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Tiananmen figures: Victim's mother

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Ding Zilin describes the loss of her son

Ding Zilin is one of hundreds of parents whose children were killed in the Tiananmen massacre.

But she has not been content to simply grieve in private for her dead son, Jiang Jielian, who was just 17 when he died on his way to Tiananmen Square on the night of 3 June.

She and other parents began an organisation called the Tiananmen Mothers, which has launched public campaigns to have the massacre reassessed.

In the lead-up to the 20th anniversary of the killings, the organisation has again published an open statement to the Chinese leadership.

They want an independent investigation into the massacre, compensation and the prosecution of those they believe are responsible.

'Shot through heart'

"The past 20 years have been very long and challenging for those of us who have suffered the loss of loved ones," the statement reads.

In the first two years after I lost my son, I barely had the courage to live on
Ding Zilin

A total of 128 relatives of people killed on 3-4 June have signed the statement - but the name at the top of the list is that of Ding Zilin.

Since the death of her son, the former teacher has been at the forefront of the campaign to get the official Chinese verdict on the incident changed - China claims the protests were part of an anti-revolutionary rebellion.

Ms Ding's activism has brought her to the attention of the authorities, but she told the BBC it was a price worth paying.

Her son became involved in the student demonstrations in 1989 as soon as they began, even though he was just a high school pupil at the time.

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On the night of 3 June his mother was at home with her family when there was an announcement on TV telling people to stay indoors.

"I remember the last line of the announcement was, 'otherwise you will have to pay for the consequences'," she said.

"I said to my husband and son, something's going to happen today."

She added: "But my son was very worried. He said there were still so many people on the square that he wanted to go."

He never came back. According to his mother, he died of a bullet wound to the heart as he hid behind a flower bed on a street to the west of Tiananmen Square.

After the death of her son, Ms Ding said she initially found it difficult to do anything.

"Everything was different. In the first two years after I lost my son, I barely had the courage to live on," she said.

But then, with other parents of children who died in the massacre, she began the Tiananmen Mothers group.

Some parents have already died, but the organisation has not stopped its campaign.

"When I look back on what happened 20 years ago, I think it was a problem with the system. It was a tragedy for democracy," she said.



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