The Legacy of Tiananmen: 20 Years of Oppression, Activism and Hope

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Chinese Human Rights Defenders

June 1, 2009

Twenty years since the Tiananmen massacre, the Chinese government refuses to accept responsibility, much less apologize or offer compensation, for killing, injuring, imprisoning and persecuting individuals for participating in peaceful protests. The number of the victims, and their names and identities, remain unknown. Families continue to be barred from publicly commemorating and seeking accountability for the death of their loved ones. Activists are persecuted and harassed for independently investigating the crackdown or for calling for a rectification of the government’s verdict on the pro-democracy movement.

Many individuals continue to suffer the consequences of participating in the pro-democracy movement today.At least eight individuals remain imprisoned in Beijing following unfair trials in which they were convicted of committing “violent crimes”. Those who were released after long sentences have had difficulty re-integrating into society as they suffer from continued police harassment as well as illnesses and injuries resulting from torture, beatings and mistreatment while in prison. Many of those injured have had to pay for their own medical expenses and continue to struggle as the physical and psychological scars leave them unable to take care of themselves or to work. Some who took part in the protests still find it difficult to make ends meet after they were dismissed from comfortable jobs or expelled from universities after 1989.

It is an oft-repeated claim that the pro-democracy movement was thoroughly crushed in 1989 and the Chinese people have “moved on”—they have become indifferent to politics and appear content with material gains. Contrary to this impression, individuals across the country continue to be inspired by the movement, many dedicating themselves to rights activism and helping ordinary people expose official corruption, social injustice and environmental degradation and to press local governments to address these issues. These human rights activists, who form a loosely-connected network known as the rights-defense movement (weiquan yundong), see it as an outgrowth of the pro-democracy movement or as laying the ground for future democratic reforms by raising citizens’ awareness of their rights and building civil society.

Recently, a well-known Chinese intellectual advocated that China adopt a truth and reconciliation process to address its human rights violations during the Tiananmen Massacre. The suggestion has caught the attention of other intellectuals, former student leaders and victims’ advocates. CHRD examines this proposal in this report. We argue that, in the absence of a genuine and firm commitment by the Chinese government to human rights, which entails democracy and the rule of law, such a process would certainly fail in its dual goals to both tell the truth about the Tiananmen massacre and foster reconciliation between citizens and the government.

In the meanwhile, CHRD continues to call on the Chinese government to allow independent investigations into the Tiananmen Massacre, hold officials accountable for the atrocities committed in June 1989, release a comprehensive list of victims of the crackdown, offer official apologies to and compensation for victims and their families andcease the harassment of individuals for commemorating, investigating and speaking out about the Tiananmen crackdown.

This report by the Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) draws upon on a recent report in Chinese by Jiang Qisheng (江棋生), a Beijing-based writer and activist and a participant in the pro-democracy movement. In addition, the report is based on interviews with other participants in the 1989 pro-democracy movement, with individuals recently released after serving long sentences for committing “violent crimes” during the protests and with current human rights activists. The report includes lists of 195 individuals killed (Appendix I), 57 injured (Appendix II), 15 executed (Appendix III) and 905 incarcerated (Appendix IV (a) and Appendix IV (b)) as part of the crackdown. The lists were compiled by Jiang, who has worked closely with the Tiananmen Mothers, a group of relatives of those killed during the Tiananmen massacre that has been collecting and compiling information for the past twenty years. CHRD has consolidated and updated the lists, supplemented them with additional cases and translated them into English.


Table of Contents

Part I. Two Decades of Human Rights Abuses against Tiananmen Protestors and Families

Arbitrary Detention

Torture and death penalty

Freedom of expression, association, and assembly

Political Discrimination

Part II. From the 1989 pro-pro-democracy protests to the rights defense movement

Part III. Looking Forward: Should Truth and Reconciliation be Put on the Agenda?

Part IV: Recommendations and demands

List of Useful Resources

Appendix I: List of 195 Documented Cases of Individuals Killed during the Tiananmen Massacre

Appendix II: List of 57 Documented Cases of Individuals Injured during the Tiananmen Massacre

Appendix III: List of 15 Documented Cases of Individuals Executed after Having Been Convicted of “Violent Crimes” during the 1989 Pro-democracy Movement

Appendix IV (a): List of 651 Documented Cases of Individuals Imprisoned in Beijing for Participating in the 1989 Pro-democracy Movement

Appendix IV(b): List of 254 Documented Cases of Individuals Imprisoned and Sent to Re-education through Labor for Participating in the June 4th Movement

Click here for the full report in PDF

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