A pro-democracy Chinese dissident expressed hope that Beijing will allow individuals forced into exile after particpating in the Tiananmen Square demonstrations to return to China.
Wuer Kaixi, one of the student leaders of the demonstrations, said that many are expecting China to rehabilitate those involved in the June 4, 1989, Tiananmen Massacre, and “it would be good for China to take a step forward.”
He said an appropriate “first step” would be to allow the pro-democracy activists who are now in exile to return to China to see their parents.
This would cause the least resistance within the Chinese Communist Party, be easy to execute, and “earn it the most applause,” he said in an interview with the Central News Agency on Friday.
The students who took part in the demonstration at Tiananmen Square had no intention of confronting the government, and pro-democracy activists in exile insist on a rational approach to the issues, the former student leader said.
The issue gained new traction recently when foreign media reports cited sources in China who said Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) raised the possibility of politically rehabilitating the victims of the incident.
Wuer Kaixi said China could not publicly confirm such a report, but “it hasn’t denied it either.”
Although many pro-democracy activists did not believe the report, they would be “very willing to see such a development,” he added. He said that Chinese authorities opened fire on unarmed students and began a bloody crackdown on June 4, 1989 and urged authorities to “take the first step toward reconciliation.”
Once the first step was taken, he hoped Chinese authorities would then apologize to victims and their family members and offer compensation in the future.
Wuer Kaixi said it took Taiwan 49 years to rehabilitate the victims of the 228 Incident — a brutal crackdown on dissent in early 1947 by the authoritarian Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) military command of the time — citing a 1995 open apology by then-president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) to the family members of the victims of the incident.
“Mainland China may take that long too. I have the patience to wait [for rehabilitation], but a lot of the family members of the victims are no longer young or healthy, and they might not be able to wait that long,” he said.
China has allowed some family members of pro-democracy activists to travel overseas to meet up, but Wuer Kaixi said he has not seen his parents for over 20 years since leaving China.
He also said that Fang Lizhi (方勵之), an astrophysicist who inspired the pro-democracy movement in China, died last week in the US, as did prominent academics Liu Binyan (劉賓雁, in 2005) and Wang Ruowang (王若望, in 2001).
“This is a tragedy. There are no modern civilized countries in the world that have so many people in exile,” he said.
Wuer Kaixi joined several other dissidents, including Wang Dan (王丹), in publishing an open letter to China last week that urged Chinese authorities to allow them to go home.