The Tiananmen Mothers, a group representing the victims of the 1989 military crackdown on the student-led pro-democracy movement in Beijing, have called on China’s parliament to facilitate compensation claims by its members.
In an open letter ahead of annual parliamentary sessions this month, the group warned the ruling Chinese Communist Party that repressive regimes could be wiped away in no time, citing the removal of former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi during the Arab Spring revolution last year.
“In today’s world, the civilized forces of the international community cannot tolerate impunity for leaders who have repressed, abused, and even massacred their own people,” said the letter.
It was signed by 122 living relatives of victims and addressed to the National People’s Congress (NPC), the country’s parliament, and its advisory body, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).
It called on parliament to delay no more in reappraising the student-led pro-democracy movement and its suppression by People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops, which it called “the most brutal atrocity to occur during the past century of peace in China.”
“The June 4th massacre inflicted serious harm on the country and the people, and caused thousands of families to lose their loved ones and tens of thousands of people to be injured and become disabled,” the letter said.
No form of public memorial has ever been held for those who died when the People’s Liberation Army cleared thousands of protesters from the center of the city, and police regularly clamp down on any form of public protest around the June 4 anniversary.
The number of people killed on the night of June 3-4 remains a mystery. China’s official death toll is 241, including 36 students.
The crackdown set off a wave of condemnation across the globe, and for several years China was treated as a near-pariah, as Western governments offered asylum to student leaders fleeing into exile.
The Tiananmen Mothers, which represents all victims of the crackdown who died or were maimed, has previously accused the government this week of offering secret compensation deals to some victims.
Many of its members have tried to pursue compensation claims through Chinese courts, so far with no success.
The group called for a dialogue with the NPC on a reappraisal of the crackdown, and for victims’ families to be allowed to pursue legal claims against the government.
It also called for a new investigation into the incident, “reasonable compensation” for victims’ families and for those responsible to be held judicially accountable.
“Once again, we are speaking out on behalf of the victims,” said Tiananmen Mothers founder and spokeswoman Ding Zilin. “This was…an act of brutality, a bloody massacre, that was perpetrated on the people by the government in peacetime.”
“Its nature cannot be covered up; neither can it be denied,” she said.
She said any government that had carried out such an act owed a “debt of blood” to its citizens.
“This debt of blood must eventually be repaid, and we, the families of the victims, have been extremely restrained,” Ding said. “We want this debt to be repaid and resolved through legal channels.”
“This is the main point of this year’s letter.”
The CPPCC annual session will convene in Beijing on Saturday, while the NPC session begins on Monday. Both meetings run for around 10 days.
While some political debate can be heard among more energetic delegates on the sidelines of the parliament, the heavily scripted and often sleepy main sessions are still effectively a rubber stamp for Communist Party policy.
Reported by Lin Ping for RFA’s Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.