|Please Show Courage, Break the Taboo,
Face “June 4” Head on
Open Letter by the Tiananmen MothersFebruary 26, 2009Translation by Human Rights in China
The Honorable Deputies of the Eleventh Session of the Second Plenary of the National People’s Congress and Committee Members of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference:
This year marks the 20th Anniversary of the “June Fourth” Massacre.
In the last century, on June 4, 1989, the Chinese authorities launched a massacre against peaceful demonstrators and civilians in the capital, seriously violating our country’s constitution and breaching their duty, as leaders of a sovereign state, to protect the people. This was an unconscionable atrocity that grew from a longstanding contempt for human rights and civil rights.
Over this long stretch of time, government authorities deliberately played down “June Fourth,” forbade discussion among our people of “June Fourth,” and prohibited the media from touching on “June Fourth.” China has become like an airtight “iron chamber,” and all the demands of the people about “June Fourth,” all the anguish, lament, and moaning of the victims’ relatives and the wounded of “June Fourth,” have been sealed off from this “iron chamber.” Today, as the deputies and committee members of these “Two Meetings” are stately seated in this assembly hall, can you hear the cry from “June Fourth”? Can you hear the painful sighs of the families of the victims of “June Fourth”? But now, the bloodstains of that time have long been washed away and the bullet marks rubbed out, and the site of the massacre is now decorated with exotic plants and flowers and has become a scene of peace and prosperity.
But can all this conceal the sins of that time? Can it erase the sorrow of the relatives of the victims that deepens year after year?
No! It absolutely cannot. The “June Fourth” massacre has long secured its place in history’s hall of shame. It absolutely cannot be diminished as a “political disturbance” or even a “serious political disturbance.” It was nothing short of an unconscionable atrocity. No amount of force can negate the bitter reality of the hundreds and thousands of lives snatched away by guns and tanks twenty years ago.
Twenty years are not a short time; they are enough for a whole new generation to emerge. This new generation never experienced the bloodshed of that time, nor has it ever felt the desolate calm that settled on a killing field. It has passed; it seems that everything has passed. “Play not the songs of former dynasties; listen instead to the new tune of the ‘Willow Branch.’”* In these 20 years, generations of our country’s leaders have succeeded the one before, from the second generation to the third, and then the fourth. You deputies and committee members of the “Two Meetings” have also changed from session to session. The passage of time and the shift of circumstances seem to have given the party and country leaders a kind of opportunity to minimize “June Fourth” and push it to a distant corner of history.
Even so, China’s Tiananmen Mothers cannot consent. On the question of defining “June Fourth” we feel that we cannot afford to be the least bit vague. Whether to adhere to the initial interpretation or to change it, we must base it on facts and let the truth do the talking. If Deng Xiaoping, then Chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Communist Party of China, was wrong in “suppressing the counterrevolutionary rebellion,” then we must overturn it and correct it through established legal procedures and publicly announce it to the whole society, and should not explain it away with the vague term of “political disturbances.”
The Tiananmen Mothers have always held one belief, and that is: act and speak according to the facts; accept no lies. From the start of our inquiry activities, we would repeatedly check and verify our data regarding the person of interest. As of now, not a single one of the 194 dead that we have examined had any history of violence. They are all among the innocent victims of that massacre. They gave their lives for the sake of justice and all we can do is return justice to them, to pursue the justice that comes late to them. Otherwise, we would not be able to face the spirit of the dead.
Since 1995, our group of “June Fourth” victims and loved ones return here every year to write to the “Two Meetings” with three requests for officially acknowledging “June Fourth.” They are: start new investigations on the “June Fourth” incident, publicly announce death tolls, release a list of the names of the dead; clarify each case to the family members of the dead and compensate them according to law; investigate “June Fourth” cases to determine those responsible and punish them. To summarize, our three requests are: “Truth, Compensation, Responsibility.”
We have always upheld the principles of peace and reason. We appeal to the two committees and government authorities to utilize the methods of democracy and open dialogue to come to a just resolution. Yet our requests have not been discussed in the “Two Meetings.”
In 2006, we suggested the following in order to end the stalemate over “June Fourth” and ensure that the situation can develop along a steady path: use the principle of tackling the simpler problems first. The divisive issues that cannot be resolved or agreed upon easily can be set aside temporarily. Instead, first solve the issues that involve the basic rights of the victims and their personal interests. These issues include: 1) remove all monitoring of and restrictions on the movements of “June Fourth” victims and their families; 2) allow families of the dead to openly mourn their loved ones; 3) stop intercepting and confiscating both domestic and international humanitarian aid contributions, and return all the aid money that was previously frozen; 4) relevant government departments should, in humanitarian spirit, help the victims who are facing hard times to find employment and guarantee them a basic livelihood, without any political conditions; 5) remove political biases against the disabled victims of “June Fourth” such that they are treated as all other disabled persons in regards to communal participation and treatment by society, etc.
In 2008, we again proposed to the deputies of the “Two Meetings”: in the world today, dialogue has replaced confrontation. The Chinese government advocates using dialogue to resolve differences and conflicts on international issues. Thus we have an even stronger basis to ask that the government authorities resolve the internal differences and conflicts in the same way. If we are able to use dialogue to replace confrontation on the problem of “June Fourth,” it would benefit the whole country and be a blessing for all our people. The more dialogue we have, the more civility and law and order, and the less ignorance and tyranny. Dialogue does not lead society towards opposition and hatred, but rather, towards tolerance and reconciliation. Using dialogue to solve the problem of “June Fourth” is an imperative path toward societal reconciliation.
Another year has passed now, yet we have heard nothing.
We note that President Hu Jintao said the following in public not long ago: In determining every single policy, we start and end with whether the people endorse it or not, agree with it or not, are happy with it or not, and consent to it or not. We welcome these words. If this is so, then we suggest to the NPC and CPPCC: why not eliminate the taboo of “June Fourth” and conduct a broad survey of the people’s attitudes towards “June Fourth” countrywide, especially in Beijing, to find out what exactly the people endorse? What they agree with? What they are happy with? Consent to? We believe this should not be difficult to do.
But the people of China know very well that the tragic case of “June Fourth” is an “ironclad case” created single-handedly by the second generation leader, Deng Xiaoping. As long as Deng Xiaoping enjoys any lingering prestige in our country from top to bottom and in future history, it would be an extremely formidable task to overturn the conclusion that has “already been decided on by the Party and government,” and to discard the new “Whatever” policy.** Even if “suppressing the counterrevolutionary rebellion” is relabeled as a “serious political disturbance,” the judgment, in essence, still has not changed.
This then will require each deputy to demonstrate extraordinary courage and resourcefulness, political courage and wisdom, to break the taboo and face head-on the unspeakable tragedy that took place 20 years ago and resolve “June Fourth” with the truth. If this should happen, you will have brought a great blessing upon our people and your achievement will go down in history.
* A quote from the first song in a collection of nine titled “Willow Branch” by Tang poet, Liu Yuxi.
** A reference to the “Two Whatevers” policy articulated by Hua Guofeng, who succeeded Mao Zedong as the chairman of the Communist Party of China upon Mao’s death: “We will resolutely uphold whatever policy decisions Chairman Mao made, and unswervingly follow whatever instructions Chairman Mao gave.”
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 as to respect their wishes.