One Mother's Painful Memories Of Tiananmen

Ding Zilin
Ding Zilin, whose son was killed 20 years ago. (Tiananmen)
Ding Zilin still mourns her 17-year-old son killed that night, 20 years ago.

"I'm luckier than other mothers," Zilin said through a translator. "I know how he died. He received a single bullet through the heart."

That night China turned on its young, killing by some estimates from hundreds to thousands reports CBS News correspondent Barry Petersen. It ending in tragedy what started with such hope. Students were taking over Tiananmen Square, calling for freedom and building a statue the world knew as the Goddess of Democracy.

Because Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev was visiting, China had invited in the world press including CBS News, who then saw a country turning against its leaders.

A million or more people paraded through the square in those weeks to show support. The first time troops were sent in - the convoys were blocked. But three weeks later, the troops came back, killing at will.

China's Premier Zhao supported the students - for this, he was put under house arrest.

Before he died, he made audio tapes of his memoirs published in the United States - tapes smuggled out by his one-time secretary Bao Tong.

The very day CBS News went to interview Bao, Peterson was told that he wasn't allowed to meet with the press.

Bao told Peterson that if a government is not willing to tell the truth to its own people, it probably won't be honest with the international community. Three days after the interview, he was forced to leave Beijing.

Some things have changed since that night here on Tiananmen Square. Now, when China is accused of human rights abuses, it claims the moral high ground by pointing its finger at the United States, saying these days it is the U.S. that is guilty of torture and abuse.

Ding Zilin said there is still that yearning for freedom her son died for.

"Chinese people have democratic demands," Zilin said. "We are not ignorant."

But today's younger generation is ignorant. They are not taught what happened, and many foreign internet sites about the Tiananmen massacre are blocked by the government. China's leaders do not want another generation inspired by the story of how, once, people by the millions, demanded with only their courage that China change, and how some still believe that day is coming.