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Bereaved ‘Mothers of Tiananmen’ Want People To Know What Happened in Beijing in 1989




The student movement for human rights crushed by force by the Chinese government in Tiananmen Square has just reached its 30th anniversary, but discussion of it remains strictly limited by the Chinese government.


Yet, despite suffering pressure from the authorities, the family group “Mothers of Tiananmen” is still fighting for “the truth, the taking of responsibility, and compensation.”


You Weijie, now 65 years old, is among the group’s members. Her husband was killed in the protests 30 years ago. Explaining the importance of the movement, she said, “The resolution of the crimes committed by the state is a test as to whether China can become a truly lawful state.”




‘Something’s going on outside’


It was the early hours of the morning on June 4, 1989. You’s husband, Yang Minghu, 42 at the time, had just heard the sound of shooting — their house in Beijing was very close to Tiananmen Square. As they went down the stairs together, the neighbour told them how they saw pools of blood down the main street.


You’s husband, concerned about the wellbeing of the students in the square, grabbed his bicycle and headed toward the commotion. Working at China’s Council for the Promotion of International Trade, which was located on Chag’an, the main street passing by the square, he frequently saw demonstrations.


You herself was also following the progress of the “young people who were standing up to the state.” However, because they had a four-year-old son, her husband told her, “Don’t come.”



Her husband never returned. She later found out that, at just past 6 A.M., a man carried seven injured victims to the hospital in a car, and although six of them died, her husband was still alive.


As they neared the hospital, it became clear that Minghu was badly injured. He had been shot, his bladder had been punctured, and he had a fractured pelvis. However, he was conscious. Explaining what happened, he was able to say, “A soldier who came out of the Ministry of Public Security just fired upon us.”


He was losing blood, so doctors went out to the street and called upon people for blood donations, to which many people responded with warmth. “That saved you,” his wife told him. But at 6 A.M. he was hit by an intra-abdominal infection. “I’m sorry. Raise our child for me too.” Those words became his last.


“Because of 6/4 (the shorthand for the Tiananmen Square incident), I cried a lifetime worth of tears,” said You.



It wasn’t easy after that either. She needed to raise a four-year-old son on her own. In the 1990s, due to the merger of the spinning plant where she worked, she faced the prospect of being fired. You studied accounting and got a better job.


Recalling those years, she said: “Raising a child on my own, I have endured every type of hardship. All the members of the ‘Mothers of Tiananmen’ have walked the hard road.”


Ding Zilin, a former professor of Renmin University of China, was the force behind setting up the Tiananmen mothers’ group. The organization independently investigated and identified 202 victims who were killed in the protests, but that number is the tip of the iceberg.


According to Japanese news media, the Chinese authorities claim that the death toll was 319, but You doesn’t believe the figures. Independent inquiries put the number up to 10,000 victims.



“We don’t know the exact figures, but the numbers released by the governments are too low. The whereabouts of the bodies of the six people who were carried together with my husband, for example, are still unknown,” she added.


At one point, the association counted more than 180 members. Due to the high number of elderly people, 55 have passed away since the organization began. In 2014, at the time of the 25th anniversary, Ding asked You to become the group’s official representative, and she accepted — no questions asked.


“Although the government broke the law and caused this major incident more than 30 years ago, the issue still hasn’t been resolved,” You said. “Can you truly call this the rule of law?”


You doesn’t hide her distrust for the slogans that Xi Jinping stands for. To add to this, the members of the mothers’ group claim they are being monitored. She tells us, they were even forbidden to put flowers on the sites where their loved ones died.



“I want the Chinese media to talk about the issue” said You. “I want people to know what happened on 6/4.”


(Click here for the original article in Japanese)


Author: Yoshiaki Nishimi