A group in Guiyang, Guizhou province openly call for justice for Tiananmen without being disturbed by the police, a sign that attitudes may be changing. (Internet photo)
The Chinese Communist Party may kick off political reforms by rehabilitating the victims of Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989, reports our sister Chinese-language newspaper Want Daily.
An article from Hong Kong's pro-democracy Outpost magazine claims that China's former president Jiang Zemin suggested to the country's future leader Xi Jinping that a move to rehabilitate the student protesters killed in the notorious crackdown could be the first step in launching political reforms. The Financial Times on Mar. 20 also reported that Premier Wen Jiabao mentioned "the democracy movement of 1989" three times at a private meeting with party cadres. Wen's suggestion of an official reappraisal of the incident, discussion of which remains taboo in China, was reportedly opposed by Bo Xilai, the disgraced former party chief of Chongqing who was ousted from his party positions earlier this year and is under investigation for "serious discipline violations" after the country's top leadership found him to be out of step with the central party line.
After the death in April of Fang Lizhi, an activist whose liberal ideas sparked the student-led democracy protests, the Hong Kong-based China News Agency run by the central government in Beijing published a report on his role on what is referred to in Chinese as the "June 4 incident." The agency also covered the annual vigil held in memory of the victims of the massacre on its 23rd anniversary in Hong Kong's Victoria Park, which this year saw its largest turnout ever. This development may be considered as a strong signal that the central leadership in Beijing is leaning toward a historic reappraisal of the incident, something more liberal figures among the leadership have hinted at in the past.
Another sign of this is that a small group of people were also permitted to openly commemorate June 4 in the city of Guiyang in southern China's Guizhou province this year without any interference from the police. Hou Dejian, a singer from Taiwan well known for leading the students' hunger strike against the government in 1989, was also granted permission to hold a concert at the National Stadium at Beijing.
Furthermore, the mayor of Beijing at the time of the protests, Chen Xitong, was also allowed to be interviewed about his memories of the incident for a memoir recently published in Hong Kong, in which he regretted the deaths and wished the response to the protests had been better handled.
It is not known how many people died in Tiananmen Square and its surrounding streets when PLA tanks rolled into the square in central Beijing on June 4, 1989. Estimates by various independent groups range from the hundreds to the thousands, while any official figure put forward by the authorities tend to state that more armed soldiers died than unarmed protesters, a line taken seriously by no one.
Fang Lizhi 方勵之
Hou Dejian 侯德健
Chen Xitong 陳希同