Dong would prefer to have his son think he is just a regular criminal, at least in the current political climate in China, than be potentially put in danger by learning of his father’s political past.

“It is for his safety,” Dong said. “I worry that I might influence his thoughts if I started chatting to him about those things.”

Other former political prisoners have expressed concerns about talking to their children about the massacre, for fear of putting them at risk.

Fellow Tiananmen survivor Fang Zheng, 53, said he doesn’t blame Dong, and other former activists, who want to shield their children from politics. Fang, who lost both his legs in the massacre, blames the ruling Communist Party.