What did the Tiananmen Square massacre show?

Reward for forgetting "May 35, 1989"

"Eight times eight", "May 35, 1989" or the Roman numerals "VI" and "IV" - in China these terms stand for the day on which the Chinese government brutally cracked down on students who protested peacefully. Because the term "64" - an allusion to the date of the massacre on Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989 - has been taboo for 22 years. That's why sophisticated Chinese internet users create such synonyms to circumvent censorship.

Similar to the current upheavals in the Arab world, Chinese students protested in June 1989 for more freedom and democracy. There was enough reason for the protest: At the end of the 1980s, food prices rose to unprecedented levels. The students criticized the fact that the rulers and their relatives with their special privileges in the planned economy system of the time had raked off a lot.

Although the students demonstrated peacefully, the Chinese government decided to use the People's Liberation Army against its own people. Tanks drove ruthlessly into the crowd in Tiananmen Square, as Tiananmen Square is called in Chinese. Shots rang out. The army, initially described by the official authorities as "disciplined restrained", showed its second face. Cautious sources estimate the number of victims at "only" a few hundred. Other sources speak of up to 2,000 dead.

Compensation after 22 years?

The "Tianamen mothers" demand justice - the state offers them money

After the massacre, the mothers of some of the victims founded the organization "Tiananmen Muqin" - in German "Mothers of Tiananmen". For decades, women have publicly demanded legal proceedings against those responsible and masterminds behind the massacre. The organization has been monitored by the Chinese government since it was founded and has faced numerous repression.

Now, shortly before the 22nd anniversary of the massacre, the "Mothers of Tiananmen" announced that the Chinese government has apparently tried to silence a victim family through financial compensation. Xu Jue, one of the Tiananmen mothers, sees it as a provocation that the Chinese government is now trying to make up for the loss of the children with money: "The government owes us justice, but it only talks about money. How can it improve the lives of our children equate with money? Isn't that some kind of insult to us? "

According to the "Mothers of Tiananmen", the security authorities offered a family of victims compensation. The family then demanded the equivalent of around 320,000 euros. So far, the authorities have not yet responded to this request, it said.

Hope for China?

Bao Tong: Compensation is the state's admission of guilt

Bao Tong was a close associate of the then general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, Zhao Ziyang, in the summer of 1989. At the time, he had shown understanding for the protesting students - and was subsequently disempowered.

Bao sees the Chinese government's willingness to compensate the victims' families as an admission of guilt by the state. The governments are now considering compensation and admit that the mistake was made by the state, said Bao Tong. The Chinese government would never have considered such compensation if they still believed their decision made 22 years ago to be correct. "The military action against the people does not correspond to the principle of a people's republic. If we publicly admit to this principle and live it, China gains hope," says Bao.

Full clarification required

In 1989, peacefully demonstrating students called for more freedom and democracy

However, the Tiananmen mother, Xu Jue, is still feeling the state's oppression firsthand. A week before the anniversary, the security agency visited her. She was forbidden from leaving home and mourning her son's grave.

Xu and other Tiananmen mothers are sticking to their claim against the Chinese state. They demand a full and complete explanation of the massacre as well as legal consequences against the perpetrators of the horror. They are also demanding compensation for all relatives of the victims of "May 35, 1989" - as the date is called on the Chinese Internet.

Author: Jun Yan
Editor: Dang Yuan