Ding Zilin: an advocate for the dead
Ding Zilin is an advocate for the relatives of those who died in 1989 (This interview was conducted by CNN Beijing Bureau Chief Rebecca MacKinnon in the early spring of 1999, but was held for release until the first week of June 1999 at Ding's request.)
REBECCA MACKINNON: Ten years have passed. What are your feelings today?
DING ZILIN: First of all, I want to say thank you to my American friends, to my American Chinese compatriots, and to friends from all over the world. Because it is only through foreign media interviewing me that I have been able to reveal my experiences to the world. In the past few years I have received love, concern and support from all over the world, and especially from America. Only with this love, concern and support have I been able to carry until today. So today I want to use this opportunity to say thank you to all of these friends.
In the course of history, the last ten years are just a flash. But for me, and for those mothers who share my fate, the last ten years have been endless. You could say that we have suffered continuously for more than 3,000 days and night. I don't know if there is a word in English to convey the meaning of the Chinese word "nao" [to constantly suffer]. But I think for myself, and for the other mothers, this word is the most accurate. Ten years ago, when my son was suddenly killed, my relatives were afraid I would end my own life. In fact, I tried to do so six times. During those two years, I drifted agonizingly between life and death . At that time living was worse than death. Death would have been the easiest option for me. Every day and every night for the last ten years, I have missed my son. The tears I shed for my dead son - there is a phrase in Chinese: "using one's tears to wash one's face." In those two years, that was how I lived my life.
But having passed through these ten years, using this suffering as a starting point, I have started to stand up again. How have I done this? In August of 1989, I found a family that had suffered the same loss as me, a family that had lost a son like me. After that I found a second, a third and a fourth family. We got together and comforted and cared for each other. Afterwards, we began to search for other families with the same fate. In the process of searching, I realized it wasn't only myself, that it wasn't only my husband and me, my family, that had encountered loss. In the space of one month we found so many families who had lost a relative. In the last ten years, we have found more than 150 families like our own. And up until now, we haven't yet found one who was a "thug" as the government said.
Those who were killed were all hot-blooded youths, and citizens of Beijing. They were up against an armed military enforcing martial law. That year when they took to the streets they simply wanted to persuade the military not to enter the city, and not to use force against the people.
On the night of the 3rd of June my son let go of my hand, and ran off to ride his bike to Muxidi [a neighborhood West of Tiananmen square]. This was his only hope. His classmates told us that before he died he shouted, "Don't use force against the people." When he was shot he said to his classmates , "I think I may have been shot." He thought that he had been hit by a rubber bullet. He didn't think it could have been a real bullet. At that moment he still thought that it was a rubber bullet that pierced his heart, and ended his 17-year-old life. And yet along with my son, from contacting families like our own - many of whom we are now very close to - we know that some of those who were killed were in fact soldiers enforcing military law, and didn't want to use force against the people.
There was one recent graduate from Qinghua University. He was young, 24 years old. He was named Duan Changlong. As a member of the military he went to the Minorities Cultural Palace. But then he stood up and shouted to the soldiers, begging them not to use force against the people. But he was shot in the chest at short range with a small-gauge hand gun, and he died. Another man was killed while using a board to carry away the injured and protect them. When his wife received notice of his death she hurried to the hospital. The gateman at the hospital told her "Your husband was a good man, we saw him repeatedly use the board to lift up the injured and carry them to our hospital." Because this worker's was very strong, he used the board to carry those injured to hospital. But the gateman also told his wife that the last time he saw her husband it was everyone else who lifted up the husband's body. When his wife reached the hospital, her husband's condition was already serious, she didn't get there in time to say goodbye. So the doorman consoled her. Until the present, the wife hasn't told her mother-in-law of his death. The mother-in-law has always believed that her son is in some kind of trouble, and hopes that one day he may suddenly return. His wife must bring up a seriously ill daughter on her own. The daughter is now in senior high school.
There was another young girl. She had just graduated from Peking University School of Medicine. She was part of a rescue team organized by the people. Before she was injured she cared for many of those injured. But then she heard someone call out, and realized that there was someone injured elsewhere. She lifted her head, and a bullet hit her in the neck, ending her young life. This person's life was ended while rescuing other people. She was buried by her family in Wanan Cemetery. If you one day have the opporunity to go to Wanan Cemetery, you can see a headstone where it's inscribed, "Wang Weiping's grave." She should have graduated in the summer of that year, 1989. She had already decided that after graduation she would stay in that hospital and become a gynecologist. She spent six years in the Faculty of Medicine. Of the many children in her family, she was the only one to attend university.
There were also two other girls, both named Zhang. During the massacre, as they ran away from the military, they were both killed. There was one girl, one of the girls named Zhang, she was 19 that year. She was with her boyfriend near Xidan and saw the military shooting. They ran into an alleyway near Xidan, but the martial law military forces chased them to the alley. The girl was shot in the head. Her scalp was ripped off. The skin and hair from her haid stuck to the wall beside where she was killed. Her boyfriend was like a madman. He went inside the compound and got a meat cleaver. He wanted revenge. But the people beside him pulled him away desparately, and took both of them in to a compound. By pulling away the boyfriend, they saved his life. They took the girl to the hospital, but they couldn't save her life. When I published that book in 1994, it had two photos of that girl - a portrait, and a full body shot. This 19-year-old girl was pictured standing. She had a round sweet face, and was shown standing with her bike. This was how she was killed.
There was another girl named Zhang, a third-year student at the People's University in the Department of International Politics. She was called Zhang Xianghong. She was going home to visit her family with her brother and sister-in-law. They were heading for Chaoyangmenwai. As they went along Qianmenwai they were blocked-off by a military vehicle. She and her sister-in-law were blocked-off. They hid in the bushes by Qianmenwai, but she was still shot and killed. She died in her sister-in-law's arms. Her sister-in-law was a medical worker, and took her to Beijing city emergency center. But they couldn't save her life. These two girls were both killed while running away from the military.
There was another woman of about the same age as me. She was then over 50. She lived at Maolingju. She was in the military. She and her husband were both soldiers. She was resting in her own compound, but was killed by the military. So her husband was extremely upset. After we found him he said that his wife wasn't killed while standing in the square, but in his own home, by a bullet fired by his own army. From this time on her husband stood together with us - this very straight old man, this old soldier. From these countless, bloody facts, I have reached this conclusion: the 1989 student movement and people's movement were patriotic movements concerned with democracy and fighting corruption. They were not, as the government has said, counter- revolutionary rebels. These falsely accused Chinese people, like my son - he wasn't even a citizen yet, he was not yet 18, he hadn't any experience.
There was another 9-year-old child, Lu Peng. He was only 9 years old, but was still killed. So these people who were wrongly killed - this is the government's crime against mankind. After the people of Beijing passed through this terrible period, they all knew that Deng Liyang - that's Deng Xiaoping, Li Peng and Yang Shangkun. The scales in the hearts of the people are the fairest measure. Why do they say it was Deng Liyang? Why don't bring up other people? Of course, in Beijing, beneath Deng LiYang there were many others who were responsible - Li Ximing, Chen Xitong. Nationally, there are many others as well. But the common people know that the main responsibility lies with Deng Liyang. Deng Xiaoping and Yang Shangkun are gone. In dying they also left behind their legal responsibility. But though they have escaped their legal responsibility, I don't think they will escape history's judgment.
Today, after ten years, Li Peng is still around. I think regardless of what happens to the families of those who were killed and to those who were injured, there will still be the people of Beijing, and all the people of the world who have a conscience. They will never forget that Li Peng, who is still with us now, was one of the June 4 murderers. He not only participated in the June 4 massacre, but also denied direct responsibility for implementing it. He evaded legal responsibility. If he died before the law catches up with him, then what applies to Deng Xiaoping and Yang Shangkun will apply to him also. He won't escape history's judgment. I believe that history is just.
MACKINNON: Other countries have also experienced disasters in which many people have died. But in other countries there is usually a public investigation, and the disaster can be spoken about publicly by society, other people can sympathize with those who have suffered, the affair can be acknowledged. June 4 seems to be special - many people died, many of their relatives have suffered, but publicly it seems that it never happened. What has been the impact on Chinese society?
DING: Looking at the government's statements over the last ten years, that would seem to be the case. Domestically, after the massacre they used their power to suppress the people, who were upset and indignant. After the massacre they used a series of different measures - arrest, detention, and sentencing of those involved. Outside of China they used economic means to evade pressure to improve human rights exerted by Western governments after June 4. They used economic means to suppress it. They thought that as time went on they could block out the whole June 4 affair. In Chinese this is called "wiping the day away with one's hand" - washing their hands of it. But in fact, they can't do that.
In 1991 I was interviewed by ABC. After the interview the government used a number of different measures to put pressure on my husband and me - they wouldn't let me go to class, wouldn't let me take on any research students, wouldn't let us publish anything domestically, expelled me from the party, and confiscated my husband's research. This developed to the point where they secretely detained us. I was detained for more than 40 days. Even after we were released, I was still forced to retire early.
In 1996 they also forced my husband to retire early. They want to sound a warning, to use these measures to warn other relatives not to speak out. What they are saying is, "As soon as you speak out publicly, then all of the things that have happened to Ding Zilin will happen to you." But it hasn't suppressed them, because I'm continuing to search. You should know that I was able to contact more than 150 relatives of those who were killed, and 60 of those who were injured on my own.
From 1991 onwards, my husband, my family and I have been under the tight supervision of the authorities . So we want to use every opportunity to search for other relatives, and to find them one by one. We have to be very meticulous and follow up on every clue to find those who share our fate. While the speed of our search has been quite slow, it is getting faster. In 1994, in the nineties, from the time when the book detailing how 60 of those were killed was published, I found another 96 relatives of those who were killed. So now we have found more than 150. That means that the numbers- but these numbers are only the tip of the iceberg compared to the total number of people killed in the massacre. But, as one of our friends said, at least this tip is visible. From this tip of the iceberg people can see the truth. I can tell you, tell friends, and go through you to tell other friends, so that they all know what reaction their concern and love has met with.
Last year in October, just three days after the Chinese government signed the International Covenant on Human Rights on October 8, they froze the bank account containing the humanitarian donations given to us by a German student. But even after they froze the account, the relatives were not suppressed. They bravely took a petition to Beijing's Mandajie Security Bureau, and the State Security Bureau. Because the orders to freeze the account came from the Beijing Security Bureau, they went to look for the government office above them - the State Security Bureau. But these old women are the same age as me, over 60, and we are all just common people. We didn't know where this bureau's office was located. They searched from morning until half way through the night . In the end they finally found the State Security Bureau. They handed over their letter of complaint. After a month, eight relatives and injured went back to the State Security Bureau, and tried to see the bureau chief again and give him a letter of protest.
In recent years General Chi Haotian remarked in America that no one died in Tiananmen Square. I also noticed that not long ago, when talking to a journalist from Germany's morning paper, Li Peng openly stated that historical conclusions have already been reached on June 4. I don't think that it's strange at all that Li Peng, the June 4 murderer, made such a remark. I think in the end the cover up will be stopped, and we will be able to reach genuine conclusions. Not only can they not suppress us, but in trying to do so they actually give us more strength.
After the donations from the German student were frozen, Washington's Radio Free Asia aired a program in which the host interviewed six or seven different relatives. On the phone they all stood up to Li Wanfang and said their relatives were killed. I think if it had taken place in 1991, I would have been the only one interviewed. Afterwards, as I just said, there were two mothers. Now there are more than ten people. That program already broadcast the stories of those six or seven relatives who were interviewed. And there are many more who are either willing to be interviewed or who have already been interviewed. I think this signifies that there is a problem.
In the last few years we have reached this understanding: from our 150 families, from the murders of our relatives, from our understanding of what happened, and from our experience, we have grasped that what is actually the most precious in life is not power, and it's not money, but it is people's lives, because people only have one life. They only have one chance at life. After a person dies they can't come back. And after someone dies they leave their family behind to suffer endlessly.
In the last few years we've come to understand that people are born with the right to life and the right to freedom. You can't deprive people of them. Even the government and its leaders don't have the right to arbitrarily deprive people of their lives, to arbitrarily deprive our relatives of their lives. So for our relatives who have died, for those people still alive, and for our own rights and dignity, we must get justice.
Regardless of the government, and how they have threatened us, from 1995 to 1998 our group of relatives contacted the National People's Congress (NPC) six times. On the last occasion we contacted the nation's leaders instead. We contacted them six times and sent them petitions. The earliest petition had 27 signatures, but this later increased to 56. We got more and more signatures.
The last time we didn't write to the NPC because in May of 1998 Li Peng had already become the chairman, so we decided that we couldn't send our letter to the NPC. We wrote instead to the nation's leaders. We persisted in raising three demands. These three demands are, first, that they organize an independent investigation into June 4. We demand that they hold an open and independent investigation into the June 4 massacre, publicise the investigation's findings, and publish a list of all of those killed. This is our first demand.
The second demands is that they make an explanation to all of the families of those killed. We demand that they make an explanation to us regarding how our relatives were killed. After that, we demand that the Standing Committee of the NPC conduct legal proceeedings regarding the June 4 massacre, and compensate all of our families according to the law.
The third demand is that legal action be taken against those who were responsible for the June 4 massacre.
We took our three demands to the NPC several times, and finally also to the nation's leaders. We believe that these three demands can't be separated. We want to get justice, and will not be put off by those relying on their power and money. And we won't be bought off.
For instance, sometimes they offer to independently solve your individual case and give you compensation, on the condition that you do not bring up any other cases. These are the same methods they used to rectify the anti-rightist campaign. They won't change their own false account of what happened, because it was Deng Xiaoping who said this was a counter revolutionary riot, so this definition can't be changed. Instead they say, "All the people who died were unintentionally wounded." We've heard of this kind of private deal. We don't know who is initiating these deals, but we cannot accept them.
Our three demands can't be separated. The justice we want is based on the rights and dignity with which all men are born. It can't be bought. So we have all along persisted in this. We will continue to persist.
After we sent our letters we did not get any reply from the government or from the NPC. But some of the relatives who signed the letter have been investigated by the Communist Party, or have been invited to discuss this with authorities at their place of work. For instance, they say, "Ding Zilin is a bad person, you shouldn't spend time with her. She organised a petition. Ding Zilin is scheming with foreign enemies. You shouldn't spend time with her. You should consider the you are still young and have a job and children. Sometimes they directly say, "Ding Zilin is an enemy." But the relatives of those killed aren't repressed by this. They still keep up their contact with me. We still persist, because these difficulties are not just my own, but rather are shared by many families. Our shared fate has united us.
If one day I lose my freedom - a part of my freedom has already been lost - or if one day I die, and we still haven't achieved justice, then those who are left behind are very capable. Those people will be able to continue our work. We will not waver. The government has thought of many ways to divide us. But they cannot achieve their objective. In the last few years, me and my - you asked me what I feel, but these feelings are very difficult, and very complex. I think there are very many - I just mentioned how from suffering I stood up. There is a relationship between this and our positive thinking regarding our problems. For example, from our individual difficulties, we managed to organize a group of more than 150 people. Behind these 150 people are those who were once alive, but are now dead. Aftewards we considered that since 1949 onwards, during these 50 years, this half century, 80 million of our compatriots have died unnaturally. We consider the 150 deaths in our own families as contributing to these 80 million unnatural deaths.
We consider these three figures together, and believe that this has not ocurred by one man's doing, and is not the result of one individual's dictatorship. Rather, perhaps we must look at the system itself. If you want our people to forget their difficulties, then perhaps you must fix the system. The Communist system is basically inhumane, and acts against humanity, so it commits crime after crime against mankind. Now at the end of the 20th century, the world's civilisation has arrived at a stage where, as we have seen, in the last few years the world's dictatorships have toppled one by one, have been accused of crimes by their citizens, and through the good people of the world have been subjected to the judgment of the international community. They have had their cases judged by the international community and tried by the International Court of Justice, and have suffered the shame they deserve . So I think as China becomes one part of the world family, perhaps it can't be independent of it. This is the world's problem. This is something that requires our hard work. As we have nearly reached the anniversary of June 4 we relatives won't stand down. We still want to persist in making our three demands. In the letters we have given to the government and the NPC in the past, we have demanded to talk to the government. Because we have also noticed that in the last few years the Chinese government, particularly with foreigners, has said again and again that it is willing to talk with the U.S., willing to talk with the EU, willing to use confrontation to take the place of talks. And with Taiwan they have also said that they want to use dialogue to take the place of confrontation. So we think, if the goverment says it is willing to talk with foreigners, and can even talk with its enemy on the other side of the Taiwan Strait, why can't it talk with its own people? So our demand is that we talk with the government. We demand to talk with the government. We will have more and more relatives who are willing to endure anything to help the international community see what is happening with its own eyes - to tell the world, to tell mankind.
MACKINNON: When people here in China find out how your son was killed what is their reaction to you?
DING: I must answer you frankly. I don't want to be one-sided, as some of our compatriots have been. I don't want to cover up for them. At the time just after my son's death, you could say that some people recognized my family, and some ignored us. Some people remained close to us, and others became distant. My workmates, my friends, and my students all came to see me and consoled me. But all they said was, "You must get better." What they were most worried about was that I wouldn't live, so they wanted me to believe that he would very quickly return. In ten years he hasn't returned, what they said hasn't happened. So of all these people, some are concerned about me, but some changed and now keep watch on me.
There are others who I was formerly very close to, who after my son's death asked about me with concern, but who now treat me as a stranger when they see me, who repeatedly ignore me, or who see me and avoid me to escape embarassment. Because they are afraid - this is what I think - afraid of having contact with me.
Before the visit President Clinton's visit to China last year, plainclothes policemen from the Beijing Public Security Bureau openly kept watch outside my house 24 hours a day. Inside the People's University campus they prevented people having contact with us - not only in the university, but anywhere in Beijing . So these people were worried that if they had contact with me, after the Public Security Bureau found out they could be implicated, and their interests - benefits within the school, their career prospects, their housing, salary, and the freedom to leave the country - could be harmed. They weren't willing to pay this price. I don't have grounds to reproach them. I think I can only respect that this is every person's own choice. But of course sometimes I am very sad. I think this is one of man's weaknesses.
In the past my husband's research students, those majoring in aesthetics, were the most numerous in our Philosophy Department. But now very few of our students come to see us. Yet that year they experienced the 1989 protests, they passed through this student movement. I often think: did we do something wrong? But I don't think we did. I've examined myself, and I didn't. Yet these compatriots, their conscience has temporarily been warped and suppressed. But this is only one group of people. I want you to know that even more of our compatriots have shown kindness. Many people give donations. Of course they are mainly from overseas, and from foreign students. But there are also some donations that come from our compatriots. They are the ones who have gone into business. After they begin to earn money, they don't forget the families who have suffered. But they don't reveal their own names and identities. Some others aren't in business, and work very hard to earn money, and have given what they earn to me. There are others who I have run into in my housing compound.
Because I used to teach, I see my former colleagues on campus. I am not close to many of them. Yet in the last few years many people who I do not know, but who know who I am, have used their own ways to show concern for me and console me. I have some simple examples. Our apartment is next to the university's post office and shops. I can't walk very far because my health is poor, so I go to the shops near our apartment to buy things and post letters. But as soon as I get to the shop's door the sales staff are terribly warm towards me. In the past ten years there have also been a few other older sales assistants - most of them are new, and younger, and perhaps heard about my experience from the older sales assistants. Perhaps, also, the plain clothes policeman who watch me have told them of my experience. So they are very brave, as they are often very warm towards me in front of the plain clothes policemen. They help me carry groceries.
From these unspoken consolations I receive warmth and encouragement. So it doesn't seem that people's innate goodness is related to how cultured people are, or how much education they have.
MACKINNON: It seems that many people here in China - those who are not the relatives of those killed - think that it's best not to bring this up, that it's best to move forward. They say, if we obsess about this it may affect economic development, social stability and our capacity to earn money. So in your opinion, how will Chinese society benefit from opening June 4 to public discussion?
DING: In the past few years some of my friends and colleagues, including my relatives and my old classmates, have said this. They have said to me, :It is the past, you must look to the future." But in the last few years no one has advised me in this way. Why? Because in these few years our society has seen so much upheaval. The economic situation is so bad that there is unrest everywhere. This unrest is not brought about by June 4 relatives in their attempts to solve the June 4 problem, but is the product of social inequality, bribery and corruption. On the other hand, if ten years ago the students - those who began a patriotic movement opposed to corruption, and striving for democracy - had received the government's acceptance, if the government had conducted dialogue with the students, then today there would not be so much widespread turmoil.
Today there's a bomb here, tomorrow there's a fire there. Is this done by the June 4 relatives? In our yearly petition, we use only the most peaceful, most stable, and most formal methods. We just write a letter, stick on a stamp, and go to the post office to post it. We don't even go in person to give the letter to the Standing Committee, to the State Council, or to Zhongnanhai. We just write a letter. Some people say, "What you're doing is no use." We say, "No, we will use our letter, and use the language of the relatives of those who were killed to continue their legacy."
In 1989 they demanded dialogue, a peaceful method. Today we are the same. Furthermore, isn't this year the 20th anniversary of China's economic reform and opening? I think history will deliver the final judgment on these 20 years of so-called reform and opening up. And it's not true, as the current government believes, that they can make the historical judgments. Now there are many social inequalities. The large scale loss of state assets - this is caused by the government.
The June 4 relatives are the victims of only one of many countless inequalities. So we are raising our own special demands based on our own interests, and it seems now that no one is controlling us. Because there is so much unrest indicating these problems, there are many people bombing railroads and highways, deaths - there's so much of this everyday.
I think that only an impartial and fair solution to the June 4 problem can stop corruption. China needs peaceful, gradual change. Only in this way can our society maintain stability. Social stability does not rely on bullets, on power and influence, or on deliberately forgetting the past. I think it depends on justly giving the common people freedom, rights and impartiality. Citizens have rights, so Chinese people should also have them. Authoritarian regimes only serve to create unrest. Only through gradual change from authoritarianism can Chinese society move towards stability.
My demands are not high. I'm already over 60, I don't have any higher hopes. I want to work hard to get justice for my dead son and those who died with him, and for my people to live in peace and contentment. I don't want China to be in turmoil. Because if Chinese society is thrown into turmoil, the common people suffer misfortune and bitterness. I think our people face too many problems.
Sometimes on the television we see film of your American society, and of European countries. It's very beautiful to see this freedom and equality to express one's own ideas and hopes, to create a safe life. If you said I was dazzled by this, even that wouldn't express my true feelings. I feel a kind of intoxicating ache. Chinese are also people.
In this world mankind only has one chance. Why can't we have the life that all men should have? You Westerners are people, and so are we Chinese. Why do you have these freedoms, equalities and rights, while we are deprived them? But this can't be rushed. I oppose tyranny, but in the process of change, every instance of tyranny results in harm to the common people. One tyranny creates another tyranny. The struggle created by tyranny may simply create a new authoritarian regime. We don't want to create a new dictatorship. China's feudal, autocratic history, which has lasted for thousands of years, has already gone on for too long. Our society lags behind the world. What can we say of ourselves? We can say that we have a vast land with rich resources, and that we have a huge population, that we're a great people. So I feel a kind of misery, a kind of heartache. Of course, my husband and I, as well as our fellow relatives of those who were killed may never see that kind of freedom, this freedom that I yearn for. But in the years we still have left, we want to fight for it. We hope that the generations after us, those orphans left behind by those who died, can lead the lives of real people. I also hope that if we work hard the kind of massacre that occured on June 4, 1989, will never occur in China again. We have experienced too much deep pain.
MACKINNON: So if I understand you correctly, you are saying that June 4 caused many people to lose faith in their government?
DING: Right. Because I think that right now there's a whole series of social conflicts. I think the choice is still open to the Chinese government. If it fairly, completely and equally solvesthe June 4 problem the Chinese government can solve a lot of other problems. Because what created the June 4 problem was that the students and the people were opposed to corruption. The people tried to influence things. The government not only didn't accept this, but brought about a massacre.
The evil results of the massacre only increased bribery and corruption, and prevented society from becoming more fair. This injustice will only make the people more antagonistic. I think the fiercest oppostion that the government is now facing does not come from our group of relatives, but from social injustice, from people who have nothing. Those people who exist at the bottom of society pose the real challenge to the government now. But only if they justly solve the June 4 problem can they gradually re-establish their character and integrity with the people.
There are some leaders who have no just solution to the June 4 problem, but who, despite the fact that China's social problems have not been solved at all, talk about "realizing reconciliation with the people." I think this is wrong. That's not possible. To put it very bluntly, this is a very unwise way of justifying autocracy, and getting out of a sticky situation.
MACKINNON: What lesson should history take from the deaths of your son, of his friends, of his fellow students?
DING: I think that on the evening of June 4, 1989, when my son left his home, he was just beginning to taste how a man can participate in life. At that time, at the door of our bathroom, I took his hand and said, "You can't go outside in this danger," because we all saw the announcement of the crackdown on television. I said, "It's dangerous outside, you're a high school student, you still haven't grown up, how can you influence things?"
At that time I was a very selfish mother. I just wanted to protect my son from harm. I said, "It's too late to do anything. If you go you can't - you don't have the ability -". He said to me very seriously, "The most important thing is not action, but participation.". After he said this he softly touched my face and said, half jokingly, half seriously, "Farewell forever" and pushed me back. He went into the bathroom locked the door and jumped out the window, from our first floor flat, which at that time didn't have steel bars on the window. That's how he left. My son did not say, "I want to go and be a hero, I want to leave a mark in history." It wasn't like that. He said to me that the only important thing was to participate. He believed he had already grown up, that he had this responsibility. He wanted to to go Tiananmen and be with his elder brothers and sisters.
So he didn't heed his parents advice, and just went. So he was tasting what participation was like. And even though he lost his life - the sacrifice of his life and of the lives of the others who died, of the worth of their lives, including those who were wounded and disabled, who lost their health and happiness - I think history will not forget what they gave. Their impact is deep. Their sacrifice, their contribution has removed the scales from the eyes of many Chinese people, including my own. This includes those whose families did not suffer injuries, but who have become disillusioned with the communist system.
I think this impact cannot be destroyed. So I don't think they are - my son - some people have abused me, have said, "You think your son's a hero." Some other people have consoled me by saying, "You are the mother of a hero." I don't think he's a hero. He was just trying to get a taste of involvement. He was just a normal, young, Chinese person. But history is fair. I think that in the long run history will bring justice.Rebecca MacKinnon
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