Before a field of lit candles, Hong Kong last night honoured the Tiananmen Mothers and the children they lost 25 years ago.
One of the founders of the support and democracy group, Ding Zilin , said in a taped video message to the crowd gathered in Victoria Park: "It has been a painful journey of life." For the first two years after the death of her son, Jiang Jielian, she said, life became unbearable.
Now, 25 years later, the mothers of Tiananmen Square's dead persist in their singular goal: for China's government to exonerate their children and disclose what happened when troops fired on protesters in June 1989.
"The crackdown didn't only kill and injure thousands of young people. It ruined their families," Zhang Xianling, one of the founders of the Tiananmen Mothers, said.
"The same misfortune has brought us together, as we all lost our loved ones in the 1989 bloody crackdown."
They face a government that has vilified the protesters and justified the army's violent response.
The group has tried to enlist support.
You Weijie , 61, widow of Yang Minghu, a civil servant, said that to prevent victims' families being silenced, she and four other group members began travelling beyond Beijing to other provinces and municipalities in October. She said the group recorded the testimony of more than 20 families in nine provinces and municipalities.
"I'm still unwilling to accept the fact that my son was shot dead," Jin Yaxi , who is 86 and lives in a remote village in Tongshan county, Xianning , Hubei , is quoted as saying on the group's website.
The parents of Wu Guofeng , a Renmin University student, speak of the difficulties they faced long after their 21-year-old son died in the protests.
"The authorities so far have still failed to give me a reason why my son was killed," Wu's father, Wu Dingfu , is quoted as saying. "In addition, local police have never stopped harassing me ... Every year, local officials prohibit us from openly burning offerings to my boy on the anniversary of his death."
Families kept mementoes of their loved ones, including oaths showing the students' passion for democratic reform, elegies by teachers and classmates, and writings and pictures produced by the students during the June 4 movement, You said. Some families had bloodstained clothing, studded with bullet holes.
The interviews and relics would be sent to the new Tiananmen memorial museum in Hong Kong to prod the Beijing authorities to divulge the truth about the crackdown, You said.
Zhang said they had had to halt the travelling campaign because authorities had increased surveillance of core group members since February. She said that police last month summoned You and the four others in the campaign to give statements. "But what they have done will not scare us off," she said.