Tiananmen mothers criticise Xi Jinping over lack of political reform

Families of activists killed during 1989 protests say president is taking China ‘backwards’

Visitors rest in front of a screen showing a propaganda video at Tiananmen Square, Beijing. A group of families demanding justice for the victims of China’s 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown have denounced Chinese president Xi Jinping for failing to introduce political reforms. Photograph: Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters

Visitors rest in front of a screen showing a propaganda video at Tiananmen Square, Beijing. A group of families demanding justice for the victims of China’s 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown have denounced Chinese president Xi Jinping for failing to introduce political reforms. Photograph: Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters

Mon, Jun 3, 2013, 01:00

The mothers of those killed during the crackdown on the democracy movement in Beijing in 1989 have criticised the new Chinese leadership of Xi Jinping for failing to introduce political reforms.

The anniversary of the massacre on Tiananmen Square in central Beijing is tomorrow. On that day 24 years ago, hundreds, possibly thousands, of democracy demonstrators died. Now, every year, an activist group known as the Tiananmen Mothers have repeated their calls for justice for the victims, and for the events of June 4th, 1989, to be reassessed.

The Chinese government has not fully disclosed what happened when the military crushed the protests, which it branded a “counter-revolutionary riot”.

“During these long 24 years, we Tiananmen Mothers have suffered profoundly. We have moaned in hell-like darkness, struggled in tears, which nearly dried up. We have also been overwhelmed by fear and despair and engulfed by rumours and apathy,” the group said in an open letter published by the New York-based Human Rights in China.

“We have campaigned year after year, tried to get back justice for the dead year after year. The government authorities, however, have remained unmoved.”


No response
The group said it had not received a single response from the government to 36 open letters it had written to the leadership since 1995.

The government has said dissent on such a scale needed to be stopped to allow China to develop.

Mr Xi became Communist Party chief in November and Chinese president in March, and many in China hoped his arrival would result in political reforms, which had ground to a halt under his predecessor, Hu Jintao.

However, the Tiananmen Mothers accused Mr Xi of taking China “backwards”.

“What we see, precisely, are giant steps backwards towards Maoist orthodoxy,” they wrote.

“This has caused those individuals who originally harboured hopes in him in carrying out political reform to fall into sudden disappointment and despair.”

“The Tiananmen Mothers will certainly find a way out of the field of death. We will never give up, never stop, until June 4th is finally reassessed, and the souls of the victims rest in peace.”

On Friday last week, US state department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the US was remembering the “tragic loss of innocent lives” ahead of the 24th anniversary, sparking a row with Beijing.

In response, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said China urged the US “to discard political prejudice and correctly treat China’s development”, according to a report on the English-language website of Xinhua News Agency.

“A clear conclusion has already been made concerning the political turmoil that happened in the late 1980s,” Xinhua said, citing Mr Hong.

He said Washington issued “similar statements year after year, ignoring facts and making groundless accusations against the Chinese government”, which he said was a “rude interference in China’s internal affairs”. Mr Hong’s statement was not available on Xinhua’s Chinese service or the foreign ministry’s website.

Authorities have reportedly freed the last person known to be jailed in Beijing for “counter-revolutionary” crimes dating back to the June 4th protests, according to the Dui Hua Foundation, a San Francisco-based group that researches China’s justice system.


Released
Dui Hua believes Jiang Yaqun was released in October or November 2012, based on a notice posted online by a neighbourhood council. The 73-year-old has Alzheimer’s disease and has no family or home to return to. His previous residence was sold to place his stepmother in a retirement home.

Since 1989, the government has begun to implement some of the freedoms the protesters on the square had sought, such as getting rid of rules dictating where Chinese could live or work and even whom they could marry.

Strong economic growth has given millions of Chinese a say in their destinies and the government is engaged in a public campaign to crack down on corruption. At the same time, power in China belongs exclusively to the Communist Party and independent political activity is forbidden.