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“Commemorating the 23rd Anniversary of the Passing of the Victims of the 1989 June Fourth Crackdown”: Essay by the Tiananmen Mothers

May 31, 2012

At the request of the Tiananmen Mothers, Human Rights in China (HRIC) is issuing the following essay that commemorates the victims of June Fourth on its 23rd anniversary.

In the essay, signed by 150 individuals, the Tiananmen Mothers state that their struggle will not cease, and they will not give up or change their demands for truth, compensation, and accountability.

Commemorating the 23rd Anniversary
of the Passing of the Victims of the 1989 June Fourth Crackdown

The Tiananmen Mothers

May 31, 2012

[Translation by Human Rights in China]

This year marks the 23rd anniversary of the passing of the victims of the 1989 June Fourth crackdown. This autumn, the Communist Party of China (CPC) will hold its 18th National Congress.

We recall that 10 years ago, the new administration of President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao was established during the 16th Party Congress. At that time, we, the Tiananmen Mothers, solemnly issued the following appeal to the new session of the CPC Central Committee:

We sincerely appeal to the Party’s new Central Committee to take the opportunity of resolving the June Fourth issue to allay the people's discontent, defuse a crisis, achieve reconciliation between the government and the people, and systemically prevent large-scale social unrest from occurring.

If the Party acknowledges not in words but in practice that democracy and human rights are the universal values pursued by modern, civilized people, and are the only way in which China can modernize, then we as Chinese citizens would have reason to look forward to this: that the new Central Committee will use the courage and vision responsible for the long-term interests of the country and people to re-evaluate June Fourth and put a decisive end to the obsolete one-party dictatorship system, thereby promoting and proceeding in comprehensive reform politically, economically, and socially.

A pity! These ten years passed like a dream.

Ten years ago, the Party and country's leaders at least verbally acknowledged that democracy and human rights were universal human values. But today, the mainstream media and the Internet in mainland China have swept “universal values” into the garbage heap, not to mention the idea that democracy and human rights are the only way for China to modernize. A just resolution of the June Fourth issue remains far off as well. When looking to the future, people feel utterly helpless and confused.

People also notice that the problems raised by the Tiananmen Mothers in those early years have not lessened; rather, they have increased and intensified at a rapid pace. China's violations of human and civil rights have reached an extreme level, the gap between rich and poor has widened dramatically, systemic corruption is out of control, the moral bottom line is near collapse, sudden mass incidents keep occurring again and again.... Maintaining stability has become China's top priority in order to preserve the firmness of the ruling party’s power. The massive institutional damage to the Chinese nation over this past decade is incalculable.

China has experienced rapid economic development during Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao’s term. This could have provided a golden opportunity to initiate systemic political reform and a just resolution to the problems that have remained after June Fourth. However, the ossified bureaucrats, with Hu Jintao at the helm, kept to the beaten path and let the historic opportunity for a peaceful transformation over these ten years slip by for nothing.

In this oppressive and stagnant political climate, Wen Jiabao alone has repeatedly called for political reform, saying that there is no other choice but to move forward with reform and that stagnation and decline provide no prospects for the future. He went so far as to echo Deng Xiaoping on his Southern Tour in 1992: “To not pursue reform and opening up will lead only to a dead end.” During the National People’s Congress (NPC) and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) sessions earlier this year, Wen also said, “Without successful political reform, the gains we have made in our economic reform may be lost, and such historical tragedies as the Cultural Revolution may happen again in China.” His words sounded truthful, and his tone was earnest. But even as our fellow countrymen admired what he said, it also made us feel that it was more talk than promise.

As if this were a deliberate recitation, a March 20 article in the Financial Times reported that in recent years, Wen Jiabao has proposed redressing June Fourth on three separate occasions in secret meetings with the CPC leadership. Each time, his proposal was blocked by his colleagues. This kind of rumor also makes people wonder.

While Wen Jiabao’s discussion about redressing June Fourth cannot be verified, we hope that his calls for political reform are genuine. But even if they were, what can be done in reality?

China's current political system is convoluted, and the slightest change in any one part can affect the entire system. In China today, the special interest group cannot be destabilized by any one influential person. Its interests have been maximized and solidified and are well networked. The group resembles the four great clans shielded by the “Official’s Protective Charm” in the classic novel A Dream of the Red Chamber. Under the Charm, these clans “were closely connected, all got hurt when any one of them got hurt, all received honor when any one of them was honored, helped one another to conceal things, and looked after one other.” In the eyes of the people, even if Wen Jiabao were genuinely proposing to redress June Fourth, he would still have to retreat when he runs into this “Official’s Protective Charm.” At best, his would be nothing more than an effort to secure a decent reputation posthumously.

As could be expected, Wen Jiabao lamented the difficulties of reform in a press conference during the NPC and CPPCC sessions: “Reform will not be able to succeed without the consciousness, the support, the enthusiasm, and the creativity of our people.” This is tantamount to telling the people that they cannot rely on the CPC leadership, or the few uncorrupt leaders within the Party, to implement reform. Rather, they can only rely on the vast power of the people and the pressure from them. Historical experience has made clear for a long time that Chinese people experienced an awakening through the violent storm of 1989. The unprecedented enthusiasm and creative spirit demonstrated by the millions of people in Tiananmen Square have long been entered into the annals of history. Scenes of that storm are still fresh in the mind of every eyewitness. The fact is that the people's awakening, enthusiasm, and creative spirit were crushed to pieces by the tanks and machine guns of those with might. Not long after, people were forced to forget, to gradually erase the events from their memory. We believe that the only way forward for China's rulers is to atone and make up for the sins of their past. There is no other way. It is never too late to salvage the situation.

Our demands are the same as always. So long as the Tiananmen Mothers exist, our struggle for justice will not cease. So long as we can protest, our three demands—for truth, compensation, and accountability—will remain. We will not give up, and we will not change.

May the souls of the victims of June Fourth soon rest in peace!


丁子霖 Ding Zilin 张先玲 Zhang Xianling 周淑庄 Zhou Shuzhuang
李雪文 Li Xuewen 徐    珏 Xu Jue 尹    敏 Yin Min
杜东旭 Du Dongxu 宋秀玲 Song Xiuling 于    清 Yu Qing
郭丽英 Guo Liying 蒋培坤 Jiang Peikun 王范地 Wang Fandi
赵廷杰 Zhao Tingjie 吴定富 Wu Dingfu 钱普泰 Qian Putai
孙承康 Sun Chengkang 尤维洁 You Weijie 黄金平 Huang Jinping
贺田凤 He Tianfeng 孟淑英 Meng Shuying 袁淑敏 Yuan Shumin
刘梅花 Liu Meihua 谢京花 Xie Jinghua 马雪琴 Ma Xueqin
邝瑞荣 Kuang Ruirong 张艳秋 Zhang Yanqiu 张树森 Zhang Shusen
杨大榕 Yang Darong 刘秀臣 Liu Xiuchen 沈桂芳 Shen Guifang
谢京荣 Xie Jingrong 孙    宁 Sun Ning 王文华 Wang Wenhua
金贞玉 Jin Zhenyu 要福荣 Yao Furong 孟淑珍 Meng Shuzhen
田淑玲 Tian Shuling 邵秋风 Shao Qiufeng 王桂荣 Wang Guirong
谭汉凤 Tan Hanfeng 孙恒尧 Sun Hengyao 陈    梅 Chen Mei
周    燕 Zhou Yan 李桂英 Li Guiying 徐宝艳 Xu Baoyan
狄孟奇 Di Mengqi 管卫东 Guan Weidong 高    婕 Gao Jie
索秀女 Suo Xiunü 刘淑琴 Liu Shuqin 王双兰 Wang Shuanglan
张振霞 Zhang Zhenxie 祝枝弟 Zhu Zhidi 刘天媛 Liu Tianyuan
黄定英 Huang Dingying 何瑞田 He Ruitian 程淑珍 Cheng Shuzhen
郝义传 Hao Yichuan 任金宝 Ren Jinbao 田维炎 Tian Weiyan
杨志玉 Yang Zhiyu 齐国香 Qi Guoxiang 李显远 Li Xianyuan
张彩凤 Zhang Caifeng 王玉芹 Wang Yuqin 韩淑香 Han Shuxiang
曹长先 Cao Changxian 方    政 Fang Zheng 齐志勇 Qi Zhiyong
冯友祥 Feng Youxiang 何兴才 He Yingcai 刘仁安 Liu Ren’an
熊    辉 Xiong Hui 韩国刚 Han Guogang 石    峰 Shi Feng
庞梅清 Pang Meiqing 黄    宁 Huang Ning 王伯冬 Wang Bodong
张志强 Zhang Zhiqiang 赵金锁 Zhao Jinsuo 孔维真 Kong Weizhen
刘保东 Liu Baodong 陆玉宝 Lu Yubao 陆马生 Lu Masheng
齐志英 Qi Zhiying 方桂珍 Fang Guizhen 肖书兰 Xiao Shulan
葛桂荣 Ge Guirong 郑秀村 Zheng Xiucun 王惠蓉 Wang Huirong
邢承礼 Xing Chengli 桂德兰 Gui Delan 王运启 Wang Yunqi
黄雪芬 Huang Xuefen 王    琳 Wang Lin 刘    乾 Liu Qian
朱镜蓉 Zhu Jingrong 金亚喜 Jin Yaxi 周国林 Zhou Guolin
杨子明 Yang Ziming 王争强 Wang Zhengqiang 吴立虹 Wu Lihong
宁书平 Ning Shuping 郭达显 Guo Daxian 曹云兰 Cao Yunlan
隋立松 Sui Lisong 王广明 Wang Guangming 冯淑兰 Feng Shulan
穆怀兰 Mu Huailan 付媛媛 Fu Yuanyuan 孙淑芳 Sun Shufang
刘建兰 Liu Jianlan 王    连 Wang Lian 李春山 Li Chunshan
蒋艳琴 Jiang Yanqin 何凤亭 He Fengting 谭淑琴 Tan Shuqin
肖宗友 Xiao Zongyou 乔秀兰 Qiao Xiulan 张桂荣 Zhang Guirong
雷    勇 Lei Yong    

(121 total)

In accordance with suggestions by our friends, we have decided to also include the following names of our fellow signers from previous years who have passed away, so as to respect their wishes.

吴学汉 Wu Xuehan 苏冰娴 Su Bingxian 姚瑞生 Yao Ruisheng
杨世钰 Yang Shiyu 袁长录 Yuan Changlu 周淑珍 Zhou Shuzhen
王国先 Wang Guoxian 包玉田 Bao Yutian 林景培 Lin Jingpei
寇玉生 Kou Yusheng 孟金秀 Meng Jinxiu 张俊生 Zhang Junsheng
吴守琴 Wu Shouqin 周治刚 Zhou Zhigang 孙秀芝 Sun Xiuzhi
罗    让 Luo Rang 严光汉 Yan Guanghan 李贞英 Li Zhenying
邝涤清 Kuang Diqing 段宏炳 Duan Hongbing 刘春林 Liu Chunlin
张耀祖 Zhang Yaozu 李淑娟 Li Shujuan 杨银山 Yang Yinshan
王培靖 Wang Peijing 袁可志 Yuan Kezhi 潘木治 Pan Muzhi
萧昌宜 Xiao Changyi 轧伟林 Ya Weilin  

(29 total)


For more information on the Tiananmen Mothers, see: