They fought for democracy and freedom of speech. Then there was a massacre in Tiananmen Square. Army tanks drove into the crowd, soldiers shot at the citizens.

Before the anniversary of the bloody crackdown on the democracy movement on June 4, 1989 in China, relatives of the victims called for the massacre to be dealt with fairly.

In an open appeal published by the human rights organization Human Rights in China (HRiC) on Wednesday, the “Mothers of Tian’anmen” network demanded “truth, compensation and accountability”. They also called on the government to enter into a dialogue with the relatives in order to resolve the outstanding issues through legal channels.

The military action, in which several hundred people lost their lives, is a political taboo topic in China. The Chinese leadership does not allow any public discussion or commemoration of the anniversary this Saturday. Relatives and civil rights activists are often placed under house arrest around this time. Families have identified 203 victims, including 14 elementary and middle school students. The youngest victim was nine years old, the oldest 66 years.

After weeks of demonstrations and hunger strikes against corruption and for freedom of speech and democracy in the spring of 1989, the communist leadership called in the People’s Liberation Army to put an end to the protests. The “Mothers of Tian’anmen” spoke of a “brutal tragedy”. The party and government ignored the constitutionally protected demands of their citizens. The military “shot innocent people indiscriminately” and drove into the crowd with tanks.