May 29, 2006

Tiananmen Mothers call on China to reassess 1989

By Lindsay Beck

BEIJING (Reuters) - Families of victims of the 1989
military crackdown on Tiananmen Square demonstrators have
called on the government to reassess the incident and
compensate victims, days ahead of the sensitive anniversary of
the event.

In an open letter released on Monday by the watchdog group
Human Rights in China, the "Tiananmen Mothers" also called for
a process of truth and reconciliation over the events of June
3-4, 1989, when troops and tanks suppressed weeks of peaceful
protests, killing hundreds.

"We believe that only by going through a process of
determined perseverance can we accumulate results bit by bit,"
said the letter from the group headed by Ding Zilin, a retired
professor whose teenage son was killed in the crackdown.

"And only though the continuous accumulation of specific
results can we achieve a just and proper resolution of the June
4 issue."

Although 17 years have passed since the student-led protest
movement unprecedented in Communist China, the government still
fears the date could spark a challenge to its grip on power and
has refused calls to reassess the wave of activism it condemned
as "counter-revolutionary."

In April, Chinese authorities made a payment to the mother
of Zhou Guocong, one of those killed, the first time a victim's
family has been compensated. At the time, though, Ding said she
doubted it meant any softening of the official line on

Dissidents and intellectuals are still routinely taken into
custody or placed under house arrest each year in the days
leading up to June 4. Others leave Beijing to wait out the
period in the countryside.

AIDS activist Hu Jia traveled to the central province of
Henan to avoid the house arrest and detention he has suffered
in Beijing in previous years, but he said even there he
remained under police surveillance.

"From the 26th until now every day there are at least two
cars and a motorcycle, about 10 police. Wherever I go, they go
with me," he told Reuters by telephone. "I'll come back to
Beijing on June 5."

Among those taken in this year were Shanghai petitioner Mao
Hengfeng, who spent more than a month in detention earlier this
year after she went on hunger strike in support of an outspoken
human rights lawyer.

Mao was detained again on May 23 by a district police
station and later transferred and her whereabouts were unknown,
Human Rights in China said.

In a second incident, the father of an imprisoned activist
was summoned by police after he submitted an open letter during
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's visit to China last week,
requesting Annan's intervention to release his son.

Xu Yongdao's son, Xu Zhengqing, is serving three years for
commemorating last year's death of former party leader Zhao
Ziyang -- ousted for his support of the student demonstrators
-- the New York-based watchdog group said.