HONG KONG—The mother of a 17-year-old student killed during the armed crackdown on student-led protests in Tiananmen Square two decades ago has called for a burial site for the victims.
Retired university professor Ding Zilin said her son Jiang Jielan's ashes have been in her Beijing apartment since his death in the western Beijing district of Muxidi on the night of June 3, 1989.
"Around 11 p.m., he was shot to death by the troops marching towards the Square," Ding said in an interview.
Now, after 20 years of campaigning for a reversal of the official verdict on the incident—seldom discussed publicly in China—Ding just wants to find a resting place for her son.
My son and all others who died there were just common people."
"The thing I want to do most is to bury my son. For the last two decades, his ashes have been kept in my apartment," she said.
"With our retirement pension, we can afford to buy a tomb lot for him, but I don't want him to leave home."
Minors in China are traditionally buried together with their parents, and Ding said she didn't want to put her son's ashes in a public storage room at a cemetery.
"I would like to find a place in Beijing, to bury half of his ashes with those of other victims," Ding said, adding that other relatives of 1989 victims have also kept their loved ones' remains at home.
"I also wish I could be buried with the other half of his ashes," Ding said.
She called for a monument to commemorate those who died in the crackdown, which Beijing defends as being necessary to put down an organized rebellion against the ruling Communist Party, lauding soldiers who were killed in bitter street fights with Beijing residents as national heroes.
"I wish there would be a monument for the victims with their names on it," Ding said. "That way I hope the Chinese people, who collectively forget things easily, would remember things like this."
Ding added: "My son and all others who died there were just common people. They didn't want to overthrow the Communist Party, but they [opposed] corruption and they were brave enough to go to the most dangerous place on that murderous night, because of their concern about the fate of students in the Tiananmen Square."
Ding said more people died at Muxidi than on the Square itself, where the last ranks of students parlayed with the advancing soldiers and left peacefully.
She said that each time June 4 comes around, when she sees a tall young man, she misses her son.
"Now my husband's health is failing, and I feel quite lonely," she said.
Ding said she and husband Jiang Peikun have been harassed, detained, and threatened by Chinese security personnel for two decades, but that she thought it was worth it.
"Each time I was detained, I viewed it as an opportunity to voice our grievances," she said.
"I told police the miserable plight we victims' families suffer every day, and they didn't dare to hear or couldn't bear to hear it."
Original reporting in Mandarin by Wei Si. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translated by Chen Ping. Written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.