Ongoing struggles on the 11th anniversary of June 4 in China           Zhang Kai


      Although it is 11 years since the Tiananmen Event in China, and despite the many repressions on dissidents, the struggle against authoritarian rule has continued.

      Over 100 families of the people killed during the June 4 repression have launched a campaign named as The Tiananmen Mothers. In conjunction with groups fighting for human rights and similar groups from Argentina, Chile and South Korea (from the Kwangju Incident), they have joined in an action called End of Impurity in which they demand the governments to stop their acts of repression of the people. The families also wrote an open letter to the Party and State leaders Jiang Zemin and Zhu Rongji, demanding an investigation into June 4, explication of what had happened, and compensation to the deceased and wounded.

      8 dissidents from Jilin Province and the well known dissident Liu Xiaobo have separately issued open letters to demand rehabilitation of June 4, release of detainees, compensation to the deceased, political reform, and instituting democracy.

      In Sichuan, Henan and Hebei provinces, as well as in the United States, dozens of democratic fighters went on a 24-hour hunger strike to commemorate the dead. On the day of June 4, at least 15 persons are known to have been arrested for their commemoration activities, including two students from Peking University who lit a candle in a vigil.

      At the Tiananmen Square which was under heavy surveillance, Shen Zhidao, a supporter of the Democratic Party of China, took a similar action as what he did last year. Last year, at the same spot, he was arrested carrying an umbrella with the words "Democracy" and "Human Rights" written on it. This year, he wore a shirt with the words "Down with Authoritarian Rule", "Freedom, Democracy, Equality and Human Rights" written on it, and was again arrested.

      In Hong Kong, 2,000 people participated in a protest march, and 45,000 people participated in the June 4 candle-light night vigil. The theme this year was to educate the next generations on democracy. In Taipei, the biggest candle-light gathering since 1989 was held, with people from different parties participating. Gatherings also took place in the US, Canada and Europe. It was reported that in many cities in the States, such as Harvard, New York, Washington and San Francisco, more people turned up than last year.

      Back in 1989, the movement for democracy was prompted by massive discontent from various sections of society about inequality, social injustice, corruption, graft, and growing hardship in life. The demand for political reform was rejected by the party and state leadership, and clamped down by the army. However, the underlying problems prompting the eruption of protest in 1989 aggravated after the crackdown. The privately accumulated wealth of big and small bureaucrats also increased. This shows the necessity and importance of the movement for democracy in 1989.

      Social polarization and impoverishment caused by the bureaucracy have prompted more and more protests and struggles. Here are some concrete data.

1.  According to internal statistics of the government, in 1999, at least 100,000 cases of demonstrations and protest marches had taken place all over China. This meant an average of 270 cases everyday, a 70% increase over the preceding year. Lately, in Beijing and Shenyang, there were reports of the people taking to the street to protest questions relating to their livelihood, and they usually blocked the traffic. (Apple Daily, June 12)

2.  In 1999, labour disputes in China amounted to 120,000 cases, 14 times as many as that of 1992, and an increase of 29% compared to 1998. Collective labour disputes, including rallies and marches, were 6,567 cases in 1999, with 251,268 workers involved. This was nine times the figure of 1993. In Beijing, in the first half of 1999, the number of labour disputes was two times the same period in 1998. Collective disputes was four times that of the same period in 1998. (Washington Post, 23 April 2000).

3.  There were 216,750 labour strikes in 1998, with 3.5 million workers involved. Of these, 627 cases were direct assaults on party or state institutions, and 459 cases involved violent confrontations with the police. (China Labour Bulletin, March-April 1999)

      The increasing discontent and protests from workers are due to several reasons: failure of the enterprises to pay wages; bad welfare or working conditions such as safety or sanitation inadequacies; infringement of worker rights; unjust compensation after layoff or retirement; sale at low prices of state-owned factories whereby the leadership pocket much money but workers get little compensation; layoffs of state-owned enterprises due to structural readjustment or privatization; resentment against corruption, graft and autocracy of the cadres.

      In February this year, in Liaoning province, the troops were deployed to crack down on over 20,000 miners who had occupied the mines for three days, blocked the railroad, and burnt cars.

      Students of Peking University also took to action at a time near the June 4 anniversary. A student, Yao Qingfeng, was murdered about a fortnight before June 4 on her way back from one campus site back to the main campus in the night. Students wanted to hold an obituary ceremony for her, but this was refused by the authorities on the ground that this was "an ordinary criminal case that happened outside the campus". This ignited student anger, and invited denunciations from students about the authorities spending money on renovating offices but ignoring safety issues for students, hence they should also be partially responsible for the student's death. Two thousand students rallied and marched in protest in the campus, and the majority of the students attempted to march outside the campus. The university administration and the government then compromised, and allowed students to hold an obituary gathering in the campus. Six thousand students participated, with students coming from other universities. Thereafter, on the night of June 4, there were big character and small character posters in the campus demanding rehabilitation of the June 4 Incident. Candles were also lighted.

15 June 2000