Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned that Ding Zilin, now under effective house arrest, has been officially notified that “Under the present regime there will be no resolution of the June 4th question.”
Ding is leader of the Tiananmen Mothers, a group of family members of people killed or injured in June 1989, when the Chinese authorities sent armed troops into Beijing to suppress a peaceful two-month long movement calling for democratic reform and an end to official corruption. Over the past 15 years, the Tiananmen Mothers have documented the fates of 182 people killed during the crackdown in Beijing, and have demanded a dialogue with the government, but without receiving any response up to the present.
Ding Zilin told HRIC that on May 24 a senior official personally visit Ding and her husband, Jiang Peijun, in their home and informed them that a resolution was out of the question. Following this visit, no one has been allowed to enter Ding and Jiang’s home, not even a workman who was supposed to repair one of their windows. The couple has also not been allowed to leave home except for the purchase of basic necessities, and on trips to the supermarket Ding has been accompanied by a phalanx of plainclothes police minders.
The close surveillance of Ding’s activities is believed to be related to her leadership of the June 4th Memorial Global Coalition, which has been planning memorial activities for the 15th anniversary of June 4th all over the world. Ding told HRIC that the police recently informed her that they had opened a case file on her, raising the possibility that Ding and others might be arrested in the runup to June 4th.
HRIC has received a copy of an open letter from the Tiananmen Mothers calling on all Chinese to unite in pressing the Chinese government to demonstrate accountability for the violent crackdown on unarmed protesters 15 years ago. The letter differs markedly from previous open letters, in which the group requested dialogue with government officials to work out just redress and accountability in relation to the many lives lost. In this letter, the Tiananmen Mothers call on Chinese all over the world to put pressure on the Chinese government to abandon its old ways and take up genuine reform.
The letter states, “If there is no build up of popular strength to the point that we can apply pressure on the executive authorities, then the ‘New Hu-Wen Government’ will simply be swallowed up by the practices of the old government, and will very possibly become nothing more than a more attractive window-dressing for the same old lies and fraudulence.”
The letter concludes, “In facing such a system, the most effective method is for more and more people to stand forward and ‘speak the truth.’”
A translation of the full text of the open letter follows:
--- On the Fifteenth anniversary of “June Fourth,” the Tiananmen Mothers address compatriots inside and outside of China
We are victims of the massacre that took place fifteen years ago.
We are a group of people brought together by our similar fates as the mothers of those who died during the 1989 Tiananmen Movement.
We would first like to express our warm wishes and greetings to all of you.
We write this letter out of a desire to express what is in our hearts concerning the massacre of fifteen years ago.
When we took up our pens to write this letter, our hands were heavy, because before us lay the list of names that we had personally recorded of the 182 who were killed. On this list are the names of our sons and daughters, our husbands and wives. They were all ordinary students and townspeople, all ordinary Chinese citizens, and even some who were not yet old enough to exercise the rights of citizens. Today, as we face those names so familiar to us, our hearts continue to tremble and bleed.
On that black weekend fifteen years ago, they left our sides never to return.
We cannot forget: That many among them, after hearing the gunfire of the massacre, resolutely left their homes and marched toward their deaths.
Nor can we forget: That many among them stood at the head of Muxidi Bridge to block the army as it advanced toward Tiananmen, and were killed by hails of gunfire.
Nor can we forget: That many among them were felled in confrontations with martial law troops on Chang’an Avenue at the junctions of Xidan Road and Dongdan Road.
Nor can we forget: That many among them were killed while at the scene of the slaughter giving first aid to the wounded or attempting to retrieve the bodies of the dead.
Nor can we forget: That many among them were protesting the violent actions of the troops or using their cameras to record the violence when they were robbed of their lives.
Nor can we forget: That some among them had the life crushed out of them by the treads of tanks at Liubukou as they withdrew from Tiananmen Square.
Nor can we forget: That at least three of them died on Tiananmen Square, and that one of them fell at the base of the flagpole flying the nation’s flag at the center of the Square; that person’s name was Cheng Renxing.
We have kept some photographs of corpses lying in rows on the floor of a hospital laboratory. The one labeled “No. 30” was named Du Guangxue.
We have also kept photographs such as the one in which the dead person’s head, shoulder and upper arm all show wounds from gunfire, but who ultimately died from bayonet wounds, as indicated by deep cuts to his hands. That man’s name was Wu Guofeng.
We also have another photograph of a corpse covered with earth and nearly unrecognizable. That corpse was exhumed from a pit alongside the west wall of Tiananmen. The dead person’s name was Wang Nan. He was exhumed along with the corpses of many other dead. Who were those other dead, and exactly how many were there? Where were their corpses ultimately taken? We don’t know the answers to any of these questions. They lived and died in obscurity, and are among the “disappeared” of June 4th.
Let us remember this horror, this cruelty, this violence!
We should remember: That the system we live in is full of barbarism, inhumanity and hypocrisy. Over the past 15 years the core leadership of the Chinese Communist Party has passed from the second to the third generation, and from the third to the fourth. But the basic characteristic of the system has not changed; it remains a system in which freedom and democracy are smothered, in which any sparks of civilization must be extinguished, and in which any who challenge this system must be ruthlessly suppressed.
As victims of that massacre, we have endured humiliation for the past 15 years; we have gone through all kinds of hardships, but from start to finish we have maintained the greatest restraint. We have dispelled thoughts of vengeance and have forsworn extremist methods of repaying violence with violence. On many occasions we have petitioned the National People’s Congress and the nation’s leaders requesting a peaceful and rational dialogue, and in accordance with democracy and rule of law, to discuss a just resolution to the question of June 4th. Over the past 15 years, many discerning people in China and overseas, in hopes of bringing about reconciliation and implementing a settlement, have made many demands or recommendations regarding a just resolution to the June 4th question. This past March, during the sessions of the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, Dr. Jiang Yanyong of the No. 301 PLA Hospital once again came forward and proclaimed that the leaders of the Party and the government should as soon as possible reassess the 1989 Democracy Movement and the June 4th Incident. And what has been the response to all of these demands and suggestions? The response is: “We must concentrate all our time, energy and efforts on the development of our country... If China could have another 20 to 50 years of stability, our country would surely emerge stronger than ever before.” The conclusion is: “Unity and stability are of overriding importance.”
This was the quote given by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, in his capacity as a spokesman for the current system, in reply to a question posed by a foreign journalist during the NPC and CPPCC sessions.
This quote clearly and unequivocally tells the people of China: The dead do not matter, a human life has no monetary value; for the sake of “holding down the fort,” any measure is permissible, regardless of cost or sacrifice. We would like to ask, what is the difference between this statement and the principle attributed to Deng Xiaoping 15 years ago: “Kill 200,000 for 20 years of stability.” Is this to say that if no one had been killed, we would not have today’s political stability? If no one had been killed, we would not have today’s economic miracle? If no one had been killed, we would not enjoy the status today and in the future of a world power? Over the past 15 years, nearly every leader in the Party and the government, almost without exception, has defended the suppression in 1989 with the “enormous accomplishments” of the subsequent years. In that case, we must now in equally clear and unequivocal terms tell these leaders: The massacre that took place in the Chinese capital in 1989 was a crime against the people, and a crime against humanity. This massacre not only seriously violated the Constitution of this country and the international obligations of a sovereign state, but also transformed a habitual disdain for human and civil rights into an unprecedented act of violence against humanity. And the aftermath of this act of violence has been increasingly promoted and flaunted by successive governments, not for the sake of becoming a world power or to enrich its citizenry, but only to pawn the lives of its ordinary citizens in exchange for the special interests of an elite minority.
Please do not continue to defraud or make fools of your good citizens! They have already been defrauded and made fools of for more than half a century – isn’t that enough?
Today’s Chinese leaders need to prove with their actions that they are not simply carrying out a pallid and impotent ‘People First’ image overhaul, but that they have in fact shed medieval barbarism and foolishness, and even more to prove that they have abandoned the Communist dictatorship with ‘Chinese characteristics’ that has oppressed China for more than half a century and caused the obliteration of tens of millions of lives. They need the kind of courage that can make a decisive break with the traditional authoritarian system and its ideologies, the kind of courage that abandons hypocrisy and lies in favor of a quest for truth and sincerity, the kind of courage that can face the crimes of history with true repentance.
We have not abandoned hope. We hope that today’s “New Hu-Wen Government” can with a genuine view to the future of our country and our people discard the old ways and take on the new, correcting past errors and responding appropriately to the aspirations of the people and the trends of the world. At the same time we acknowledge that the system is stronger than any individual. If there is not an awakening among the people as a whole, if the movement toward civil empowerment doesn’t continue, if the intelligencia fail to recover their sense of morality and burden of conscience ……. In a word, if there is no build up of popular strength to the point that we can apply pressure on the executive authorities, then the “New Hu-Wen Government” will simply be swallowed up by the practices of the old government, and will very possibly become nothing more than a more attractive window-dressing for the same old lies and fraudulence.
Let us come together to promote an era of reform and a new life for our people! Don’t be a cynical bystander, or a defender of the old system.
The massacre that took place 15 years ago has caused us much suffering, but has also led us to experience a spiritual baptism and an intellectual revelation. Today we at least understand this reasoning: A human being cannot be oppressed or enslaved as a beast of burden by any other person, nor can a human being subject himself to dependence on a master who treats him as a plaything. As Chinese we should respect our own culture, but even more we should respect ourselves. The progress of a civilization results from the people’s thirst for freedom and dignity; and the most important quality of any authoritarian system is its use of any or all dictatorial methods to extinguish that thirst. The deepest significance of the 1989 Democracy Movement was in personifying on a grand scale the conflict and contest between dictatorship and the human thirst for freedom and dignity. The latter met with disastrous defeat, and its most direct unhappy consequence was society’s dread of and retreat from freedom and dignity. China once again hesitated at the fringe of world civilization, and our entire society was engulfed in a miasma of silence, coldness, despair and degeneration, without fairness, without justice, without sincerity, without shame, without regret, without tolerance, without responsibility, without sympathy, without love… Can it be that this is the choice of the people? No! This is the choice of the dictators, because this is the soil in which a dictatorial system survives.
Yet, we believe that in the end history will obey the will of the people, and that is the entire basis of our hope.
Before ending this letter, we would like to repeat the motto of the Tiananmen Mothers in remembrance of the 15th anniversary of June 4th:
Speak the truth, reject amnesia, seek justice, appeal to conscience.
A system that retains power through lies and fraud is despicable, but changing it requires a sustained rationality. In facing such a system, the most effective method is for more and more people to stand forward and “speak the truth.” Truth is power, and speaking the truth is the power of the powerless. Without truth, there is no historical memory, and therefore no justice or conscience. We fervently wish that all compatriots inside and outside of China can proudly live in truth. In this way, all can hope for fair treatment, and all can hope for equal respect of their freedom and dignity – not only the living, but also the dead.
The Tiananmen Mothers in China
Composed by Ding Zilin
May 30, 2004
Translated by Stacy Mosher and Elisabeth Wickeri, Human Rights in China