"One small stick of candle light perhaps doesn't count for anything, but tens of thousands of candle lights will shake the public will and create awe in the public soul," said the letter, which was released by the US-based Human Rights in China. Signatories include students who took part in the 1989 protests, and labour rights and democracy campaigners.
While publicly dismissing the anniversary, the Chinese government is concerned that it could provide a focus for social discontent, which is running high in regions where unemployment has soared.
"In the 10 years since the tragic case of 4 June, family members of the dead, the wounded and the disabled have simmered in pain," the open letter said.
"Prisoners of 4 June and of conscience have suffered hardship. Unemployed workers, unaided urbanites and poor farmers have grievances that cannot be redressed, truths that cannot be said, tears that cannot be cried."
Such a call for quiet public recognition of the anniversary will reach the ordinary Chinese only through foreign radio broadcasts or via the Internet. But in Peking, at least, 4 June is likely to be remembered. Security will be extremely tight this year, but the letter urged sympathisers to call foreign reporters, distribute leaflets about the crackdown and hold gatherings at home.
A Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman, Sun Yuxi, lambasted the letter yesterday. "A minority of people outside China have plotted and organised activities which do not enjoy public support and aim at stirring up subversion against the government," he said.