Twenty-six years later, closure remains impossible.
By Rowena He
June 3, 2015
Twenty-six years after the Tiananmen Massacre, Chinese citizens are forbidden to discuss the incident, let alone mourn the dead. Closure is impossible.Living in Boston, I am constantly reminded of this raw wound as I observe how this city heals after the Boston marathon bombing two years ago. As painful as the Dzhokar Tsarnaev trial has been, the verdict gave the community the consolation of knowing the truth and seeing the guilty punished.
The citizens of China who suffered at the hands of their own government have no such satisfaction, despite the much larger scale of the crime. More than 200,000 army soldiers, equipped with tanks and AK-47s, were deployed against unarmed civilians in the capital city. The death toll is still unknown.
On April 15, 1989, the death of Hu Yaobang, the reform-minded general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, triggered protests calling for political reforms. After the movement spread to every major city across the country, it was crushed on June 4 when the People’s Liberation Army fired on crowds of civilians.
As Thursday’s 26th anniversary approached, an association of victims’ families, the Tiananmen Mothers, published an open letter on June 1. They lamented that their loved ones “cannot rest in peace” without truth and justice.
Members of the group have been systematically harassed and threatened by the authorities—phones hacked, computers “surrendered,” bugging devices installed in their homes. “They killed our family members without any explanation; when we demand justice—there is none. There is only persecution and surveillance to keep us quiet, and it is getting worse and worse,” the letter affirms.
The leader of the group, Professor Ding Zilin, whose 17-year-old son was shot and killed, was detained from May 4 to June 5 last year to prevent her from organizing memorial services. Chen Yunfei, who was a student at Beijing Agricultural University in 1989, has been detained since March 25 of this year after he paid a visit to the grave of Wu Guofeng, another victim of Tiananmen.