Tiananmen mothers won't let memory of their dead fade

Mon Jun 1, 2009 4:40am EDT
 
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By Lucy Hornby

BEIJING (Reuters) - Twenty years after her teenage son was shot by troops near Tiananmen Square in Beijing, Zhang Xianling is still trying to work out how many others died with him.

The Chinese government's refusal to release an official figure for the number killed on June 4, 1989, is symbolic of its larger silence about the crackdown on student protesters.

China's economy is now the third-largest in the world, an achievement that would have been unthinkable during the impoverished 1980s. But political reform has stalled, with the Party quick to stamp out any perceived challenge.

"China is on the road to democracy and the rule of law, but we don't know how long that road will be ... Before, I thought I would see the day, now I am not so sure," Zhang said in an interview in her comfortable living room, filled with books and her husband's musical instruments.

"Now the economy is more developed. A lot of people just chase economic advancement, and don't worry about politics."

Zhang's son, Wang Nan, was a cheerful, bespectacled 19-year-old when he left a note on the night of June 3 to say he was going to join friends on Tiananmen Square.

It took 10 days before his disinterred body was returned to his parents. His glasses were still on his face.

Zhang founded Tiananmen Mothers with another woman, Ding Zilin, whose 17-year-old son was also killed. The group is trying to make a list of the dead and urge for a reassessment of the verdict that the movement was a "counter-revolutionary" plot.   Continued...

 
<p>A Chinese woman poses for a relative taking her photograph at Beijing's Tiananmen Square June 1, 2009. The Chinese government's refusal to release an official figure for the number killed on June 4, 1989, is symbolic of its larger silence about the crackdown on student protesters. China's economy is now the third-largest in the world, an achievement that would have been unthinkable during the impoverished 1980s. But political reform has stalled, with the Party quick to stamp out any perceived challenge. REUTERS/David Gray</p>