Families of those killed in Tiananmen Square set to win compensation from Chinese government two decades after atrocity
Families of pro-democracy protesters killed in Tiananmen Square demonstrations nearly two decades ago have been offered compensation by the Chinese government, it has emerged.
Several hundred people are said to have been killed in the pro-democracy protests in Beijing in 1989 by military forces.
A group of 127 mothers have signed a letter ahead of the 22nd anniversary of the protest, saying public security officials have approached a family offering payment on two occasions.
Mothers of civilians say authorities have raised the issue of compensation, but have offered no apology or public account of the military crackdown.
Troops backed by tanks crushed the pro-democracy marches on June 4, 1989, causing worldwide condemnation.
The letter, by the group calling themselves Tiananmen Mothers, states: ‘The visitors did not speak of making the truth public, carrying out judicial investigations, or providing an explanation for the case of each victim.
‘Instead, they only raised the question of how much to pay…’
The Chinese government has never released an official casualty count, but estimates from human rights groups and witnesses range from several hundred to several thousand dead.
Yang Dongquan, head of China’s State Archives Administration, said today that the government had put a 30-year lock on documents from the period.
He said: ‘We’re still in a waiting period. ‘We’ve not yet reached the time to open them up. The rules state 30 years, at least. It can still be delayed even after 30 years, if the archive authorities decide it. It’s the same rule for every country.’
After the crackdown, the government called the movement a ‘counter revolutionary’ plot, but has more recently referred to it as a ‘political disturbance’.
The Tiananmen Mothers say they have documented 203 people killed in the crackdown, but that many victims and their families have not been identified.
The group has campaigned for years for the government to open dialogue and publicly acknowledge the victims, but says its grievances have mostly been ignored despite individuals being subject to surveillance and ‘personal restrictions’. The letter adds: ‘The bottom line is this: the souls of those killed during June Fourth shall not be defiled; their families shall not be dishonoured… all matters can be discussed except these two.’
The anniversary of the June 4 protests comes as popular uprisings have swept across the Arab world in recent months, making the ruling Chinese Communist Party jittery about any sign of instability at home.
Issued through the U.S-based advocacy group Human Rights in China, the letter said the mothers were surprised that officials had initiated ‘private, individual conversations’ with families at a time when the government is skittish about instability.
‘The Chinese government has referred to these popular protest movements categorically as ‘turmoil’; at no point has it mentioned the calls for freedom and democracy.
‘It is afraid that the situation in the Middle East and North Africa will spread to mainland China, and worried that it will give rise to events similar to the 1989 Democracy Movement,’ they said, adding that the human rights situation in China was at its worst since the 1989 protests.’