BEIJING – You Weijie is constantly on the China police’s radar, but that doesn’t deter her from paying annual visit to the grave of her husband who was shot dead three decades ago during the Tiananmen Square carnage – one of the most sensitive issues for the Chinese authorities.
Like each year, You had bought a basket of flowers to be kept near Yang Minghu’s grave on Friday to mark the “Tomb-Sweeping Day,” an equivalent of the “All Saints Day” in the west – when families visit the graves of their loved ones and tidy them up. The day usually falls on April 4 or 5 every year.
“I usually buy a basket of flowers and place it next to my husband’s grave,” You, spokesperson of Tiananmen Mothers, a group of 177 families of the victims of the June 4, 1989 massacre, told EFE.
Every year Chinese police question her if she would visit the Wanan cemetery in Beijing. This is being done to monitor her movements and prevent her from talking to the foreign media.
You’s responses are always evasive, hoping that the police would leave her alone for that private and painful moment.
The interview with her had to be conducted over the phone because when reporters tried meet her at her house, plainclothes officers stopped them in the building before being surrounded by half a dozen policemen.
“Surveillance increases on sensitive dates. As this year is the 30th anniversary (of Tiananmen Square massacre), it is very strict. We are treated as if we were factors of social instability,” she told EFE.
Every June 4, for example, families are forced to visit the cemetery in police vehicles.
On that day, mourners put chrysanthemums flowers, usually used on such occasions, on the graves but also add a red rose “because they are different from the other dead as they died anomalously to the bullets.”
The bullet that hit Yang pierced his bladder and ripping his pelvis open near the Forbidden City, north of Tiananmen Square, when security forces allegedly shot at thousands of pro-democracy protesters.
You recalled her husband heard some gunshots at 1 o’clock on the morning of June 4.
Worried over the fate of the protesting students, he left for the square on his bicycle while she stayed at home with their four-year-old son.
The next thing she remembers was that her husband had been taken to a hospital with a gunshot wound, along with six others, five of whom had died on arrival at the emergency room.
“The emergency room was full of blood and a lot of people were crying. I waited there until 10 in the morning, when (Yang) was taken out of the operation theater. He died two days later,” she recalled.
A shattered You had now to fend for herself and her child. But her woes didn’t end there.
She lost her job as a dyeing technician in a textile company due the 1990s Chinese industrial revolution.
She and other families of the Tiananmen victims are being treated with distrust since 1992 when the affected relatives began seeking accountability for the massacre. However, solidarity and donations from abroad have sustained them and kept their hopes alive.
“From the 1990s to the present, the police have harassed those we want to talk to,” said You.
The official Chinese version was that the protests were orchestrated from abroad to overthrow the Chinese government.
The Tiananmen Mothers have relentlessly continued with their “reasonable” demands: to know the truth, to receive compensation for the losses, and the accountability of those responsible for the mass killings whose exact figure is still unknown.
However, China, which has never provided any explanation or answered to the family members, has tried hard to silence those who want to speak about the mayhem. Local media also makes no mention of it.
“My relatives have sometimes told me to stop protesting. But I think our protest makes sense. This matter cannot slip into oblivion,” You said.