Tiananmen Ten Years On: Families defy China clampdown to mourn with flowers and tears

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The Independent Online
THE DAY was one for quiet defiance, and two brave public attempts to mark an anniversary the government preferred to forget. In the morning, two women on bicycles, a bouquet of yellow chrysanthemums in one basket and a small sign reading "Mourn the 4 June victims", quietly rode around Tiananmen Square in a private tribute to their dead husbands.

Once past the Museum of the Revolution, Huang Jinping and You Weijie solemnly pedalled to the separate spots on nearby streets where the men were killed 10 years ago when the People's Liberation Army swept through Peking.

A bereaved mother rode her bicycle to Babaoshan cemetery in west Peking, with flowers, her son's picture and another sign in the basket.

By 11am, Ms Huang and Ms You had joined 20 bereaved relatives at the Eternal Peace cemetery, near the Fragrant Hills on the west side of the city. "The authorities advocated gradually to forget 4 June, but how can parents forget about it?" said an angry 73-year-old Li Xueweng, who lost her 28-year-old son, Yuan Li, shot through the throat early on 4 June 1989. "We have never had any happiness since my son was killed."

Uniformed and plain-clothes police surrounded the mourners, but kept their distance. No one dared interfere as the families carried the urns of four dead relatives and placed them by the grave of Yuan Li. They lit incense sticks, sprinkled rice wine, shed tears and laid fresh flowers and the small sign from the early symbolic protest.

Ms You, whose husband had been 41, said: "At the grave, mainly what we said was, it has already been 10 years since 4 June but the government ignores this incident.

"As the living, we feel we have to stand up and carry on doing this." Journalists were barred from the cemetery, but relatives afterwards spoke willingly, despite the best efforts of police.

Since the massacre, a network of support has grown among relatives and has now co-ordinated pressure on the government to reverse its verdict on the 1989 movement. Last month, Ms Zhang delivered two petitions to the Supreme People's Procuratorate signed by 105 relatives demanding a legal inquiry into the 4 June 1989 massacre. Down on Tiananmen Square, security was extremely tight - and ready to pounce on anyone who tried a more public demonstration of grief or anger. Police took away a middle- aged man after he raised a white umbrella - the colour of mourning in China - and walked across a small stone bridge below Chairman Mao's portrait that overlooks the square. Slogans on the umbrella read: "Remember the 10th anniversary of the student movement" and "Democracy Party."

A younger man who flung leaflets into the air was chased by police and dragged away.

All of China's political activists and their associates seem to be under surveillance. A woman answering the public phone in the apartment block of Qi Zhiyong, beaten so badly on 4 June 1989 he is in a wheelchair, said: "Don't try to find him, there are four policemen in front of his apartment."

The younger sister of Xu Yonghai, a doctor and supporter of the China Democracy Party, said he had been taken away by Peking police on Wednesday evening "to stay in a hotel". Police had questioned and detained about 130 dissidents ahead of the anniversary, and 42 were still in custody yesterday.

Xu Wenli, the leading China Democracy Party activist jailed last year for 13 years, had told his wife, He Xingtong, he would mark the day by refusing to answer any political questioning by his jailers. Ms He, 51, said: "I will mourn for those killed on 4 June who loved peace and who were innocent people. I will mourn them in my heart, quietly. Thursday night I already lit candles, and today also." She said many plain-clothes police were stationed outside her apartment block yesterday, and her phone was tapped.

Yang Hai, a 31-year-old activist in the western city of Xian, said he had gone on hunger strike for 24 hours to mark the day. Mr Yang was jailed for a year after June 1989. Asked if he felt disappointed that not many ordinary Chinese were marking the anniversary, Mr Yang said: "I do not feel disappointed, because if the current government allowed people to express their feelings and to talk freely, then [1989] would not have happened ..."

Then the line went dead.