The US State Department has awarded the Tiananmen Mothers, the group that represents the families of victims, the ‘Women of Courage’ award, on the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen massacre that ended pro-democracy, student-led protests in Beijing 31 years ago.
The group, which consists mostly the elderly bereaved mothers of young victims of the massacre, said the award was significant for its honouring of lost lives, and represented a condemnation of atrocities committed by the Chinese Communist Party.
Founding member Ding Zilin, whose 17-year-old son Jiang Jielian was gunned down by People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops after ruling Chinese Communist Party elder Deng Xiaoping ordered the army into Beijing, has been the target of on-going harassment and surveillance by the state security police, along with many other group members.
The group still writes to Chinese leaders every year on the anniversary of their loved-ones’ deaths, calling on the ruling party to make contemporary public records of the crackdown, to award compensation to those who lost family members, and to hold accountable those responsible for the killings.
“Thirty-one years ago, the Chinese Communist Party massacred hundreds in Tiananmen Square,” deputy secretary of state Stephen Biegun told a virtual award ceremony. “Those lost are remembered every year not only by the international community but by their families every day, who keep alive the memory of their loved ones.”
“For the families, the fate of their sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers have never been acknowledged by the Chinese Communist Party and their final resting place remains unknown,” he said.
“These families have demonstrated immeasurable courage in the face of tragedy and loss, and have, at great cost to their own lives, continued to advocate for holding those responsible accountable,” Biegun added.
Former 1989 student leader Tong Yi, accepting the award, said she had been standing at Fuxingmen, some two miles west of Tiananmen Square, when the first bullets began to be fired in her area.
“In an effort to block the approach, citizens where I was had placed buses across the road and set them ablaze,” Tong recalled. “Shortly after midnight, the army’s front-line troops arrived and began removing the burning buses.”
The tanks arrived and two people fell nearby, Tong said, adding that Jiang Jielian had died around one hour earlier on the same “avenue of death.”
“He was the son of Ding Zilin, and the main reason why the good professor, at great risk to herself, began speaking out and organizing others who had lost family members in the massacre,” she said. “This was the birth of the Tiananmen Mothers, a group that eventually came to number several hundred.”
Tiananmen Mothers spokeswoman You Weijie said the key significance of the award is to show respect for lives lost, and condemn the atrocities perpetrated by the Chinese Communist Party.
“All of our families lost loved ones back then,” You said. “We have submitted out three requests year in, year out for the past 31 years, and we have never had any kind of response.”
“Instead, we have been targeted for surveillance and harassment by the police,” she said. (Source: RFA)