Skip to content Skip to navigation

Interview with family of the victim - Sun Hui

January 31, 1999

Family members of Sun Hui

Today’s eyewitnesses are the family members of former Beijing University student Sun Hui. Sun was born in Ningxia in 1970, the youngest of three siblings. He has an older brother and an older sister. His parents, who are employed in the mining industry, worked very hard in raising him, and Sun Hui was a very hard worker himself. As a result, he scored the highest in his district for the college entrance exams and was accepted into the chemistry department of Beijing University in 1988. Sun Hui’'s father Sun Chengkang, parent of three college graduates says:

Ever since he was little, Sun Hui was a child of exceptional intelligence. From first grade to high school, he was always first in his class. In 1987 Sun Hui told me that he had tested into college one year early. But I responded that he still had one year of high school to finish. Besides which, the school that he was accepted to wasn’t very well-known. I said it was still better to [wait a year] and get into a good college! In 1988, after completing high school, Sun Hui took the college entrance exam [again], got the highest score in our entire district and was accepted to Beijing University. At home, he was very filial to his parents. Whenever his grandmother, aunt and especially his great-aunt were sick, he would help, changing their bedpans. In the neighborhood, he was respectful to the old and caring toward the young. Everyone liked him.

This is Sun Hui’s sister Sun Ning:

Our parents were always very concerned about our education. From childhood, my older brother and I were impatient in temperament. But Sun Hui was always very open and good natured. We were all very close.

Sun Hui'’s father remembers:

Raising three children, our lives were very difficult. I earned little more than 100 yuan a month. I was also supporting two elderly family members. Basically, we survived on porridge and tea. My wife worked in the mines from early morning to late at night, earning 80 cents a day. Somehow we managed to make ends meet.

On the morning of June 4, 1989, after Sun Hui and his classmates had returned to campus from Tiananmen Square, it was discovered that one person was missing. As a class officer, Sun Hui strongly advocated that someone return to search for the person. Yin Ziwei, a student at the Beijing College of Forestry who was also from Ningxia, was very close to Sun Hui and is now married to his sister. He recalls:

At that time they said it was their classmate He Wei. He lived in their dorm, and I knew him very well. The class had gone as a group, but in returning from the Square, they called roll and discovered he was missing. Sun Hui willingly took on the responsibility of searching for the missing student because he was a member of the class athletic committee and the department’s head of athletics. Also, he was tall, strong and trained in martial arts.

That was the morning of June 4, at around 8 o’clock. Wearing a Beijing University T-shirt, he rode his bicycle past the campus gates. Along the virtually abandoned roads, Sun Hui searched for his missing classmate. Shortly afterwards, a call from Beijing Children’s Hospital came to Beijing University. By the time that his teacher and classmates had rushed to the hospital, Sun Hui had already breathed his last breath. His body was covered in blood. Sun Chengkang says:

It happened on June 4. But on June 10, I was still going to work. When his classmates returned [from the hospital], they didn’t dare tell me. [Instead] they told my neighbor. When my neighbor told me, my entire family was shocked beyond words… I couldn’t sleep for an entire night. At that time, Sun Hui’s mother had been sick. When she heard about this, she essentially lost consciousness. When his grandmother heard, she was overwrought for days. Not long afterwards, she died too.

At approximately the same time, Sun Ning, Sun Hui’s sister, who was studying at Shenyang Academy of Architecture and Engineering, also received the news. She recalls:

The vice-principal of my school came looking for me. He said that my little brother was sick, and he told me to go to Beijing. I took the overnight train. Even when I was on the train, I didn’t think that anything had happened. I thought perhaps he had harmed his health by participating in the hunger strike. I had been to his dorm in the past. [But this time] when I got there, I found that the door to his room was inscribed with couplets proclaiming: "Sun Hui Eternal!" I was in complete disbelief…Then I saw Sun Hui’s body at the hospital of Beijing University.

…On the morning June 4, Sun Hui, a student in Beijing University’s chemistry department, class of ’88, was shot by martial law troops on Fuxingmen Road. He was only 19 years old. Once notified, Sun Hui’s family members rushed to Beijing from Ningbo and Shenyang, respectively. To this day, the memories of those events are etched in their minds.

…On the morning June 4, Sun Hui, a student in Beijing University’s chemistry department, class of ’88, was shot by martial law troops on Fuxingmen Road. He was only 19 years old. Once notified, Sun Hui’s family members rushed to Beijing from Ningbo and Shenyang, respectively. To this day, the memories of those events are etched in their minds. Father Sun Chengkang says:

At that time the atmosphere in Beijing was very solemn. Smoke was still rising up everywhere. Troops filled the streets. With some difficulty, we got to Beijing University. There were people there to receive us and they arranged our accommodation. We waited three days until they let us take Sun Hui’s body out of the [the morgue’s] storage freezer. His sister, aunt, a classmate and I washed Sun Hui’s body. At first, we could not find the bullet wound. Blood covered his entire body. His clothing was soaked in it. In the end, we found the bullet wound under his armpit.

Sun Ning: One of Sun Hui’s hands was on his chest. There was no way to straighten out his arm. We bought him clothing, but there was no way to dress him. We had to cut through his undershirt to get it off him. Once it was off, [we saw] that his body was completely bloody. We also found that his body had a very large hole. His eyes were shut very tightly…

According to the hospital’s analysis, Sun Hui was riding his bicycle, with both hands on the handlebars, when he was shot in a way that he could have done little to guard against. The bullet entered below his left armpit, passed through his heart and exited from under his right armpit. Sun Hui fell to the street dead. But the crowd, still hoping he could be saved, took him to Children’s Hospital. In discussing these events, sister Sun Ning clearly remembers days she spent with Sun Hui.

When he went to visit me, he told me that he was participating in the hunger strike. All along, I was very worried about his health. I had asked him to come and see me because I thought that as a university student, I had some understanding of the student movement and because going back to Ningxia was too far. When the hunger strike was over, Sun Hui went straight from Tiananmen Square to take the train to Shenyang. I went to pick him up.

I thought that Sun Hui had changed a lot, and I felt that he had really grown-up. He had become a mature young man. Because of this, we discussed a number of matters, including his view of the student movement. I found that he truly had his own viewpoints. I no longer considered him the child he was when he first left home…At that time, we were very happy because we had not seen each other in six months.

The happy reunion of Sun Hui and his sister lasted only three days. Then he had nochoice but to return to Beijing. Sun Ning says:

Actually, Sun Hui did not want to return to Beijing at that time. But the country was broadcasting an announcement for all university students to return to classes... Students who had participated in the hunger strike were especially asked to return for medical check-ups. So I let him go back without a second thought.

On the 30th I sent Sun Hui to the train station. The train was supposed to be traveling in the direction that I was dropping him off, but it actually came from another direction. I was feeling very sullen. How could I not have known what was to happen? I remember distinctly that it was the Dragon Boat Festival that day. We even bought zongzi together [to celebrate]. Because of this, I dread this holiday even now…

…In this way, the short 19-year life of a brilliant student came to an end. Sun Hui had not yet completed his first year of college. He left his family entangled in endless sorrow.

Sun Ning: When we went to Babaoshan to pick up the ashes, my father was holding Sun Hui’s remains and said, "Someone who was so full of life has now come to this…"

Sun Chengkang: After hearing of Sun Hui’s [death] many of his teachers and classmates, including those from elementary and middle school, came forward to show their sympathy. In our small mountain village, many who did not even know us came to offer me comfort.

After returning to Ningxia, I was so distraught that I don’t even want to talk about it. There is no way to describe the pain of losing a son. Everyday, his mother’s face was wet with tears. She already had a heart condition. Now she can hardly get herself out of bed. I don’t know how much longer she can survive. Whenever she dreams of Sun Hui, she is incapacitated for days.

Sun Ning: Within one year, my father lost all of his teeth. Learning of this, I became so sad. My mother’s hair turned completely white soon afterwards. She can’t watch television now. She can’t bear to hear the sound of gunfire from the television. To her, when she hears gunshots, it’s as if she’s hearing the very shot that struck her son’s body… We…never dare to mention Sun Hui in front of my parents. Even if I’m feeling depressed about it, I dare not bring it up with my parents.

After the death of his son, Sun Chengkang, who has always an exemplary worker, was forced to shoulder yet another burden:

I am an engineer at my work unit. Sometimes my job requires me to travel. But I was no longer permitted to make these trips. Eventually, I couldn’t even go to Yinchuan. It was then that I realized that I was being watched and controlled. My child died, and we weren’t given a word of explanation. Then they put us under surveillance. My son died an innocent boy. What crime are we guilty of?

Sun Hui’s family believes that [the truth of June 4] is clear in the hearts of the Chinese people. Thus they wish to bravely speak out about the truth. They have faith that sooner or later, there will be a basic clarification [of what happened in 1989].

Translated by Judy M. Chen.

Explore Topics

709 Crackdown Access to Information Access to Justice Administrative Detention All about law Arbitrary Detention
Asset Transparency Bilateral Dialogue Black Jail Book Review Business And Human Rights Censorship
Charter 08 Children Chinese Law Circumvention technology Citizen Activism Citizen Journalists
Citizen Participation Civil Society Commentary Communist Party Of China Constitution Consumer Safety
Contending views Corruption Counterterrorism Courageous Voices Cultural Revolution Culture Matters
Current affairs Cyber Security Daily Challenges Democratic And Political Reform Demolition And Relocation  Dissidents
Education Elections Enforced Disappearance Environment Ethnic Minorities EU-China
Family Planning Farmers Freedom of Association Freedom of Expression Freedom of Press Freedom of Religion
Government Accountability Government regulation Government transparency Hong Kong House Arrest HRIC Translation
Hukou Human Rights Council Human rights developments Illegal Search And Detention Inciting Subversion Of State Power Information Control 
Information technology Information, Communications, Technology (ICT) International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) International Human Rights International perspective International Relations
Internet Internet Governance JIansanjiang lawyers' rights defense Judicial Reform June Fourth Kidnapping
Labor Camps Labor Rights Land, Property, Housing Lawyer's rights Lawyers Legal System
Letters from the Mainland Major Event (Environment, Food Safety, Accident, etc.) Mao Zedong Microblogs (Weibo) National People's Congress (NPC) New Citizens Movement
Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Olympics One country, two systems Online Activism Open Government Information Personal stories
Police Brutality Political commentary Political Prisoner Politics Prisoner Of Conscience Probing history
Propaganda Protests And Petitions Public Appeal Public Security Racial Discrimination Reeducation-Through-Labor
Rights Defenders Rights Defense Rule Of Law Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Special Topic State compensation
State Secrets State Security Subversion Of State Power Surveillance Technology Thoughts/Theories
Tiananmen Mothers Tibet Torture Typical cases United Nations US-China 
Uyghurs, Uighurs Vulnerable Groups Women Youth Youth Perspective