Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) In an open letter published today by Human Rights in China, a few days before June 4, the 17th anniversary of the day that saw blood flow in Beijing, the Tiananmen Mothers call on the Chinese government to accept the historical need to review its condemnation of the Tiananmen Square student movement. They also demand an inquiry into the massacre that ended the movement and punishment for the culprits as well as compensation and assistance for the families of the victims.
The 'Tiananmen Mothers' is a group made up of the relatives of 125 victims of the June 4, 1989, Tiananmen Square massacre. On that day, the Chinese army, backed by tanks, stormed the square killing defenceless demonstrators who for a month had been calling for democracy and an end of corruption in Chinese society.
The government has never released any official tally for the carnage but outside groups have estimated that the number of those killed runs in the thousands.
The Tiananmen Mothers are led by a retired university professor, Ms Ding Zilin, who lost her 17-year-old son, Jiang Jielian, in the June 4 slaughter.
The open letter is divided in several parts. In the first, the Mothers provide an historical review of the crackdown and the number of killed or injured. They have confirmed 186 dead and more than 70 injured in the crackdown, a number that constitutes a "small percentage" of the actual number of casualties, which should be in the hundreds.
In the second part, the group asserts its basic tenets of peaceful protest and demands laying out its guiding slogans, namely "Speak the truth; Never forget; Seek justice; and Call on conscience."
These principles are rooted in the watchwords used by students and workers who, at the end of the eighties, gave birth to the pro-democracy and anti-corruption movement and who sought to appeal to people's conscience through truth and justice.
The third section describes the group's basic principles which are "preserving the dignity of the victims" and "refusing to circumvent legal principle through administrative resolution of private deals [sic]."
Moreover, the Tiananmen Mothers want the authorities to resolve some specific issues such as stop monitoring and restricting the freedom of survivors and their families, allow families to honour their loved ones without impediments, end interferences with humanitarian aid to the victims and their families from China and abroad, provide humanitarian assistance to those who continue to suffer psychologically or financially from the crackdown, remove political and social stigma on victims, and restore the rights and physical welfare of those detained, imprisoned, made jobless or otherwise victimised for their participation in the 1989 pro-democracy movement.
Beijing has so far failed to respond to any of the Tiananmen Mothers' requests except to place them under house arrest every year on the eve the massacre's anniversary.
Officially, for the Chinese Communist Party the 1989 student movement remains a "counterrevolutionary uprising". But as the Tiananmen Mothers wrote in last year's letter the government is guilty "of not asking forgiveness for its atrocities" even though it honours Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping as if they were gods despite "their bloody hands and the unspeakable disasters they brought onto the nation".