Families remember crackdown victims

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 June, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 June, 1997, 12:00am

Carrying flowers and sacrificial food, families of students killed in the 1989 crackdown on dissent flocked to cemeteries in Beijing yesterday to mourn their loved ones.

Watched by plainclothes police, bereaved parents burned incense, laid flowers and swept tombs at suburban cemeteries to appease the souls of those killed when troops stormed the city centre and crushed the pro-democracy movement.

Ding Zilin, whose high school student son Jiang Jielian was 17 when he died, said: 'It's impossible to forget. I cannot forgive.' Ms Ding, an associate professor of philosophy at People's University in Beijing, and her husband held a private memorial ceremony for their son at home.

Other relatives of victims visited graves, taking offerings of the favourite dishes of their loved ones.

Parents sent a petition to Parliament last month calling for an official inquiry into the action and a dialogue with the Government. Similar appeals in the past two years have fallen on deaf ears.

In Tiananmen Square, centre of the 1989 demonstrations, uniformed and plainclothes police mingled with day-trippers from the countryside, people flying kites and foreign tourists taking snapshots.

No incidents were reported at the university belt in western Beijing, where students in past years had smashed bottles in a coded protest against late leader Deng Xiaoping, whose name in Chinese rhymes with 'little bottle'.

Diplomats said China's leadership was nervous about the lingering influence and ambitions of former Communist Party chief Zhao Ziyang,, 77, whose liberal political and economic policies made him popular in the party and among the public.

Many activists have fled into exile abroad and more are still serving lengthy jail terms. In the absence of the dissidents, surveillance was stepped up around the homes of their families and other activists, while undercover police maintained a strong but discreet presence in key districts in Beijing.

The American-based watchdog Human Rights in China sent a petition to President Jiang Zemin and Prime Minister Li Peng, calling for the immediate release of Wang Dan - one of the key figures in the pro-democracy movement.

Wang was sentenced to an 11-year prison term in October last year after being convicted of 'conspiring to subvert the Government'.