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World - Asia/Pacific

Mother of Tiananmen victim hopes for investigation

Ding Zilin
Ding Zilin

A former Communist Party official talks to CNN's Rebecca MacKinnon about how his empathy for the students resulted in his arrest
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Families still mourn the loss of their loved ones, and some hope for a public investigation. CNN's Rebecca MacKinnon talks with them.
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Windows Media 28K 80K

June 3, 1999
Web posted at: 1:36 p.m. EDT (1736 GMT)

In this story:

Odd man out


BEIJING (CNN) -- The last time Ding Zilin saw her son, he gently touched her face and joked it was "farewell forever." He then locked the bathroom door and escaped through the window to join pro-democracy protests in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

It was June 3, 1989. Jiang Jielian was a 17-year-old high school student driven by the waves of protest that had rocked the city for weeks.

Ding didn't understand Jielian's need to join in the protests and begged him to stay home. Hours later he was dead.

"His classmates told us that before he died he shouted, 'don't use force against the people,'" Ding told CNN.

"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 that pierced his heart," Ding said.

After her son's death, Ding began contacting the families of others who died. She is now an advocate for those relatives, gathering evidence on the killings and the death toll which, according to some who visited hospitals and morgues at the time, could run to more than a thousand.

Who's who
The government
The Activists: Division in the ranks
Chai Ling, Li Lu, Wang Dan, Wuer Kaixi
Families still mourn

Interactive Gallery:
A look back

Modern China
Rural democracy
Military might

Interview transcripts
a crackdown defender
a victim's mother
former Communist Party official
Premier Zhu Rongji

From TIME Asia
We remember
Where are they now?
Memories that won't fade

Message Board
Tiananmen Square anniversary

Ding and her husband, Jiang Peikun, hope someday their evidence will be used in a public investigation and trial of those responsible for letting troops fire on unarmed demonstrators.

Odd man out

But Bao Tong, a former secretary to the Communist Party Central Committee who served seven years in prison for opposing the actions in June 1989 says only one Chinese leader remains in place who can be directly linked to the bloody incident.

"In the leadership today -- with the exception of one person -- none of today's leaders are responsible for what happened," Bao said.

Li Peng, who was Chinese premier in 1989, ordered troops into Beijing to put down the demonstrations. He was later nicknamed "The Butcher of Beijing".

Li remains a powerful member of the Chinese government as the chairman of the Chinese legislature.

Paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, who Bao says issued the shoot-to-kill orders in 1989, died in 1997. He was 92.

Bao said he believed there was a strong need for China to acknowledge the June 4 massacre before the country could fully embrace reform. He said the first step should be for Li to acknowledge the mistake he made in ordering martial law.

"If today he (Li) could acknowledge his mistake, I believe the people would be happy," Bao said.

But the official version remains firm. Zhu Muzhi, secretary- general of the China Society for Human Rights Studies, told CNN that in hindsight "the way the June 4 turmoil was dealt with was completely correct."

"It's very possible that some people may have been shot by stray bullets. I think in that situation, it's possible that may have happened," Zhu said.

Zhu said the government's reaction was demonstrated as the correct one because "if the people had supported this rebellion then the government couldn't have calmed things down."

Beijing Bureau Chief Rebecca MacKinnon contributed to this report.

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