Commemorating the 19th anniversary of the Chinese authorities' violent crackdown on the 1989 Democracy Movement, the Tiananmen Mothers are releasing maps marking the location of victims' deaths and the hospitals where the bodies of the dead were taken.
"In the aftermath of the May 12 Sichuan earthquake, the Chinese authorities have made efforts to demonstrate their respect and concern for human life," said Human Rights in China Executive Director Sharon Hom. "Human Rights in China urges the Chinese authorities to take long overdue steps to redress the loss of life, freedom, and human dignity of the victims of the 1989 crackdown."
The two maps are the result of 19 years of research by the Tiananmen Mothers, an organization of family members of the victims of the crackdown, according to Ding Zilin, the group's representative. While the group has compiled a list of 188 known victims, including 71 students, 13 of the victims—while known to have perished—could not be placed on the map as details of their deaths remain unknown.
The maps are a dramatic demonstration of how the Chinese government has sought to cover up the events surrounding the crackdown. The number of deaths is classified as a state secret and Beijing Mayor Chen Xitong reported just 36 students dead in a June 30, 1989, report to the People's Congress.
In publishing these maps, the Tiananmen Mothers say they hope to help the public gain a greater understanding of the route taken by the army as it imposed martial law and the actual site of the killings, according to Tiananmen Mothers spokesperson Ding Zilin. They also hope the maps will help them obtain a more complete record of the events of June 3–4, 1989, by prodding witnesses, including the authorities, to come forward to provide yet more information, Ding said.
Ding was formerly an assistant professor in the philosophy department of Renmin University of China. Her husband, Jiang Peikun, is the former head of the university’s Institute of Aesthetics. Their 17-year-old son, Jiang Jielian, was one of those shot to death during the military crackdown on June 3, 1989.
Ding began gathering victims' names shortly after the crackdown. In 1994, she published "A Register of 'June Fourth' Victims." The Tiananmen Mothers send letters every year to China's leaders, the National People's Congress, and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference seeking publication of the facts about the crackdown, a public apology, compensation, and a judicial investigation of the events. Over the 19 years since 1989, no Chinese leader has ever responded to their letters.
Human Rights in China urges the government to take advantage of the 19th anniversary of June Fourth and respond to the requests for dialogue made by the Tiananmen Mothers and begin the healing of this past tragedy.
To view the Chinese maps, see the recently launched website of the Tiananmen Mothers, at http://www.tiananmenmother.org/.