At Tiananmen Square 24 years ago each protester who was killed was also someone’s son or daughter, husband or wife, brother or sister. The political tragedy of June 4, 1989 is made up of thousands of personal tragedies.
In an interview with Voice of America in 2009, Ms. Ding Zilin, the founder of the Tiananmen Mothers, tried to come to grips with the meaning for her of the loss of her son, Jiang Jielian.
A former philosophy professor at the People’s University of China, Ding said that even though more than 20 years had passed since the June 4 incident, the sorrow and pain had not subsided. In fact, they have worsened as she gets older each year. She lives with the grim prospect of carrying them to the grave.
Professor Ding said that people in the same situation comfort, encourage, and support each other, which lends her the strength and support to carry on.
China’s State Security Department has told Ding she is being used when she accepts interviews from Western media. Ding doesn’t think she is “being used” at all. Quite the contrary, she thinks the media gives her an opportunity to speak out.
Ding said the June 4 tragedy is a tragedy of the system caused by its authoritarianism, and under that system, Deng Xiaoping could order 300,000 soldiers to kill unarmed students.
If it were not for the system, it would not have been possible, so it was an issue of the system. Ding said it would not be possible to resolve the June 4 issue under the current totalitarian system.
“Once the truth is exposed and the reactions it engenders ensue, I am afraid its power will be impossible to estimate,” Ding said.
Ding sobbed audibly when talking about her dead son.
“It is my son’s death that helped me to step out of the stupidity and ignorance that the Communist Party culture had molded into me, and allowed me to regain my self-esteem and conscience as a human being,” Ding said.
“Whenever I think about it, all these were exchanged for my son’s life and blood, I feel pain and regret,” she said. “The only thing I can do to make up for it is to try my best and soldier on, notwithstanding the difficulties.”
Ding has been traveling for many years to fight for justice for her son. She has been arrested, followed, and verbally abused by State Security Department agents.
She said that the only thing she cares about is to try as long as she lives to do her best to do something to resolve the June 4 incident. The Tiananmen Mothers have agreed to seek three things from the regime: truth, compensation, and accountability.