Thursday, 1 October 2015

Remembering a Selfless Fighter

Jiang Peikun and his wife Ding Zilin were cofounders of Tiananmen Mothers
We are saddened to hear that retired Chinese academic Jiang Peikun, co-founder of the group Tiananmen Mothers has died at the age of 81.

He and his wife Ding Zilin lost their only son Jiang Jieliang, 17, during the bloody crackdown at Tiananmen Square on the night of June 3, 1989.

The duo channeled their grief and anger into activism that has campaigned for truth, accountability and compensation for victims for the past 26 years.

The name "Tiananmen Mothers" was chosen over "Tiananmen Fathers" because Jiang believed it would be more emotive with people on the mainland and abroad.

Jiang was formerly a linguistics professor at Beijing's Renmin University who died Sunday at his home in Wuxi, Jiangsu province. He is survived by his wife Ding.

Ding lost her son Jiang Jieliang 26 years ago at Tiananmen
"With heavy hearts, all members of Tiananmen Mothers will always remember Jiang Peikun, who was also a pioneer of aesthetic research in China," said an obituary published by the group on the WeChat social media website on Thursday.

"We will turn grief into strength, and move forward unswervingly to achieve our three major demands that were established by him -- truth, accountability and compensation [for victims of the crackdown]."

You Weijie, spokesperson for Tiananmen Mothers, said: "Ding wants to tell all of her friends, that, for the rest of her life, she will work to complete her husband's dying wish [for the group's demands to be met]. He was the spiritual leader of Tiananmen Mothers," added You, who is the widow of a victim of the 1989 crackdown.

In the past 26 years, Ding and Jiang have collected the names and testimonies from families who lost their children in Beijing at that time. Even last October they sent four members to mainland provinces and municipalities to record more testimonies from more than 20 other families of victims.

Jiang had a stroke caused by cerebral infarction in 2008 but that did not deter him from continuing with his activism -- he insisted on working on editing and post production work on new testimonies they had collected at the time.

In an earlier interview, Ding said her husband carried on working, even though he was forced to wear an oxygen mask to complete his tasks.

He was also the one who drafted the group's main statements and objectives, and during sensitive periods Jiang and Ding were kept under house arrest. They were also harassed when they showed support for jailed human rights activist Liu Xiaobo who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010.

After news of Jiang's death was announced, the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China and overseas dissidents paid tribute to him. At 11am today -- the start of the National Day holiday -- the alliance held a memorial in front of the Beijing Liaison office in Hong Kong. Members also demanded redress from Beijing over the crackdown.

We hope for Ding and Jiang's sake that the Chinese government will face up to the truth and give them and all the other families the right to mourn and account for the children they lost that night. If anything they deserve to know what happened and why.


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