• Sat
  • Jul 26, 2014
  • Updated: 1:20am

A mother's hope endures 15 years of disappointment

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 June, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 June, 2004, 12:00am

Tiananmen mother Ding Zilin refuses to give up hope that the June 4 movement will be rehabilitated, even though it may not happen in her lifetime.


After her son was killed 15 years ago during the military crackdown, Ms Ding - with relatives of other victims - formed the Tiananmen Mothers advocacy group. Its prime purpose is to call on the authorities to re-examine the official condemnation of the democracy movement.


The mothers insist that even if the students may have been wrong in some of their methods, it was still a crime for the government to kill its own people.


Ms Ding's group has so far documented the names of 182 people who were killed, providing firm evidence to disprove claims by some officials that the massacre did not happen.


Ms Ding is now 67 and she has watched as time has taken its toll on her group.


'Among the victims' families who signed petition letters [demanding rehabilitation] every year since 1995, 11 have passed away,' she said.


'My husband and I are not the oldest among the victims' families, but I am mentally prepared that I may not live to see that day' that June 4 is revisited, she said.


That reality was brought home about a week ago when an official from the Ministry of State Security visited.


'He told me that it is impossible for the present leadership to resolve the problem of June 4,' Ms Ding said in a phone interview. 'He said he did not come to discuss the issue but to pass on the message.


'Moreover, he told me that they were going to impose residential control over me,' she said referring to a form of house arrest used by police to isolate people seen as troublemakers.


Ms Ding said there had been hope the change of leadership that brought President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao to power would create a political climate where the Communist Party could right the wrong done 15 years ago, but the message she received meant such expectations were misplaced.


'There are signs of backtracking. I have to say I feel sorry about the new leadership under Hu-Wen,' she said.


In March, Mr Wen defended the crackdown but did not call the student-led movement a 'rebellion', as previous leaders have done, raising hopes that the leadership might take a more conciliatory position.


The 'residential control' measure was a slight surprise because Ms Ding was told three years ago by officials from the same department that they no longer wanted to restrict her movement.


Last year, Ms Ding spent the period around the anniversary in her home town of Wuxi and therefore was not harassed by police.


Despite the setbacks, Ms Ding remains optimistic.


'I am not pessimistic. I am still hopeful. One day the truth will become clear,' she said.


'What is important is the process, and we have tried our best. Since we have already started, we cannot give up. We must press on because we have done no wrong.'


Ms Ding is convinced the Tiananmen Mothers took the correct path by advocating dialogue with the authorities to resolve the deadlock over June 4.


'We insist that the National People's Congress should set up a special committee to investigate and make public the truth of June 4 and compensate victims as the laws require,' she said.


'And we want peaceful and rational dialogue [with the government] on equal basis, and I don't think we are asking for too much.'


Ms Ding said she could understand why many intellectuals and even activists who took part in the movement 15 years ago had now chosen to remain silent. And she was not surprised by the ignorance among young people regarding what happened 15 years ago.


'Everybody has his own choice. If there is no suppression and cover-up of the truth, people will act differently,' she said.


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