Li Xianyuan
张彩凤 Zhang Caifeng 王玉芹 Wang Yuqin 韩淑香 Han Shuxiang
曹长先 Cao Changxian 方政 Fang Zheng 齐志勇 Qi Zhiyong
冯友祥 Feng Youxiang 何兴才 He Xingcai 刘仁安 Liu Renan
李淑娟 Li Shujuan 熊辉 Xiong Hui 韩国刚 Han Guogang
石峰 Shi Feng 庞梅清 Pang Meiqing 黄宁 Huang Ning
王伯冬 Wang Bodong 张志强 Zhang Zhiqiang 赵金锁 Zhao Jinsuo
孔维真 Sun Weizhen 刘保东 Liu Baodong 陆玉宝 Lu Yubao
陆马生 Lu Masheng 齐志英 Qi Zhiying 方桂珍 Fang Guizhen
肖书兰 Xiao Shulan 葛桂荣 Ge Guirong 郑秀村 Zheng Xiucun
王惠蓉 Wang Huirong 邢承礼 Xing Chengli 桂德兰 Gui Delan
王运启 Wang Yunqi 黄雪芬 Huang Xuefen 王琳 Wang Lin
刘 乾 Liu Qian 朱镜蓉 Zhu Jingrong 金亚喜 Jin Yaxi
周国林 Zhou Guolin 杨子明 Yang Ziming 王争强 Wang Zhengqiang
吴立虹 Wu Lihong 宁书平 Ning Shuping 郭达显 Guo Daxian
曹云兰 Cao Yunlan 隋立松 Sui Lisong 王广明 Wang Guangming
冯淑兰 Feng Shulan 穆怀兰 Mu Huailan 付媛媛 Fu Yuanyuan
孙淑芳 Sun Shufang 刘建兰 Liu Jianlan 王连 Wang Lian
李春山 Li Chunshan 蒋艳琴 Jiang Yanqin 何凤亭 He Fengting
谭淑琴 Tan Shuqin 肖宗友 Xiao Zongyou 乔秀兰 Qiao Xiulan
张桂荣 Zhang Guirong 雷勇 Lei Yong  
(128 names)

 

In accordance with suggestions by our friends, we’re also including the following names of our fellow signers from previous years who have passed away so as to respect their wishes.

吴学汉 Wu Xuehan 苏冰娴 Su Bingxian 姚瑞生 Yao Ruisheng
杨世鈺 Yang Shiyu 袁长录 Yuan Changlu 周淑珍 Zhou Shuzhen
王国先 Wang Guoxian 包玉田 Bao Yutian 林景培 Lin Jingpei
寇玉生 Kou Yusheng 孟金秀 Meng Jinxiu 张俊生 Zhang Junsheng
吴守琴 Wu Shouqin 周治刚 Zhou Zhigang 孙秀芝 Sun Xiuzhi
罗让 Luo Rang 严光汉 Yan Guanghan 李贞英 Li Zhenying
邝涤清 Kuang Diqing 段宏炳 Duan Hongbing 刘春林 Liu Chunlin
张耀祖 Zhang Yaozu (22 names)

For more information on the Tiananmen Mothers, see:

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