Thirty years after the horrible massacre, which took away their children forever, they keep on fighting for the truth. An exhibit in Washington, D.C., honors them.
On the night of June 3, 1989, ten divisions of the People’s Liberation Army, i.e., the Army of the People’s Republic of China, entered the Tiananmen Square in Beijing with armored tanks. At 10 a.m. on June 4, they opened fire on the crowd, which since April 15 had been assembling and growing day by day in number, to ask for freedom. Ten thousand were brutally killed, mainly young students.
Yes, this figure is debated. Browse the web, and you will easily find pros and cons, all substantially documented and well-reasoned – or supposedly so. Just like everything else these days on the Internet, where you can even find videos “proving” that the Earth is flat.
The source of the 10,000 number is a secret cable sent to the British Foreign Office in London on June 5, 1989, by Sir Alan E. Donald (1931-2018), the British ambassador to Beijing at the time. In his telegram, the number 10,000 is accompanied by “at minimum,” and details on the slaughter are included. The ambassador writes that his source was someone who “[…] was passing on information given him by a close friend who is currently a member of the State Council.” The British government declassified Sir Donald’s cable in October 2017, HK01, a Hong Kong-based online news portal, published it on December 20, and the following day, the document has been presented in English by Hong Kong Free Press. A more recent Italian translation has been published by Tempi, a Roman Catholic monthly news magazine.
Chinese officials have always tried to lessen this death toll, their reported clear resolution to mercilessly strike demonstrators notwithstanding. They minimized the figure at the time, and they minimize it now. A Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman, Mr. Wu Qian, just said that he doesn’t agree “[…] with the word ‘suppression'” referring to Tiananmen. He doesn’t agree with reality, and so the opinion of the government and the Party he represents can just tread on facts. The CCP, in reality, is simply ignoring Tiananmen. None in China is allowed to speak of it, to remember what has happened, or merely ask questions. Massive Internet censorship hides truth away from netizens, intensifying as the anniversary approaches. At any rate, pictures of the victims, some of which are only for people with a strong stomach, speak for themselves and are on the web to be seen.
There is a substantial cause-and-effect connection between Tiananmen and religious persecution. In 1989, the CCP became convinced that the most potent single cause of the crumbling of the Communist regimes in Eastern Europe was religion, and so devoted itself to crack down on faiths of all kind. This conviction immediately became the official and standard teaching of the Party, to the Party and for the Party, and all the leaders of the following thirty years, Xi Jinping included, have ruled living up to it.
On this topic, Bitter Winter has produced an 18-minute movie, Tiananmen and Religious Persecution in China. Featured in the film is a story, unknown to many, if not to most, about the so-called “Tiananmen Mothers,” a group of aggrieved and resolute women that, from September 1989, started demanding justice for their assassinated children and an independent investigation of the events. They are led by Ms. Ding Zilin, a retired university professor of philosophy whose seventeen-year-old son, Jiang Jielian (1972-1989), had been shot and killed by CCP soldiers during the protest. Although some NGOs supported them, in general, international support for the Tiananmen mothers was weak and ineffective. When in 2004, the year of the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre, Ding Zilin and others were arrested, not many protested. Now in her eighties, that courageous woman still periodically sends letters to the CCP and international authorities on behalf of the whole group of mothers.
But the time passes, and the mothers of the killed children grow old, as every mother, everyone does. Most of the Tiananmen Mothers have died while waiting for the truth that has never come, and thus, their cause seems to be doomed to oblivion. For sure, this is what the CCP hopes and works for.
It is then highly commendable that they will be remembered publicly on the 30th anniversary of the carnage in Tiananmen.
Preceded by a Candlelight Vigil on the night of June 3, at the Victims of Communism Memorial in Washington, D.C., on June 4, the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, founded in 1987, will host a Tiananmen Square Massacre Rally of Remembrance at the West Lawn of the US Capitol. Many organizations are co-hosting the event, Bitter Winter among them. On that day, rally attendees will have the opportunity to view the premiere exhibit of a collection of portraits of the Tiananmen Mothers. Their faces ask, their eyes question. When will they be heard?
Human Rights in China, a New York-based international NGO founded in March 1989 by students and scholars on the eve of Tiananmen, has set up a dedicated web site to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the killing of so many innocent people, featuring their faces, stories, and testimonies. They are the living witnesses and patent accusation of the crime whose perpetrators have always walked freely and whose heirs are now ruling China with a similar iron scepter.
Thirty years after, the anguished questions of those mothers remain unanswered; their tears have not been wiped, and the truth they long for is still missing. Keeping their memory alive is a moral duty for everyone who cherishes liberty.