Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Trying to Buy Reconciliation

Victims' families say no amount of money could compensate for lives lost in 1989

In the run-up to the 22nd anniversary of the Tiananmen Massacre, the mainland authorities have tried to discuss giving compensation money to the families of the June 1989 victims.

This is the first time they have approached the relatives of an unnamed victim twice since February, offering an unspecified amount of money. It was not clear if the money was supposed to be compensation or hush money.

In any event, the Tiananmen Mothers Support Group which revealed this latest development in an open letter welcomed this as a first step towards breaking the silence around the incident. But the group also said the gesture fell well short of the families' demands and was hardly a convincing gesture of reconciliation.

It accused the authorities of trying to settle the long-standing issue with money and trying to avoid the issue by not giving a public account of what happened so that the victims did not die in vain and still in obscurity.

"The visitors [police] did not speak of making the truth public, or providing an explanation for the case of each victim," the group said.

"Instead, they only raised the question of how much to pay, emphasizing that this was meant for that individual case and not for the families in the group as a whole."

The open letter also called for the end of "constant surveillance and personal restrictions" of the victims' families, as the group believed that would create a condition for further dialogue. In the run-up to sensitive anniversaries, members of this group are usually taken away on "holiday". The advocacy group also dismissed the possibility of settling with the authorities individually than as a group.

So far the relatives have documented 203 victims, with many of the victims' relatives yet to be located, while up until now Beijing has yet to release an official figure of the casualties.

The letter also noted the deterioration of human rights in China, saying it was the worst since 1989.

A veteran writer, journalist and advocate of reconciliation on the June 4 issue says paying compensation without establishing the truth would be unacceptable.

"The government has finally made a belated, tacit and strikingly much too small step towards acknowledging the truth of the crackdown, which is the prerequisite for any serious effort to seek reconciliation," Dai Qing said.

"As long as the authorities refuse to make public the whole truth, the relatives should not give up their hope and should be persistent to demand dialogue and try to make every little progress possible."

The Tiananmen Mothers Support Group are not deterred; they will continue their fight for justice for their children.

Even 22 years later their sons and daughters have yet to be recognized as victims of the government. No amount of money would ever replace those lives lost.

One wonders what the authorities will do next year to try to placate the families...

No comments:

Post a Comment