Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials have approached individual members of the organization Tiananmen Mothers, offering compensation for family members who were killed in the Tiananmen Square massacre. The mothers have declined and asked officials for an open dialogue.
This June 4 marks the twenty-second anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, when CCP leader Deng Xiaoping ordered the army to suppress the democracy movement, reportedly killing thousands.
On the occasion of the twenty-second anniversary, the Tiananmen Mothers wrote an open letter, which has been published by Human Rights in China (HRIC) (http://www.hrichina.org/content/5349).
The letter states, “The Tiananmen Mothers have repeatedly appealed to the government over the past 16 years for dialogue, yet government authorities have ignored us. This year, the silence was finally broken. This should have been welcome. But what in fact does this belated response mean? If the authorities merely want to settle the June Fourth matter with money and to do it under the table, then what kind of results will this produce?”
One of the Tiananmen Mothers, Zhang Xianling, said to the BBC on May 31, “if the government were really sincere, it would not have contacted individuals but the whole group. Tiananmen Mothers have been asking the government to talk with us as a group, openly.”
Ding Zilin, a representative of the group, told Groupe Radio France Internationale on May 31 said, “The Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau visited some of the families of the victims this February to have private communications. They visited on February 20, April 3, and around May 20. The visitors said they wanted to have private communication with the victims’ families on a personal level to discuss how to solve the Tiananmen issue.”
Members of the Tiananmen Mothers have been monitored and harassed in various ways by Public Security for years. They now complain that those who have been monitoring them are the same individuals sent to discuss compensation with them.
Ding told Voice of America on May 31, “The people sent by the government for a dialogue are the same ones who have been monitoring the victims. This in itself is unjust.”
The Mothers believe compensation by itself is not sufficient. The letter states, “In 1995, we began making three demands to resolve the June Fourth issue: truth, compensation, and accountability.”
One official told Ding that discussing the truth of June 4 is difficult. Ding told Groupe Radio France Internationale, “One of the authorities said, ‘it’s hard to talk about the truth. It has been so many years. It was a mess then. It’s hard to investigate because some people have died and some are alive.’
“Of course the ‘alive’ one could only refer to former Prime Minister Li Peng, I think! Then he asked one victim’s family member, ‘So, how much do you want?’”
Li Peng was premier in 1989 and ordered martial law on May 20, setting the stage for the massacre on June 4.
Recognizing the difficulty of discussing the true significance of what happened on June 4, the Mothers in 2006 changed their demands, setting aside for the time being the demand that the truth be discussed.
At that time, the Mothers added demands involving the “basic rights and interests of the victims.”
These include: “removing all surveillance and personal restrictions imposed upon the June Fourth victims and their families; allowing the families of the dead to mourn their loved ones without interference; and the relevant government departments’ providing pure humanitarian assistance to the victims experiencing hardships.”
The letter says the principle behind these demands is that “the souls of those killed during June Fourth shall not be defiled; their families shall not be dishonored. We hereby reiterate today: all matters can be discussed except these two.”
The letter speaks of the fear that the CCP has for the Jasmine Revolutions that have been taking place in the Middle East and North Africa. It concludes by saying, “the situation since February of this year has been the worst since June Fourth. It has been the harshest period since June 4, 1989. Silence has reigned across the country. To our surprise, it was against this grim backdrop that public security agencies have initiated private, individual conversations and dialogues with some of the families of the June Fourth victims. How can this not be strange?"