Tiananmen Mothers urge China's communist leaders to apologize for history
Sat May 28, 2:32 AM ET

BEIJING (AFP) - More than 100 relatives of people killed in the Tiananmen massacre have called on the government to apologize as the 16th anniversary of the tragedy approaches.

In an open letter by 125 relatives to President Hu Jintao, the Tiananmen Mothers group said the government's recent accusations against Japan for failing to acknowledge its World War II atrocities were meaningless because it has not apologized for its own transgressions.

"You and your predecessors have wiped the memory of the June 4 massacre from the books and have covered up this despicable event from history," the letter said.

"In this you have been very successful. You have been more thorough than those Japanese right-wing plotters who have tried to erase the history of the Nanjing massacre."

Hundreds, if not thousands, of unarmed protesters and citizens were gunned down in the streets of Beijing when the People's Liberation Army moved in to quell the six week-long democracy protests in 1989.

While Chinese leaders have angrily criticized Japan for refusing to face up to its militaristic past in China, they have refused to apologize for the party's disastrous polices like the "Great Leap Forward" and the "Cultural Revolution" that left millions dead or victimized, the letter said.

"Today you hold as gods Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping and others whose hands are stained with the blood of the people and who brought untold calamity to our nation," it said.

"Until this day you have refused to apologize to the tens of millions of victims and their families."

The top signatory on the letter was Ding Zilin, whose 17-year-old son was among those killed in the Tiananmen crackdown and who has spearheaded the campaign for those responsible to be held to account.

The government has insisted to this day that the heavy-handed response to quell what it called "the counter-revolutionary rebellion" paved the way for 16 years of robust economic growth.

The letter also alluded to Hu's vow to build a "harmonious society" in China, a political platform seen as central to his three-year old presidency and an effort to move away from the ruling party's political persecution campaigns of the past.

"The family members call on the Chinese government to act in accordance with its policies of 'people first' and 'harmonious society' by resolving the controversy over June 4th with appropriate action against those responsible, and restitution to the victims and their family members," it said.

Overseas rights groups, like the New York-based Human Rights in China (HRIC), voiced support for the letter and urged the government to come to a more just conclusion to the massacre.

"We fully support the open letter by the family members of June 4th victims," HRIC president Liu Qing said in a statement.

"China cannot hope for a harmonious society until it achieves resolution on nagging issues such as June 4th, which will remain a thorn in public consciousness until justice is served."