Relatives of those killed in China's 1989 crackdown on the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy demonstrations have renewed their calls for compensation and a reassessment of the event.
"China is in the middle of a critical moment of peaceful transformation," the Tiananmen Mothers, a group representing victims' relatives, said in an open letter yesterday.
"It should review events of historical importance, including the June 4 massacre that happened 17 years ago," the letter said.
Hundreds, perhaps thousands of people were killed in the bloody military assault that ended weeks of protests demanding greater democracy and an end to corruption.
China's leaders have defended the crackdown as ensuring social stability that has driven the country's breakneck economic success. They have rejected all pleas to change their official view of the protests as a counterrevolutionary riot and have never made a full disclosure of the events.
Authorities have banned public commemorations of the event and are particularly strict each year around the June 4 anniversary. Activists and relatives are routinely barred from leaving their homes or are moved to secret locations until the sensitive period is over.
Also yesterday, a human rights group said a US-based Chinese dissident serving a life sentence on spying and terrorism charges has been cut off from visits and correspondence from his relatives after staging a hunger strike.
Wang Bingzhang (王炳章) went on the hunger strike last month after his father's death and in protest against his continuing solitary confinement, Worldrights, a Washington-based group, said in a statement.
When Wang's sister tried to visit him in the prison in Shaoguan, a city in Guangdong Province, she was denied access, the group said.
Wang was accused of spying for Taiwan and plotting attacks that authorities said included a possible bombing of China's embassy in Thailand. Thai police said they hadn't heard of the alleged bomb plot.
The Tiananmen Mothers urged in their letter gradual moves to bring justice to the victims, including apologies and the payment of compensation.
"We understand that this issue needs to be resolved step by step," the group said.
It asked also that the government end surveillance and other limits on the personal freedom of relatives. Leaders should also allow public commemorations and allow relatives to collect donations, it said. Authorities have reportedly blocked victims' relatives from collecting such funds.