Tiananmen’s Wang Dan to Beijing: Democracy, or die
CNN PRODUCER NOTE nealmoore told me, 'I've covered the Chinese dissident beat here in Taipei for the past several years. I reached out to Wang Dan to share his thoughts on the past, present, and future of the protests, and was surprised when he got directly back with three powerful responses. I think there's a lot to be learned from these students' sacrifice.'
- hhanks, CNN iReport producer
- hhanks, CNN iReport producer
Tiananmen’s Wang Dan to Beijing: Democracy, or die
By Neal Moore (CNN iReport)
Twenty-five years ago, in early June 1989, as the People’s Liberation Army’s tanks began to roll and automatic weapons fire rang out, the international media, gathered in Beijing to cover a visit by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev for a rare Sino-Soviet summit, found themselves in the midst of a different story.
The crackdown on civilian and student protestors at Tiananmen Square, also known as the June 4 Massacre, would leave hundreds, if not thousands dead. The government’s response against unarmed activists was beyond brutal, and it played out on television screens and newspaper front pages worldwide.
Twenty-five years later, on June 4, 2014, the world will pause to remember.
Wang Dan was the most visible leader of the Tiananmen Square protest. You might remember him. He was the one with the big glasses, slight build, and the bullhorn. After the massacre, Wang was No. 1 on the Chinese government’s “most wanted” student list. He was captured, and served four years in jail before going into exile – first in America, where he earned a Ph.D. in history from Harvard University, and then to Taiwan, where he has taught cross-strait history at National Chengchi University and National Tsing Hua University.
I caught up with Wang Dan via an email interview, and asked, in light of the 25th anniversary, if he could remind people of the message he was trying to deliver to the Chinese Communist Party at Tiananmen Square.
“We had two appeals,” Wang told me. “No. 1: Dialogue directly with the government, and No. 2: To modify the April 26 editorial of the People’s Daily.”
The April 26 editorial, titled “The Necessity for a Clear Stand Against Turmoil,” was broadcast on national radio and television in China, and appeared on the front page of the People’s Daily, a Beijing-based mouthpiece of the Communist Party. The editorial, penned by deputy chief of propaganda Zeng Jianhui on behalf of paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, deemed the protestors part of “a well-planned plot … to confuse the people and throw the country into turmoil.” The piece effectively changed the party’s attitude toward the protestors, based on misinformation. The students had not called on the government to step down, as alleged in Jianhui’s editorial, but for a dialogue of reform and openness first initiated by Deng in 1978.
Tiananmen Square remains a pivotal, game-changing event in the history of modern-day China. Although the students lost their bid for freedom, their argument for a voice carried weight with the rest of the world, and shaped how the world would view China, as well as themselves, in the foreseeable future.
In retrospect, 25 years later, I asked Wang what lessons he believes China, and the world, have taken away from the Tiananmen Square protest?
“The world needs to believe that from 1989, even Chinese people look forward to democratization,” he explained. “Anytime they think they have a chance, like in 1989, they will not hesitate to stand up.”
In 2011, protestors on the streets of 13 major Chinese cities did just that in the form of loosely synchronized demonstrations dubbed the “Jasmine Revolution” – the first sizeable, coordinated protests in China since Tiananmen Square. At the height of this dissent, in late February 2011, I interviewed Tiananmen Square protest leader Wu’er Kaixi – cnn.it/1p4EMfL – who told me more about the short-lived “revolution.”
“The brave Arabic people in Tunisia and Egypt and Libya – they have reminded Chinese people, shocked Chinese people, encouraged Chinese people,” Wu’er Kaixi said. “And that has a strong impact. That is one of the main reasons why the Jasmine operation took place in China. … It triggered a chain reaction. It’s coming back to China.”
And so the world watches and waits. Will China enter into a dialogue of openness suggested by Deng Xiaoping in 1978? Will it carry out “political restructuring” as promised by Wen Jiabao at the United Nations General Assembly in 2010? Or will it stay the course and straddle what some observers refer to as a Leninism-plus-Consumerism strategy?
According to Wang Dan, the choice is simple. My final question was what he would like to say to the leadership in Beijing today.“Think about the party’s future,” Wang replied. “There will be only two choices: Democracy, or die.”
Philippe Lopez/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images香港抗議者舉着被捕律師浦志強的照片。
幾名記者表示，警方一直在警告西方記者，未來幾天不要靠近 天安門廣場，否則將「面臨嚴重後果」。這些記者曾被面無表情的公安官員叫去開會。國際特赦組織(Amnesty International)發佈了一份名單，上面列出了中國各地近50名據該組織所說已遭逮捕、審訊或軟禁的人。
人權觀察組織(Human Rights Watch)駐香港研究員阿蓮(Maya Wang)說，「這次的應對空前嚴厲、空前激烈。」
在政治分析人士和維權人士看來，此次運動進一步說明，已就 職15個月的國家主席習近平決意在一場針對自由主義思想的意識形態鬥爭中剷除異己，許多人都認為，這場鬥爭是一場旨在鞏固權力的大規模運動的一部分。「最 近這次鎮壓行動之前，我還不清楚習近平的態度，但最近的事件表明，如果做得到的話，他願意成為一個毛澤東式的強人，」加州大學河濱分校 (University of California, Riverside)的漢學家林培瑞(Perry Link)說。
劉偉的朋友同樣感到非常苦悶，劉偉是中國西南部一名年輕的 工廠工人，從北京回到家鄉重慶之後，他於5月17日因刑事罪名被捕。據劉偉的朋友黃成城透露，劉偉的罪行似乎是在網上發佈了他在天安門廣場拍的自拍照，其 中一張照片顯示他比划了一個V字手勢，這是中國遊客普遍使用的姿勢，但也可以被視為一種煽動顛覆的狡猾方式。
但很多活動人士表示，今年，政府提前幾個月就啟動了限制舉 措。艾滋病活動人士胡佳稱，他於今年2月底遭到軟禁時，警方告訴他，今年是「極其敏感」的一年，他們必須確保萬無一失。胡佳通過電話表示，「當局想製造恐 怖氣氛，並且已經在很大程度上取得了成功。」他列舉了一些朋友，警方強迫他們在5月份「去度假」，離開北京。
但胡佳表示，這場運動非常拙劣，最終不會有效果。雖然共產 黨領導人已經將該事件從中國的歷史課本及網絡中刪除，致使年輕一代對89年6月3日至4日的事件知之甚少，但胡佳估計，士兵向手無寸鐵的民眾開火併導致數 以百計的民眾死亡的那個晚上，北京街頭足足有100萬人，還可能更多。
「不管他們怎麼努力，」他說。「還是無法將這段經歷從所有人的記憶中刪除。」安思喬(Jonathan Ansfield)對本文有報道貢獻。Patric Zuo對本文有研究貢獻。傑安迪(Andrew Jacobs)是《紐約時報》駐京記者。
Tiananmen Square Anniversary Prompts Campaign of Silence
May 28, 2014
BEIJING — Even by the standards of the clampdowns that routinely mark politically sensitive dates in China, the approach this year to June 4, the anniversary of the day in 1989 when soldiers brutally ended student-led protests in Tiananmen Square, has been particularly severe.
The days preceding June 4 often mean house arrest for vocal government critics and an Internet scrubbed free of even coded references to the crackdown that dare not speak its name.
But this year, the 25th anniversary of the bloodshed that convulsed the nation and nearly sundered the Communist Party, censors and security forces have waged an aggressive “stability maintenance” campaign that has sent a chill through the ranks of Chinese legal advocates, liberal intellectuals and foreign journalists.
In recent weeks, a dozen prominent scholars and activists have been arrested, and even seemingly harmless gestures, like posting a selfie in Tiananmen Square while flashing a V for victory, have led to detentions.
The police have been warning Western journalists to stay away from the square in the coming days or “face grave consequences,” according to several reporters summoned to meetings with stone-faced public security officials. Amnesty International has compiled a list of nearly 50 people across the country that it says have been jailed, interrogated or placed under house arrest.
“They say it’s springtime in Beijing, but it feels like winter,” said Hu Jia, an AIDS activist and seasoned dissident who has been forcibly confined to his apartment for the past three months.
The growing list of those swept up by China’s expansive security apparatus includes a group of gay rights advocates gathered at a Beijing hotel, several Buddhists arrested as they were meditating in the central Chinese city of Wuhan and an ex-soldier turned artist who staged in a friend’s studio a performance piece that was inspired by the government’s efforts to impose amnesia on an entire nation.
“The response has been harsher and more intense than we’ve ever seen,” said Maya Wang, a researcher at Human Rights Watch in Hong Kong.
To political analysts and rights advocates, the campaign provides further evidence that President Xi Jinping, 15 months into the job, is determined to stamp out dissent amid an ideological assault against liberal ideas that many view as part of a wide-ranging drive to consolidate power. “Until this latest crackdown I was agnostic about Xi, but recent events suggest he would like to be a Mao-style strongman if he could,” said Perry Link, a China scholar at the University of California, Riverside.
Although the red line of permissible public discourse often shifts with the seasons and the whims of those in power, many longtime China watchers say the changes have caught even the most battle-scarred dissidents off guard.
As evidence, they point to the authorities’ forceful response to a seminar, held at a private home in early May, during which more than a dozen people met to discuss the events of 1989. In the days that followed, the participants, including relatives of those killed during the crackdown, were summoned for questioning by the police.
But unlike a similar, much larger event in 2009, five of the attendees were formally arrested. Among them: Hao Jian, a professor at the Beijing Film Academy; Xu Youyu, a philosophy scholar at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences; and Pu Zhiqiang, a charismatic rights lawyer. All face charges of “creating a public disturbance.”
Since then, the police have repeatedly searched Mr. Pu’s law office and home, carting away computers, financial documents and a DVD of a documentary about the dissident artist Ai Weiwei, a former client.
In an interview, one of his lawyers, Zhang Sizhi, described the charges as illogical. “How can you create a public disturbance while meeting in a private residence?” he asked.
Mr. Zhang and others say it seems increasingly unlikely Mr. Pu will be released after June 4, the pattern of previous anniversary-related detentions.
In building a case against him, the authorities have rounded up a number of Mr. Pu’s friends and associates, among them Vivian Wu, an independent journalist, and Xin Jiang, a news assistant with the Japanese newspaper Nikkei. Friends say they are unclear why the authorities detained Ms. Xin, although some thought it might be related to an earlier interview she conducted with Mr. Pu.
On Tuesday, two weeks after her disappearance, Ms. Xin’s husband took to social media, posting a family photo and a frantic cry for help. “It’s a mess at home,” the husband, Wang Haichun, wrote. “Please come back. I can’t bear this alone.”
The anguish is shared by friends of Liu Wei, a young factory worker from southwest China who was detained on criminal charges on May 17 after returning home to Chongqing from a visit to Beijing. According to a friend, Huang Chengcheng, Mr. Liu’s apparent crime was posting online photos of himself in Tiananmen Square, including one in which he flashed a victory sign, a common pose among Chinese tourists that can also be seen as a sly act of subversion.
Gay rights advocates have also been feeling the heat. Over the past few weeks, the authorities have canceled a number of events in Beijing, including a film screening and a panel discussion to mark International Day Against Homophobia. Earlier this month, the police raided a hotel where a group of civil society advocates had gathered for a seminar focused on the obstacles facing gay and AIDS nonprofits.
Yu Fangqiang, one of the event organizers, said the police arrived at 1:30 a.m., confiscated his cellphone and then used it to text about 30 other would-be participants, telling them the event had been canceled. Mr. Yu and eight others were then bundled off for interrogations that, for several detainees, stretched into the following evening.
Sometimes the authorities’ fears of public unrest have led to confounding measures, like the cancellation of a restaurant awards ceremony scheduled for Thursday night in the capital.
Other times their efforts were nothing if not creative.
Chen Yongmiao, a political commentator and rights activist from Beijing, said the police gave him the equivalent of $800 to leave town. “They just don’t want people from the opposition in the political center of Beijing,” Mr. Chen said by phone last week as he traveled through northwest China.
In past years, the noose would tighten in mid-April, coinciding with the anniversary of the death of Hu Yaobang, the reformist Communist Party secretary purged for his “bourgeois” liberal leanings in 1989. It was an outpouring of public mourning after his death on April 15 that coalesced into the demonstrations that swept the nation with demands for justice, democracy and an end to official corruption.
This year, however, many activists say restrictions kicked in months earlier. When they placed him under house arrest in late February, Mr. Hu, the AIDS activist, said the police told him this was an “especially sensitive” year and that they were taking no chances. “The authorities want to create an atmosphere of terror, something they’ve largely succeeded in doing,” he said by phone, listing a number of friends who had been compelled by the police to “go on holiday” and leave Beijing for May.
But Mr. Hu said he thought the campaign was ham-handed and ultimately ineffective. Although party leaders have expunged the episode from Chinese history books and the Internet, leaving a younger generation unfamiliar with the events of June 3-4, Mr. Hu estimated that a million or more people were on the streets of Beijing the night soldiers opened fire on unarmed civilians, killing hundreds, if not more.
“No matter how hard they try,” he said, “they cannot erase this experience from everyone’s memories.”Jonathan Ansfield contributed reporting. Patrick Zuo contributed research.