'Tiananmen mothers' demand open dialogue

Thursday, June 3, 2010
By Robert Saiget, AFP

BEIJING -- Families of those killed in the crushing of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests on Wednesday demanded China end its silence and open a dialogue on the bloodshed.

In an annual open letter, 128 members of the Tiananmen Mothers castigated the Communist Party government for ignoring its calls for openness on the crackdown that occurred June 3-4, 1989 and vowed never to give up their fight.

“The Chinese communist authorities should have heard our voices, and yet there has been no answer,” the letter said, citing repeated requests for dialogue and an inquiry into the massacre.

“Can it be that you really want to wear us all down or wait for our deaths so that the problem will naturally disappear?” said the letter, distributed by the New York-based group Human Rights in China.

The group issues a similar call each year as the anniversary approaches but is annually rebuffed by the government, which says the matter has already been laid to rest.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of people were killed in central Beijing on the night of June 3-4, 1989, when the military violently crushed six weeks of democracy protests on Tiananmen Square.

An official verdict after the protests called them a “counter-revolutionary rebellion.”

The government has since softened that wording but shrouds the crackdown in secrecy. Any mention of it is censored and those who persist in raising the issue have been jailed or otherwise harassed.

“We have gradually come to understand from the blood, tears, and suffering that June Fourth is not only the misfortune of any single family, but rather it is the misfortune of the entire nation,” the letter said.

“In 2009 we asked the government to provide us with a timetable for dialogue... we have asked for a dialogue every year, yet each year you dare not respond. We do not fear your silence. We will not abandon what we have raised.”

The group also demanded the government stop persecuting its members.

“You have posted guards and sentries in front of the home of each victim's family, followed us closely, watched us, eavesdropped on our phone conversations, interfered with our computer communications, and opened and confiscated our mail,” the letter said.

“All of this wicked conduct ... leaves one bristling with anger.”

Also Wednesday, the New York-based Human Rights Watch demanded the government publicly recognize the Tiananmen crackdown and end harassment of those demanding accountability.

It should also release a list of those killed and jailed in the crackdown, the group said.

Several veteran activists campaigning for transparency on the crackdown have either disappeared into police custody or are under house arrest, their families and friends said.

They include Qi Zhiyong, who lost a leg in the crackdown, and rights defender Yang Qiuyu.

China annually imposes restrictions on such dissidents ahead of the anniversary in a bid to prevent any actions related to the crackdown.

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