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Appeals for Justice

May 29, 2008

Despite official surveillance, harassment, and detention, Chinese voices have continued courageously to raise appeals for accountability and justice over the past 19 years. These voices include the Tiananmen Mothers, a group of June Fourth victims and their families; Dr. Jiang Yanyong, a People’s Liberation Army (PLA) surgeon who treated the wounded in 1989; intellectuals, scholars, and hundreds of ordinary Chinese citizens. Below are excerpts selected from some of the countless petitions, open letters and appeals to the Chinese authorities. They are testaments to the spirit, courage, and conscience of the Chinese people.

Tiananmen Mothers’ Open Letters

“Speak the truth, refuse to forget, seek justice, call upon conscience.”

Under the banner of the rights defender group Tiananmen Mothers, those wounded during the crackdown and the families of those who were killed or disappeared have come together to contest official claims about what really happened in 1989. The Tiananmen Mothers provide support to each other and work together to gather information. They have made several demands over the past 12 years, including:

  1. A full investigation into the crackdown;
  2. A public accounting and appropriate restitution;
  3. Prosecution of those responsible;
  4. Reassessment of the 1989 Democracy Movement; and, most recently,
  5. Dialogue with the authorities.

Below are a few excerpts from their recent public statements:

Open letter, February 2008

[W]e are disappointed that our requests, year after year, have come to nothing . . . [T]he government has repeatedly refused dialogue with the victims’ family members, how can [it] face the whole world? Is it really possible that, as the host of the 2008 Olympic Games, the government can be at ease allowing athletes from all over the world to tread on this piece of blood-stained soil and participate in the Olympics?1

Roundtable, May 20

In the model plays of the Cultural Revolution, there is a song lyric that goes, “Hatred in the heart must send forth shoots.” For us, too, hatred sends forth shoots, but the shoots growing from us are not those of revenge, but rather those that seek peace, justice, and tranquility.2

Open letter, February 2007

A just and reasonable resolution of the June Fourth question is an inevitable trend, and is what the people desire.3

Open letter in Le Figaro, March 2005

We ask the French—you who have consciences, who have the glorious tradition of democracy: Please open your eyes. Use the freedom of expression that you enjoy as citizens. Protest the disgraceful behavior of politicians who serve as accomplices in evil. If you do so, you will be friends, worthy of respect in the hearts and minds of the Chinese people.4

Open letter, June 1996

The June Fourth Incident, which has caused the Chinese people deep pain, happened almost seven years ago. Seven years ago, the People’s Congress Standing Committee, acting as the nation’s institution of highest authority, failed to listen to the voice of the people, and allowed the armed forces to drench Beijing in a bloodbath. After the incident, they also failed to face the aftermath squarely, and make prompt reparations. This disappoints us deeply.5

SARS Hero’s Call for Reassessment of June Fourth6

Dr. Jiang Yanyong, who became famous in 2003 for revealing the SARS epidemic cover-up, wrote an open letter to top government officials in 2004, explaining what he witnessed in June 1989 and calling for a reassessment. Parts of his letter are excerpted below.

To: Chairman and Vice-Chairmen of the National People’s Congress (NPC)
Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Standing Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC)
Members of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Central Committee Political Bureau
Premier and Vice-Premiers of the State Council

[. . .] I am a surgeon at the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Number 301 Hospital, and when June Fourth took place in 1989, I was the director of the hospital’s general surgery department. . . . I have been a surgeon for more than 30 years, and while a member of the medical team of the PLA Railway Corps, . . . I had faced groups of injured workers, but those injuries had resulted from inevitable accidents. . . . Lying before my eyes now in the grand Chinese capital of Beijing were ordinary citizens killed by their own soldiers. . . .

[. . .] On the evening of June 3, not one of the medical workers in our hospital who took part in saving lives had imagined that such an inexplicable tragedy could occur.

[. . .] Recently, I read the book, Sheng Zhe yu Si Zhe: Weile Zhongguo de Mingtian [生者与死者:为了中国的明天], written by Ding Zilin of the Tiananmen Mothers. [Ding and other family members of the victims] have used a variety of means to express their wish—demanding that the government should seriously and responsibly explain to them the killing of their family members, which is an entirely reasonable request. Who among us does not have parents, children, brothers and sisters? Who would have an innocent family member killed and not voice the same demand? Any Party member, Chinese citizen, and human being must courageously support their just demand.

[. . .] Our party must address the errors it has made, and the earlier and more thoroughly these errors are resolved, the better. I believe that a correct assessment of June Fourth is what the people want, and that it will not cause unrest among the people.

Please acknowledge receipt of this letter.

My address: No. 26, Zhuge Zhuang, Wanshou Road, 5-1204

[Signed] Jiang Yanyong, Department of Surgery, Beijing 301 Hospital
[Dated] February 24, 2004

192 Chinese Citizens of Conscience

On November 5, 2002, HRIC received a copy of an open letter to the 16th Party Congress signed by 192 opposition activists from 17 provinces and cities, including Beijing and Shanghai, which called for a reassessment of June Fourth and rehabilitation of Zhao Ziyang.7 The signatories of the open letter include former political prisoner Pu Yong, who died on November 2. Informed sources say Pu Yong wished to participate in the open letter as his last opportunity to express his political demands. Below is an excerpt from this letter.

Open letter, November 2002

To the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China: We are raising these ideas and suggestions because we firmly believe that the various problems embedded in China’s society have all been caused by a single-party dictatorship. The only way to resolve contradictions and settle societal crisis is through systemic reform and political democratization. [. . .] Thus, as a collective body of Chinese citizens who abide by our consciences, we deeply hope that the ruling party will take on this historical task with both courage and reason: through reform, we can atone for past grievances, remold China’s image, promote the modernization and globalization of China, and establish a China with a free, democratic, unified, and prosperous future.

Citizens of China (192 Persons)8

45 Chinese Scholars and Intellectuals

In May of 1995, the United Nations Year for Tolerance, a group of 45 prominent Chinese scholars and intellectuals issued a joint appeal letter calling for more tolerance in China.

Letter of appeal, May 1995

Turning our gaze to our own ancient culture, a lack of tolerance for dissenting voices has persisted for thousands of years right down to the present day with no sign of weakening. In 1955, Hu Feng and several of his cohorts were charged with the crime of “forming a counterrevolutionary clique” after they submitted a letter stating their views on literature and art, and over 2,000 others were also implicated. In 1957, those intellectuals who blindly responded to the [Party’s] call for a “rectification of work style and an airing of views” were all branded as “Rightists.” Their numbers accounted for more than 11 percent (at least 550,000 people) of all the intellectuals in China. As for the ten-year calamity beginning in 1966 when a “revolution” in culture was staged, that was an even greater national disaster in which dissent was completely wiped out. After 1978, the situation changed somewhat. False accusations were largely redressed, a more relaxed situation began to appear and the economy began to develop rapidly. But due to a lack of the tolerance that is essential to modernization and “reform and opening up,” in the true sense of those terms, there resulted the events of June 4, 1989, that human tragedy that shocked the world, as well as subsequent incidents that violated citizens’ basic rights.

To mark the United Nations Year of Tolerance, we should do our utmost to propagate tolerance, which is necessary to modern civilization, and strive for the true implementation in our country of the United Nations’ goal to “promote and encourage respect for the human rights and basic freedoms of all mankind” as stipulated in the United Nations Charter.9

Chinese Dissidents’ Sixth Anniversary Appeal

On May 31, 1995, Wang Zhihong, Wang Dan, Bao Zunxin, Liu Nianchun, Liu Xiaobo, Jiang Qisheng and several other intellectuals issued a letter entitled: “Drawing from a Lesson Paid for in Blood, The Process of Promoting Democracy and Rule of Law—An Appeal on the Sixth Anniversary of June Fourth.”

Open letter, May 1995

Reflecting on June Fourth, we believe that a major cause for the tragic bloodshed was the inability of the governing authorities to confront and adapt to global tides of openness, diversification, and democratization. They do not resolve China’s social problems through democracy and rule of law. They still maintain an autocratic mentality, regarding politically-involved citizens as enemies. On the sixth anniversary of June Fourth, we implore every citizen of China, especially governing authorities who have implemented errors in their policy decisions, to rethink this tragedy with an attitude of repentance, reason, and responsibility. Learn from this—a lesson soaked in fresh blood—so that during this period of change, China can avoid getting stuck in a tragic rut.

The tragedy of June Fourth warns government leaders that they must not only abide by the constitution published in 1982, but even more importantly, they must formulate a series of laws on the basis of and in accordance with the constitution. This will create a government with laws for the people to follow, and allow for citizens’ constitutional rights to be protected by feasible, detailed, and clear laws. It would also allow for all disputes involving citizens’ rights to have an independent judicial system, with constitutional courts that make impartial decisions.

The Chinese people have met with many tribulations on their journey toward a modern democratic society. June Fourth is one instance of enormous suffering. Even so, if we have the awareness, wisdom, courage, faith, and will to examine our own bleeding wounds, suffering becomes precious wealth. A country that has experienced such hardship is rich, deep, and brimming with hope.10


1. Human Rights in China, “Chinese Authorities Should Respond to Calls for Dialogue by the Tiananmen Mothers,” February 27, 2008, ^

2. Human Rights in China, “Tiananmen Mothers Roundtable Calls for Official Accountability,” May 31, 2007, ^

3. Human Rights in China, “Tiananmen Mothers Call for End to Censorship over June 4th Crackdown,” February 27, 2007, ^

4. Ding Zilin, Liu Xiaobo, Yu Jie [丁子霖、刘晓波、余杰], “An Open Letter to the People of France: The European Union’s Lifting of the Arms Embargo on China Will only Encourage Tyranny” [致法国人民的公开信—欧盟解除对华武器禁运是对暴政的鼓励], March 21, 2005, ^

5. “An Open Letter from Ding Zilin and 31 June Fourth Victims and Family Members to the People’s Congress Standing Committee” [丁子霖等31位六四难属发表给全国人大常委会公开信], Chinese News Digest [中国新闻电脑网络], June 4, 1996, ^

6. For the full text of the open letter in English, see “SARS Hero’s Call for Reassessment of June 4th,” China Rights Forum, 2004, no. 2, . ^

7. A former premier of the People’s Republic of China, Zhao Ziyang was purged for his sympathetic stance toward the students involved in June Fourth. He spent the last 15 years of his life under house arrest. ^

8. Human Rights in China [中国人权], “192 Sign Joint Letter Urging 16th National Congress to Re-evaluate June 4” [十七省市反对派人士联署致十六大公开信促重新评价六四], November 5, 2002, ^

9. Human Rights in China, “Statement: Greeting the United Nations Year of Tolerance; Appealing for the Realization of Tolerance in China,” May 15, 1995, ^

10. “Learning from a Lesson Paid for in Blood, the Process of Promoting Democracy and Rule of Law—An Appeal on the Sixth Anniversary of June Fourth” [汲取血的教训,推进民主与法治进程—“六·四”六周年呼吁书], May 31, 1995, Chinese News Digest [中国新闻电脑网络], ^

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