Monday, June 4, 2007

18 Years Later

I asked some colleagues and friends if anything was happening to remember the Tiananmen Square massacre. "Of course nothing," they said.

One of my young colleagues showed me a 2004 edition of Time Magazine that profiled Wang Dan and his cousin Wang Lichao. Wang Dan was a scrawny student with glasses at the time who made speeches in the square. He was imprisoned for his actions twice and then was allowed to go the United States where he is now at Harvard.

His younger cousin has become a well-off entrepreneur in Beijing and is still very close to Wang Dan even though they are half a world apart.

It was the first time my colleague knew more details about the massacre, as he was only six at the time. But he still thinks the students were in the wrong.

"When they occupied the square they made it dirty," he said. "And the students killed the police. They were wrong... how can they say thousands of people were killed?"

I tried to explain that making the square dirty was not illegal. And only one security guard was killed. And as for the students, I admitted we still didn't know the exact number, but that many sons and daughters did not come home to their parents that night. I don't know if that made him realize that perhaps he should reconsider his opinions.

One of my bosses, is a middle-aged man with a wife and young son. At the time, he was a student at Tiananmen Square. He says at one point he even went on a hunger strike for a few days. But then he wondered if he should go back and talked to his father on the phone. His dad persuaded him not to and he obeyed. And today he fervently supports the Chinese government.

Another friend was 13 at the time. She doesn't remember much except that the students thought they were doing the right thing and idealistic. "People weren't concerned about democracy at the time," she says. "They wanted to make money." But I countered that after people do have money and everything they need, they will want more -- and that includes democracy.

Yesterday afternoon I visited Tiananmen Square. There were extra police around. Maybe it was because of the upcoming anniversary or because some official from Pakistan was in the area. But other than that it was just like any other weekend.

A handful of people were flying kites, most taking pictures with Chairman Mao in the background or keeping cool with popsicles.

For me I remember those dark images on CNN that night. A few years after that, I remember listening to former student leader Wu'er Kaixi make passionate speeches at my university, about how China needs democracy to move forward.

To stand in the middle Tiananmen Square on the eve of the anniversary and only imagine the chaos, it was an eerie feeling.

I will not forget it.

5 comments:

Kai Sun said...
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Kai Sun said...

it is NOT tienanmun massacre, it is june 4 incident. the former is coined by american imperialism. i have kept nearly all the newspaper clipping and mgazine articles about that time in two big alums down the basement. i realised history was in the making then. it was june 3, gorbachev was making a state visit to bj. the students took to the streets to vent their discontent of the government. in order to save face in front of the chief of ussr, zhao zhi yang came of to the square , in tears begging the students to go home. they refused. that is the biggest mistake. as a result zhao was deposed and suffered disgrace and sbsequent down fall . that has hurt millions and millions of ordinary chinese people years later. if not china under the leadership of zhao and the newer generation of progressive leaders they history of china will have been completely different. thus the stubbuness of the students and the strong willed teng xiao ping collided. political power grows out of a gun barrel. practice is the only means to prove truth. that is the essence maoism. and it worked.

Anonymous said...

How many more students would have to be killed to upgrade it from an "incident" to a massacre?

Perhaps if one lives in a violent society "political power grows out of a gun barrel"...in an enlightened society political power comes from the will of the people.

The fact that you have two albums full of articles and clippings from newspapers and magazines suggests that Tiananmen was in fact a great deal more than an incident...

toothfiller said...

It is sad that truth could be altered by state propaganda. What Chinese government is doing is no better than Japanese skimming over what happened at WWII in school text. The truth remains that unarmed students were killed by guns and tanks. It was a show of force to crush any attempt of uprising by the people with the mighty armor of People's Liberation Army. Kids are brain washed by the school and state media. People that know of the truth were sent to be reformed and threatened with life-long jail terms. What does it take for the government of China to wake up and realize next wave of polical reform is brewing as the gap between the poor and rich grows bigger?

Beijing Calling said...

The students... were students. They just thought what they were doing was right and perhaps could lead to change.

And today the next generation has misconceptions of what happened. It's a sad state of affairs.

But all I can say is, is that this "incident" will never be forgotten.