Tiananmen Square crackdown

Payout discussed with family of June 4 victim

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 June, 2011, 12:00am


Mainland authorities have for the first time discussed giving money to relatives of a victim of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.

Public security officers in Beijing had approached relatives of an unnamed victim twice since February, offering an unspecified amount of money, said families of those killed in the brutal crackdown in the capital 22 years ago.

It was not clear if the money was offered as compensation, or if there were strings attached. So far, only one family has been contacted, the Tiananmen Mothers Support Group revealed in an open letter.

The group yesterday welcomed the move as a first step by Beijing to break the political taboo around the subject. But the group said it fell far short of the families' demands and was hardly a convincing gesture of reconciliation.

The group accused the authorities of trying to settle the issue with money while continuing to skirt around sensitive issues - such as giving a public account of what happened during the military clampdown, and vindicating the victims.

'The visitors [police] did not speak of making the truth public, carrying out judicial investigations, or providing an explanation for the case of each victim,' the group said.

'Instead, they only raised the question of how much to pay, emphasising that this was meant for that individual case and not for the families in the group as a whole.'

The open letter called on the government to end 'constant surveillance and personal restrictions' of the victims' families. This would create a condition for further dialogue. They also dismissed the possibility of accepting settlements as individuals rather than as a group.

The relatives said they had documented 203 victims over the past 22 years. Many victims' relatives are yet to be located. Beijing has never released an official count of casualties.

The open letter also noted the recent deterioration of human rights in general on the mainland, which it describes as the worst since 1989. Dozens of rights activists, lawyers and dissidents - most notably artist-activist Ai Weiwei - have been detained or disappeared.

Dai Qing. a veteran writer, journalist and advocate of reconciliation on the June 4 issue, said paying compensation without establishing the truth would be unacceptable.

'The government has finally made a belated, tacit and strikingly much too small step towards acknowledging the truth of the crackdown, which is the prerequisite for any serious effort to seek reconciliation,' she said.

'As long as the authorities refuse to make public the whole truth, the relatives should not give up their hope and should be persistent to demand dialogue and try to make every little progress possible.'

In Hong Kong - the only Chinese city where a public rally is held each year to commemorate the democratic movement on the mainland 22 years ago - organisers expect 150,000 people to attend the candlelit vigil in Victoria Park on Saturday, similar to last year.

Lee Cheuk-yan, chairman of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, said the group had noticed a growing enthusiasm for the event among young people and people from the mainland.

The group did not carry out a survey on participants' background. But Lee said the group was getting more donations in yuan, and it was also trying to reach out to mainland participants, including using more Putonghua in street broadcasts.

Veteran commentator Johnny Lau Yui-siu, who took part in a June 4 anniversary march on Sunday, said he had talked to a number of participants from the mainland.

'Those people have overcome the fear that they would get into trouble after returning to their hometowns,' he said.

'Many local governments in Guangdong adopt a relatively lenient attitude towards those coming to Hong Kong to take part in activities commemorating those killed in 1989, so long as they don't organise similar activities in the province.'