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China's Tiananmen Mothers Criticise Xi For Lack Of Reforms

posted 31 May 2013, 04:31 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 31 May 2013, 04:32 ]

A group of families demanding justice for the victims of China's 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown release an open letter denouncing new Chinese President Xi Jinping for failing to launch political reforms.

BEIJINGCHINA (MAY 29, 2013)(REUTERS) - Twenty-four years after her son was killed in China's 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, Ding Zilin is still waiting for an apology.

On June 3rd 1989, 17-year-old Jiang Jielian ignored his mother's pleas and left home to join the protests in the heart of Beijing. That was the last time she saw him alive.

Ding, 77, and other members of the Tiananmen Mother's group released an open letter on Friday (May 31), denouncing new Chinese President Xi Jinping for failing to launch political reforms.

The group, made up of family members of those who died, has long urged the Chinese leadership to open dialogue and provide reassess the June 4, 1989 pro-democracy movement, bloodily suppressed by the government which labelled it a "counter-revolutionary" event.

"What the Tiananmen Mothers are seeking is justice for their family members and a re-evaluation of June 4th. This is the goal the Tiananmen mothers are pursuing. Even if I won't see it in my own lifetime, I will make the most of every single day. I will never give up," she said.

The open letter, released through New York-based Human Rights in China, said Xi had mixed together the most unpopular elements from the rule of former paramount leaders Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, the latter of whom oversaw the putting down of the protests.

Xi became president in March at a time of growing public pressure to launch long-stalled political reforms, but his government has clamped down on free expression on the Internet and detained activists, giving no sign the party will ever brook dissent to its rule.

"He hasn't said one word about political reform. Am I wrong? Not one word about political reform. And everyone knows that a just resolution to the June 4th issue, a re-evaluation of June 4th, will not happen by itself. It needs to be tied to progress inChina's political reform and democratisation," Ding said, referring to Xi.

After initially tolerating the student-led demonstrations in the spring of 1989, theCommunist Party sent troops to crush the protests on the night of June 3-4, killing hundreds.

The topic remains taboo in China and the leadership has rejected all calls to overturn its verdict.

The vast square is still a hotspot for attempted protests, but a heavy police force means the only crowds are the thousands of tourists it sees each day.

Liberal historian Zhang Lifan said the new government was highly unlikely to change their stance on the incident.

"There are many people within the system who feel the same as those outside the system: they think this problem needs an explanation. But we see now that they have held this card in their hands for too long, so perhaps they won't be able to play it," he said.

In response to a question about the Tiananmen Mother's open letter on Friday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said China's stance on the issue was correct.

"China has already reached a clear conclusion on the political turmoil that took place at the end of the 1980s as well as all related issues," Hong said.

"Over the past years we have seen constant development of China's economy, progress in building democracy and a legal system, and cultural undertakings have continued to prosper. This shows that the path we have chosen is in keeping withChina's national situation," he added.

A handful of people remain in prison 24 years on, according to the Dui Hua Foundation, a U.S. group that works for the release of Chinese political prisoners.

While China grapples with thousands of protests a year, over everything from pollution to corruption and illegal land grabs, none of these demonstrations has even come close to becoming a national movement that could threaten the party's rule.