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Grieving Ms. Zhou Shuzhuang, a Member of the Tiananmen Mothers Group Who Passed Away Due to Illness
By the Tiananmen Mothers
(The following eulogy, penned by the Tiananmen Mothers, may be read in Chinese/中文 here. English translation by Human Rights in China.)
It is with great sadness that we inform all friends who follow the Tiananmen Mothers: at 22:43 on September 19, 2023, another mother from our group, Ms. Zhou Shuzhuang, passed away at the age of 87. In the 1990s, she stood with inspiring righteousness on the front lines with Tiananmen Mother Ms. Ding Zilin and countless other parents who lost their children. Faced with the government's power and repression, she was fearless, courageous and strong in sharing with the world the truth she learned about the June Fourth massacre, as well as the inner pain and heartbreak she experienced as a mother when she saw her innocent son shot to death. In 1999 she fell ill with cerebral thrombosis due to physical and mental fatigue, and she had been fighting the disease for the past 24 years.
When she was dying, although she could no longer speak and her body was very weak, she tried her best to persevere because she had an unfulfilled wish in her heart: that even 34 years after her innocent son was shot to death, she still had not seen her hopes fulfilled. This was her greatest regret. Her daughter, who was with her in the hospital, knew her lifelong perseverance best. Shuzhuang, don't worry, all of us living victims' families will persevere until the June Fourth tragedy can be fairly resolved and justice is served in China.
Looking back on the 1989 June Fourth Massacre, Ms. Ding Zilin, in her book In Search of the June Fourth Victims, included a section titled “The Death of Mediator Duan Changlong.” In this chapter, mother Zhou Shuzhuang spoke about the circumstances of her son’s death. Changlong was killed in the early morning of June 4, 1989. On the evening of June 3, he went out to look for his sister and girlfriend. As he was pushing a cart near the National Palace of Culture, he encountered a confrontation between the martial law troops that marching eastward and a group of civilians. The crowd was excited, the situation was tense, and killing could start at any time. Changlong witnessed this and immediately ran forward to diffuse the situation. When he ran towards an officer in the front row of the martial law troops, who appeared to be the commander, a malicious bullet was fired from the small-caliber pistol in the hand of this unhuman officer, and the bullet hit the aorta on the left side of his heart. He was not shot to death randomly, nor was he accidentally shot to death as the official claimed, but was deliberately killed by martial law troops, and he fell to the ground in front of the shooter. After Changlong fell, a student from Beijing Medical College at the scene carried him to the nearby Post and Telecommunications Hospital, where there happened to be a Tsinghua University student. He copied Changlong's name and class from his student ID card onto his trouser leg, and ran back to Tsinghua University to report the situation to the school. News of Changlong's death quickly spread throughout Tsinghua Campus.
Afraid that it would be too much for Changlong's parents to take, his friends first went to the hospital to take off Changlong's bloody clothes and hide them, put him into new clothes, embalm him and cut off a strand of hair as a memento, before letting Changlong's parents enter the hospital morgue. Recalling what she saw in the morgue, Changlong's mother said: "I entered the morgue, and there were more than 20 corpses lying there. I saw Changlong lying quietly on a wooden board, as if he were sleeping soundly like usual, but his face was too pale, and his mouth and nose seemed as if he had breathed in but wasn’t breathing out. His eyes were half-opened, as if he wanted to tell his loved ones something. I gently closed Changlong’s eyelids, feeling as if my child was in my arms once more, and I kissed his cold, cold, face, and cold, cold hands, and his cold, cold feet, and all of this froze a mother’s heart! The blood all over my body seemed to have solidified in its vessels, and my whole body was numb. When I was helped up, I finally realized I had to say goodbye to my child forever! The grief and anger in my heart suddenly burst out, and the whole family began wailing and sobbing, and the people present and strangers passing by were all crying with us."
Changlong's death was mourned by all teachers and students at Tsinghua University. At the solemn and tragic funeral ceremony held for Changlong, teachers and students covered Changlong's body with a red flag printed with the three characters “Min Zu Hun,” meaning “Spirit of the Nation,” to express their respect and grief for the deceased.
Changlong had an elder sister and a younger sister. His father did not have him until he was forty-four years old, and he was the only son of the Duan family. According to Chinese tradition, he was the only one who could continue and uphold the Duan family legacy. His parents gave him unlimited hope and love, and he himself was very good and full of love for the world. It was precisely because of his love that he fearlessly walked towards the martial law troops. However, the facts are cruel: the executioner's bullet fixed his life forever at that moment, and he fell, so young! Chinese soldiers, on June 4, 1989, on Shili Chang'an Street and the intersections leading to Chang'an Street, you turned your guns towards the crowd and fired at the crowd. Thirty-four years have passed since you committed this brutal massacre, do you have the slightest trace of repentance?!
The June Fourth tragedy may have passed, but for the two elders who lost their beloved child, their hearts remained immersed in grief, and they could not reconcile the painful feelings of losing their son. Furthermore, the government behaved inhumanely. Every year on the sensitive days of Qingming Festival and June Fourth, the government would visit Changlong's father's workplace (to speak with him), and assigned public security officers and plainclothes officers to stand guard at the door of their house to watch them. Even when they went to the cemetery to sweep the tomb, they were heavily guarded, causing the two elders’ hearts to bear the dual pressure of extreme sadness and extreme anger.
In her article, Ms. Ding Zilin wrote: People should not only remember Duan Changlong’s name, but also remember the name of a brave mother. Her name is Zhou Shuzhuang. She was the first among our group of "Tiananmen Mothers" to come forward and one of the first victims to come to the media. She campaigned unceasingly for the sake of the the unjust victims and for our suffering group, and never flinched in the face of despotic power.
In August 1995, Mr. Jiang Peikun and Ms. Ding Zilin were illegally imprisoned and detained in Wuxi, Jiangsu Province. Shuzhuang signed a group protest letter and, through overseas media, came forward to angrily condemn the government authorities' groundless slander and persecution of the couple. In 1998, the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau notified the Bank of China in Wuxi to freeze a June Fourth humanitarian donation deposited in the bank in the name of Ding Zilin. In addition to signing a protest letter, Shuzhuang went to the Ministry of National Security with Zhang Xianling and more than a dozen other victims' families in order to negotiate with the relevant officials.
1999 was the tenth anniversary of the June Fourth tragedy. For the families of the June Fourth victims, this was the saddest yet most critical year. On May 17 of that year, 108 of our "June 4th" victims submitted an indictment against the executioner Li Peng to the Supreme People's Procuratorate. For this reason, Ms. Zhou Shuzhuang, despite her frail health, accepted countless interviews from overseas media and harshly accused the killers of their crimes against humanity. She eventually fell ill from cerebral thrombosis due to being overwhelmed.
Her son's grave is in Wan’an Cemetery. Every year on June Fourth—except for the last two years, when she was unable to go to Wan’an Cemetery for memorial services due to physical reasons—she would always go there. Even when she was in a wheelchair, she would have her family members push her there. This was a faith she could not give up, and every year on this day she would go to see her beloved son. A mother’s grief arises spontaneously, and as the painful years continued one by one, she was accompanied by endless tears. What a cruel event it is for a mother to lose her son! Nothing could be more sorrowful than this.
Rest in peace, Ms. Zhou Shuzhuang! Your daughter and all the living people in our community will never forget your unfulfilled wishes, and will firmly persevere in carrying them on!