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Chinese Authorities Should Respond to Calls for Dialogue by the Tiananmen Mothers

February 27, 2008

NEW YORK - At the request of Ding Zilin on behalf of the Tiananmen Mothers, Human Rights in China is releasing the attached open letter to the National People’s Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), which are scheduled to meet in early March. Issued just five months before the opening of the Olympic Games, the open letter appeals to the newly-elected members of the NPC and CPPCC, calling for direct dialogue between the government, victims and their families. It also renews calls for action made since 1995: an investigation of the crackdown; public apologies and compensation; and accountability of those responsible.

Past human rights violations like the crackdown on June 4, 1989, are not erased by the passage of time. Only when demands for justice by its own people are addressed can China truly move forward as a responsible member of the international community.
— Sharon Hom, Executive Director of HRIC

The Tiananmen Mothers point out that while the Chinese government advocates dialogue to resolve differences at the international level, "we are disappointed that our requests, year after year, have come to nothing." Since last year’s open letter, three more members of the group have passed away, bringing the total to 17 family members and supporters who have passed away without any redress or official response. As the opening of the Olympic Games in Beijing looms, the Tiananmen Mothers ask, when the 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?"

On the eve of the opening of the NPC and the CPPCC, Human Rights in China strongly supports the requests of the Tiananmen Mothers for dialogue and the repeated requests for investigation, compensation, and accountability. The Chinese authorities can demonstrate their rhetorical commitment to a "harmonious society" by responding positively to the Tiananmen Mothers’ requests for a lawful resolution of the June Fourth "incident" to heal the wound left behind. "Past human rights violations like the crackdown on June 4, 1989, are not erased by the passage of time," said Human Rights in China Executive Director Sharon Hom. "Only when demands for justice by its own people are addressed can China truly move forward as a responsible member of the international community."

  • Support the Tiananmen Mothers! Sign the e-petition supporting calls for truth and justice for the 1989 Tiananmen Square victims:
  • Take Action for human rights defenders! Visit Human Rights in China’s 2008 Take Action Olympics Campaign:



On the eve of the Eleventh National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, we, a group of mothers of those killed in the June Fourth Massacre and, therefore, victims ourselves, earnestly request the following of you, the newly elected representatives of the NPC and the CPPCC:

On behalf of those who lost their lives during the June Fourth Massacre, we seek justice and equity to sooth the wounds of history. We wholeheartedly implore each of you: do not disregard the great trust that has been placed in you, do not insult your mission as representatives. Instead, we urge you, the two Congresses, to carry out a direct, equal, and sincere dialogue on the issue of the June Fourth Massacre with the victims and victims’ families.

This is the eleventh time we have made an appeal to the NPC and CPPCC sessions. You who serve as the people's representatives and hold sacred legislative power: if you have any trace of conscience left, if your hearts retain even the smallest amount of sympathy, then how can you be so callous and indifferent?

In the past years, to facilitate this dialogue, we repeatedly requested the impartial and rational resolution of the following three points;

  1. That the Standing Committee of the NPC form a specialized investigation committee on the June Fourth Massacre. Such committee should conduct an independent, open, and impartial investigation into the June Fourth Massacre and openly publish the results of the investigation, including the names and numbers of those killed in the June Fourth Massacre.
  2. That the Standing Committee of the NPC require the bureau in charge of the June Fourth Massacre to issue a public apology to the family of each casualty of the Massacre in accordance with the law. The Standing Commitee of the NPC should draft and pass a specialized "Law on the Compensation of Victims of the June Fourth Massacre" and give the victims and relatives of the June Fourth Massacre their lawful compensation.
  3. The Standing Committee of the NPC should designate a prosecutorial organ to file and investigate cases from the June Fourth Massacre, and punish those found responsible in accordance with the law.

At the same time, we have repeatedly stated: "Issues remaining after June Fourth must be resolved through the legal system, in accordance with the law, without interference by any party, faction or individual. They must not be resolved according to the pattern of previous political campaigns, after which the government has always issued its own account of a ‘re-evaluation and exoneration.’ In light of this, we call upon the National People’s Congress to make use of the legislative process to discuss, review and issue a resolution on June Fourth issues."

However, we are disappointed that our requests, year after year, have come to nothing. Now that the 19th anniversary of June Fourth is approaching, and the splendid Olympic Games will be held in Beijing, China’s capital, people will say: "This is a government that has sent tanks and armored vehicles into its capital to kill countless innocent students and civilians; a government that for more than 18 long years has not dared to confront the aftermath of the tragedy and has repeatedly refused dialogue with the victims’ family members. How can this government 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?"

"China is making ‘progress.’ He is like a newly awakened giant, rushing forward in huge strides. The floor shakes because of his footsteps. Yet, how many people know that this giant is rushing forward with an extremely deep wound?" This was written by female Taiwanese writer Long Yingtai. Yes, over the past 18 years, China has witnessed dramatic changes in its economic, political and social arenas. The West has long since given up their sanctions against and isolation of China following June Fourth, and has resumed cooperation in the areas of the economy and trade, technology, culture and even the military. At present, Chinese leaders are making use of high-profile slogans such as "harmonious society" and "peaceful rise." Nevertheless, who can deny the fact that the disastrous aftermath of that brutal massacre, one of the greatest tragedies of our times, even after 18 years, is still unresolved. The wounds deep in the heart of the people are not yet healed. Because of this, the current political and societal landscape continues to deteriorate into disorder and imbalance. This proves that June Fourth, this bloody page in history, has yet to be turned, and remains a "knot" deep inside the people’s heart.

Over these past 18 endless years, we, the victims of the crackdown, along with many persons of upstanding moral conscience, have made an effort using many different methods to return historical justice to "June Fourth." We have gradually come to understand from our blood, tears, and pain, that "June Fourth" is not only the misfortune of individual households, but also that of the whole nation. This misfortune originates from suspicion and hostility between individuals, from the Chinese people’s indifference toward human life and values, and from a lack of civility and legal order in this land. However, the way to rectify this misfortune is not to counter violence with violence, nor is it for us to murder those of our own social class, as has often happened in Chinese history. One cannot rely on the present rulers’ repeated slogans like the "three represents" or "people-friendly strategies." We can only rectify this misfortune by peacefully ending traditional authoritarian politics on Chinese soil and upholding the authority of modern democracy and constitutionalism.

Let each citizen cast away the submissive nature and historical inertia that have been passed down from the imperial era. Let each establish an understanding of the importance of universal human values. Based on this common understanding, we have abandoned the intolerant idea of "an eye for an eye" and the extreme position of countering evil with evil; we have decided instead to use the greatest sincerity and restraint as we seek to peacefully resolve the "June Fourth" heartache. For us, the victims’ families, it is difficult and painful to make this rational decision. However, in order to avoid the escalation of conflict and the upheaval of society, we have done so.

We firmly believe history will prove that dialogue is the necessary route for justice and the reasonable settlement of the "June Fourth" problem; there are no alternatives. Nevertheless, history only offers limited opportunities for resolution, and to reject this present opportunity would be to continue this crime against the nation. Now is the time: those leaders who are truly open-minded and have the courage to fulfill their duties should wake up and make some kind of decision.

The world has entered the age of dialogue, yet mainland China remains behind, stagnant, in the age of resistance. This embarrassing and intolerable situation, which no one is willing to face, must end as soon as possible. We note that the Chinese government advocates the use of dialogue to solve differences and disputes in international affairs; we also note that the central government has already set a timetable for the direct election of Hong Kong’s Chief Executive. We therefore have even stronger ground for our request that the government solve domestic differences and disputes through a similar method. If China, with its historical tradition of despotic rule, can strive to replace hostility with dialogue, it would benefit the entire nation and be a blessing to all people.

As this country enters into more dialogue, it will manifest more civility and legal order and less ignorance and despotism. We do not blindly believe in the idea of dialogue. It is difficult and tedious. But compared with resistance, dialogue is obviously the higher road. Dialogue should not lead society into opposition and hatred, but rather, into tolerance and reconciliation. In its past history and present reality, our country China has been enormously deficient in this kind of tolerance and reconciliation. Over the past millennium, including these last 100 years, our ancestors have suffered the side-effects of malignant interaction between the government and the people! Today, those with any amount of vision in China should step up their efforts and bravely make new strides forward to end the history of misfortune in our nation.

We are now living in a time of change from despotism to constitutional democracy. This is an unavoidable trend that is in accordance with popular sentiment. In this process of political change, the "June Fourth" incident has stood like a barrier that cannot be passed. The proper settlement of the "June Fourth" question would represent not only a conclusion, but also a new beginning. We hope wholeheartedly that all the representatives will, through your pragmatic endeavors, establish and strengthen the power of the lawmaking body so that settlement of the "June Fourth" issues can soon be added to the agenda. We sincerely hope for each of you that during this session of the NPC and the CPPCC, you do not go against your consciences or let your people down.

Finally, we also sincerely urge China’s governing authorities to consider the situation as a whole. Grasp this golden, historic opportunity to respond positively to our aforementioned requests, and propose a timetable for dialogue on the "June Fourth" issues as soon as possible.

February 28, 2008

Tiananmen Mothers group meeting

Tiananmen Mothers group gathering at the Chinese New Year