Image:Catherine Henriette/AFP/Getty Images
The following account is taken from a report by Apple Daily ‘A Tiananmen Mother’s Heartache for A Quarter of a Century’ Translated by activist, artist and writer Ms Rose Tang, a survivor of the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.
Mother’s Day means pain for Tiananmen Mothers. As the guns spat and crackled that momentous day of June 4, 1989, so many lives that were full of sunshine were cut down, including those of; Zhang Jin, an almost 19 year old daughter of Ma Xueqin, Wu Xiangdong, the 21-year-old son of Xu Jue, and Hao Zhijing, the 30-year-old son of Zhu Zhidi. For those traumatized mothers, who have been waiting for 25 years and don’t know how much longer they can wait, their only belief in staying alive, is to make the government admit they’ve done something wrong and return justice to their children.
Tragically, so far, only sorrow and disappointment accompany them. The government uses the so-called “stability maintenance” as an excuse to violate their freedoms and rights, they’re not allowed to see journalists, their visits to their loved ones’ graves are escorted by the police; even elderly mothers over 70 years old who have cancer are subjected to such treatment. Who wouldn’t be sad and angry?
“Twenty five years already, you see? It’s been so fast! The central leadership has changed quite a few of its members but they still don’t address it. Wrong is wrong. You’ll just wait until we die? We still have children and grandchildren after we die. This is a blood debt!” Apple Daily reporters visited the Beijing home of Tienanmen Mother Ma Xueqin. The 69-year-old still keeps items used and worn by her youngest daughter Zhang Jin. She’s heart broken to see them but still doesn’t want to throw them out. She said: “Her school bag, swimming suit, and jackets and coats. I’ve been keeping them. Look, these are still new.” “This child is very filial and mature. She took good care of her both grandmothers. They lived in the Western District. She went to wash her paternal grandmother’s hair and cooked for her. But good people don’t live long.”
Whenever talking about her daughter, Ma sighed and spoke of the lack of justice and the cruelty of the Communist Party: “I won’t forget this, unless I close my eyes and die. As long as I’m alive, I’ll fight for my daughter’s justice. I want to make them explain clearly. This event won’t be erased from the history. They’ve done something wrong, they have to explain why they killed people. Killing people without the blink of an eye, who are more cruel than the Communist Party? Murderers!”
Hospital Demands Corpse Keeping Fees! Rubbing Salt on Wounds
On the night of June 3, 1989, Zhang Jin went to visit her paternal grandmother after finishing work at the International Trade Center where she started a new job two months before. As all the buses were suspended, her boyfriend walked her home. They were attacked by a shower of bullets as they walked past the Nationality Cultural Palace. The couple ducked into a residential compound but there was little escape from the stream of gun-fire. Zhang was hit in the head. Residents used a door to carry her and walked across rooftops (to avoid the shootings in the streets) to the Youdian Hospital. She passed away in the morning of June 4 after emergency treatments. The cause of death on her death certificate was “bullet wounds”. Seamstress Ma Xueqin collapsed upon the news of her daughter’s death. She couldn’t eat or sleep and was bed bound, crying all the time. What happened next however was like rubbing salt on her wounds. She told the reporters: “At the time her work unit didn’t dare to tell others about this. They gave me two months of her salary then did nothing else. The hospital demanded fees to keep her body, otherwise they just let her body lie on the ground outdoor in the sun. Her head was oozing out blood. The crematorium was also demanding fees for the vehicle (that transported her body). They had no morality, I’m still outraged when I think of this. Just a little bit of money, they were so merciless and had no sense of kindness. It was already so corrupt back then. They only cared about money, nothing else,” Ma said.
When she erected a tombstone for her daughter, the government didn’t allow her to write the death date as June 4, 1989. She recalls: “They just didn’t want me to write June 4. They only allowed us to write June 3. They don’t even allow us to record the date (of death)”
Hundreds Died: The History Won’t be Erased
Ma’s husband Zhang Junsheng was a retired Naval officer. He cried in his heart after the horrible death of their young daughter. He traveled around seeking justice but became very ill because of his sadness and anger. He died in 2004 after having a stroke, colon cancer and pancreatitis . Ma said: “The old man was swamped in so much sadness, he became paralyzed and didn’t even close his eyes when he passed away. We can see how important this child was to him.” After her husband passed away, Ma moved to her elder daughter’s apartment to live for almost 10 years. She returned to her old home after her grandson she raised went to university. Now she only has a cat and old items left behind by those passed away to accompany her. She became an insomniac after looking at old photos and thinking of the past. “These children who had great futures died for nothing. Not just one or two, there were hundreds who died. They can’t erase that although they want. This history can’t be erased. So many have died. Two generations of Beijing residents know about this. They (the government) just lie to those people outside of Beijing who haven’t seen the event. At the time, bodies were piled upon one another, they even ran out of space to keep them. So sad!” Ma said.
Facing all kinds of explanations from the Chinese government, this gentle mother couldn’t hide her outrage: “Whatever they say is not true. Some explanations are just too much. There are bullet holes on the Monument to People’s Heroes but they say they didn’t shoot, they’re bullshitting!” The annual gatherings of the Tienanmen Mothers are comforting to her, she said: “We meet and chat. Some families have sadder stories. (The victims) left behind elderly parents and young children.” But the government has used all kinds of measures to increase pressure. Ever since the years immediately after (the massacre), whenever they met up and whenever it was a “sensitive date”, the police would stake out the residential compounds, later they sent the neighborhood committees to monitor and harass the families. Ma fumed about the lack of morality: “Why are they so afraid of us? Threatening us, disturbing our peaceful lives. They have so little morality. Nothing to fear after all these years, justice is on our side.”