Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Winston Lord Recalls His Days in China

In anticipation of the coming thirty-year anniversary of the normalization of relationship between China and the United States, the National Committee on United States - China Relations hosted a panel discussion, Once Upon a Time in Beijing, attended by five former U. S. Ambassadors to China, on December 9, 2008. The program was broadcast on C-SPAN and available on YouTube.

Near the beginning, at about the 11:45 mark, Ambassador Winston Lord, who was in China between 1985 and 1989, recalled one of his highlight/lowlight moment:
It was in June of 1988, a year before the Tiananmen, meeting with Chinese students, hundreds of them in what came to be known as the Democracy Salon and see their passion and their eagerness. It was a highlight, but also a lowlight. I have to elaborate this because a few days later Deng Xiaoping sent me a personal message to not to meet Chinese students.
The "Democracy Salon" he referred to here was the one organized by Liu Gang and had been in weekly session by that point. It was held at a grass lawn in Peking University and regularly attracted dozens to hundres of students.

Winston Lord's visit to the Salon drew a big audience that day. Later in the day, a graduate student was killed in an apparent isolated violence off-campus. A small-scale student movement broke out for the occasion and Liu Gang, by the time no longer a student, was banned from the campus. The initial outdoor "Democracy Salon" was therefore interrupted but later resurrected by Wang Dan in his dormitory building.

In this panel discussion, Winston Lord proceeded to describe the incident when Fang Lizhi was forbid to attend a banquet hosted by visiting President George H. W. Bush as another lowlight of his time in Beijing.

Much later in the program, at about 1:07:30 mark, Winston Lord's successor James Lily gave an interesting account on the manuvers involved in getting Fang Lizhi out of China after he had taken refuge in the American embassy following the Tiananmen massacre.

Recollections of 1989

World Wide Call for Liu Xiaobo's Freedom

New York Times reports that more than 160 prominent writers, scholars, and human rights advocates, including three Nobel laureates, had signed an open letter asking for the release of Liu Xiaobo.

The paper also indicates that Liu Xiaobo is now the only signatory of the Charter of 08 who is still in detention. All others who were detained and questioned have since been released.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Three Decades of Reform

It was thirty years ago this month when Deng Xiaoping kicked off his reform era on the landmark Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh Congress of the Communist Party. The anniversary is marked with a grandiose conference in Beijing today. In his keynote speech, President Hu Jintao predictably vowed not to turn back the reform and not to copy the Western-style democracy either.

But the official People's Daily appeared to have other ideas. It headlined Hu Jintao's speech as an "eulogy" for the reform.

The Associated Press compiled a chronology of China's reform era:

1978: Economic, social and cultural reforms launched under Deng Xiaoping, two years after the death of Mao Zedong. GDP per capita is 381 yuan.

1979: U.S. and China establish diplomatic relations. One-child policy introduced.

1980: First special economic zone established in Shenzhen.

1982: Population surpasses 1 billion.

1986: Deng promotes "open-door" policy to encourage foreign investment.

1988: Spiraling inflation and corruption prompt limits on foreign investment and monetary flows.

1989: Students protest in Tiananmen Square to demand economic, political and social change. Hundreds believed killed in ensuing crackdown.

1990: Communist China's first stock exchange opens in Shanghai.

1992: Deng makes southern China tour to relaunch economic reforms in face of criticism from conservatives.

1994: China connects to the Internet.

1996: Chinese currency becomes convertible.

1997: Deng dies. Jiang Zemin takes over. China regains control of Hong Kong.

1998: China injects $500 billion into its faltering banking sector.

1999: Government outlaws Falun Gong.

2001: China joins the World Trade Organization.

2002: Entrepreneurs allowed to join the Communist Party.

2003: Hu Jintao replaces Jiang as president. SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) breaks out in China and eventually kills nearly 800 worldwide. China's first manned spacecraft orbits the earth.

2004: The United Nations estimates 1 million Chinese are infected with HIV.

2005: China becomes the world's fourth-largest economy. The government stops pegging the currency to the U.S. dollar.

2006: Three Gorges Dam and railway to Tibet are completed. China's foreign exchange reserves reach $1 trillion, becoming world's largest.

2007: China tops the world with 210 million Internet users. GDP per capita reaches 18,900 yuan ($2,760).

2008: Sichuan earthquake kills 70,000 people. Beijing hosts Olympic Games.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Defending the Great Firewall of China

Perhaps due to the combined threat of the "Charter of 08" and the coming twentieth anniversary of the 1989 student movement, Chinese government is once again blocking foreign news web sites, a practice that had been interrupted by the Beijing Olympics.

But instead of denying the existence of this well-known censorship, Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao acknowledged the existence of the Great Firewall of China for the very first time. He justified the action by claiming that some web sites possess contents that are against Chinese law.

Fallout Continues for Charter of 08

Various news reports show that the "Charter of 08" is receiving more attention in the forms of both additional signatures and government crackdown. It is reported that more than 3600 people in China have signed the document so far.

A web site Chinese Human Rights Defenders had published a map of known detentions related to the Charter of 08. The web site is currently being reported as an attack site, presumably having been hacked.
Besides Liu Xiaobo, the map shows several names of veterans of 1989: Pu Zhiqiang, Jiang Qisheng, Gao Yu. A couple of them have been active in a few Internet forums until recent days.

According to a source close to this fledging movement, the "Charter of 08" is a well planed and thoughtout action. Many of its initiators are prepared for going to jail. As the twentieth anniversary of the 1989 movement apporaches in a few months, more activities could be expected to test the limits of an extremely nervous and anxious government.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Charter of 08

The "Charter of 08" which led to the arrest of Liu Xiaobo has been translated into English by American Professor Perry Link. Taking at its face value, the charter does not contain any ground-breaking material by itself. Mainly, it is a list of liberties people have long taken for granted in the "free world".

However, the significance of this charter lies in the fact that it is cosigned by 303 known scholars and the like. Additional signatures are still being collected. A collection action by the intellectual community in China on such a scale has not been seen for decades. In fact, the last time this happened was precisely in 1989.

The precursor of the 1989 student movement started when Professor Fang Lizhi wrote an open letter to Deng Xiaoping for the release of political prisoners. His letter was followed by several supporting ones, each co-signed by dozens of prominent intellectuals. Later that year, in the heat of the movement, various statements co-signed by hundreds were frequently published.

Indeed, the 303 signatures of this Charter of 08 included many familiar names who had in one way or another directly involved in the 1989 student movement: Yu Haocheng, Bao Tong, Liu Xiaobo, Gao Yu, Dai Qing, Jiang Qisheng, Chen Ziming, Li Datong, Zhou Duo, Pu Zhiqiang, Ma Shaofang, Liang Xiaoyan, and Zheng Xuguang.

It also includes a few parents and relatives of the victims of Tiananmen Massacre, known collectively as the Tiananmen Mothers.

If nothing else, this collective action demonstrates the power and sophistication in organization or at least networking skills within the suppressed dissident community.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Liu Xiaobo Arrested

Another round of crackdown is quietly in progress in Beijing as hundreds of activists cosigned a "Charter of 08" on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the U. N. convention on human rights. One of its initiators, scholar Liu Xiaobo, was arrested and charged with "conspiracy and inciting subversion".

Liu Xiaobo was a professor in Beijing Normal University in 1989. He was visiting Columbia University in New York that Spring when he decided to return to Beijing. On June 2, he led a hunger strike by what to be called "Four Gentlemen" in Tiananmen Square, hoping to be able to assert more adult influence to the students there. The effort paid off when the "Four Gentlemen" were instrumental in leading the students safely out of the Square in the night of massacre.

Liu Xiaobo was initially blamed as the "black hands" of the movement but eventually was released without a formal charge. He did serve 20 months in detention however.

Also arrested is an activist by the name of Zhang Zuhua (张祖桦). Unconfirmed report has also been circulating on the internet in recent days that former student leader Zhou Fengsuo has been arrested while attempting to return to China.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Thirty Years Ago, Wei Jingsheng Called for Democracy

It was thirty years ago when Wei Jingsheng, a twenty eight year old electrician, posted an article on the "Democracy Wall" calling for the "Fifth Modernization" -- democracy. Jane Macartney reports on this historical event on the Times.

Wei Jingsheng did not stop there. He later posted more posters accusing Deng Xiaoping as a new dictator. He was sentenced for fifteen years for the dual crime of counter-revolutionary and selling military secrets to foreign journalists.

After ten years in jail, Wei Jingsheng had become a forgotten man by 1989. But it was Professor Fang Lizhi who brought his case into public attention with an open letter to Deng Xiaoping. The open letter became a prelude to the largest student movement that year.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Former Beijing Party Chief Died

Li Ximing (李锡铭), who was the Communist Party Secretary of the city of Beijing in 1989, died at the age of 82.

It was widely believed that Li Ximing, together with then mayor Chen Xitong (陈希同), had helped setting the official tune during the early stages of the 1989 movement by reporting their version of the situation the Party Central and Deng Xiaoping himself. Their city government also played a prominent role in making a closing statement on the movement after the bloody crackdown, claiming the movement as a premediated and planed conspiracy.

Both Li Ximing and Chen Xitong lost Deng Xiaoping's confidence soon after and did not play any major roles in the political scene. While Chen Xitong was later sentenced to 16 years in jail for curruption, Li Ximing maintained a low-profile and faded out of the public life.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The China Beat: The Last General of the Red Army

Ed Jocelyn at China Beat published a fascinating account on the life of General Xiao Ke (肖克), who died last month at the age of 101 as the last General of the original Red Army. Throughout his military career, General Xiao Ke had a penchant of choosing the wrong side in political conflicts, falling into disgrace of both Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping. Yet he managed to survive with remarkable longitivity.

In 1989, General Xiao Ke once again chose the "wrong side", as Ed Jocelyn describes:
The events of 1989 shook Xiao and many of his old comrades in the Central Consultative Committee. As the crisis over the Tiananmen Square demonstrations intensified, Deng Xiaoping decided to call the army into Beijing. Xiao Ke adamantly opposed this move. Together with former Minister of Defense Zhang Aiping, another veteran of the Long March, he composed a letter to Deng, which was signed by five other generals. They told Deng that if the army entered the city and opened fire, “the common people will curse us for 10,000 years.” Inspired by this example, more than one hundred other retired generals and Party leaders, mostly also members of the Central Consultative Committee, signed and sent a similar letter.

Gravely concerned at such opposition, Deng dispatched two of his most senior supporters, Yang Shangkun and Wang Zhen (political commissar to Xiao Ke’s Sixth Army Group during the Long March) to see Xiao Ke and the other six original signatories. They demanded retraction of the letter, arguing that such influential men could not be seen to oppose the Party leadership. None of them retracted, but their call went unheeded.

After the Tiananmen massacre, Deng dealt with his high-ranking opponents by trying to eliminate their political influence. As most of them were already retired, Deng contented himself with denying them official resources and forums to express their opinions. The Central Consultative Committee was abolished in 1992.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A New Group Prepares for the Anniversary of Tiananmen

A new, unnamed group has recently unveiled a web site calling for a commemoration of the twentieth anniversary of Tiananmen Massacre on Saturday, May 30, 2009, at the Washington Monument in Washington, DC.

The group identifies itself only as "a small group of oversea Chinese who have met and become friends through an internet forum" and not associated with any established organizations.

The web site hosts a forum with few articles available and is calling for donations and volunteers.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Experiencing the Great Firewall of China

Firefox is known for many of its add-ons, which provides all kind of enhancements in user experiences. Yet rarely an Add-on shows up to actually degrade it. The China Channel add-on does exactly that:
The Firefox add-on China Channel offers internet users outside of China the ability to surf the web as if they were inside mainland China. Take an unforgetable virtual trip to China and experience the technical expertise of the Chinese Ministry of Information Industry (supported by western companies).

Read a more detailed description of this add-on at Webware.

Monday, October 27, 2008

How the Other Tiananmen Incident was Overturned

Before June 4, 1989, there was the "Tiananmen Incident" of April 5, 1976, also known as the April Fifth Movement. During that time, thousands of Beijing residents gathered at Tiananmen Square to commemorate the late Premier Zhou Enlai, who had passed away a few months ago. The spontaneous display of emotion was met by brutality of the government, who used clubs and heavy boots to disperse the crowd and later persecuted the active participants they had identified.

Wang Juntao was only 15 years old at the time. He was sent to jail for having organized his high school class to the Square and posted three poems he had written. Chen Ziming escaped arrest by returning to his forced-labor farm, where he was already serving a sentence for expressing dissident opinions in private letters.

The verdict of that "Tiananmen Incident" was overturned in 1978 after Deng Xiaoping regained his power. A recent article in China Newsweek recalled the moments when the "Incident" became the April Fifth Movement. Wang Juntao and Chen Ziming, along with other young leaders, were then hailed as national heroes.

Xujun Eberlein at Inside-Out China added her own experiences and observations of these events.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Hu Jia Awarded Sakharov Prize by EU

The human rights activist Hu Jia, who had previously been rumored for the Nobel Peace Prize, was chosen for the Sakharov Prize by the European Parliament. Hu Jia is currently serving a three and half year prison term for sedition charges.

Before the selection, the Chinese government had unsuccessfully asserted pressure on EU, threatening damanges to the Sino-EU relationship.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

An Open Letter Appealing for a Convicted Murderer

Three months ago, a 28-year old was arrested in Shanghai for suspicion of possessing a stolen bicycle. The suspect, Yang Jia (杨佳), received no official sympathy when he sued for police brutality during his detention. So, the young man took the matter into his own hand and attacked a police office with a knife, killing six unarmed policeman.

On his trial, Yang Jia did neither deny nor repent on his murdering act. He made it clear that his action was a revenge of the injustice he had received. The case has received much public coverage in Chinese media and internet, where Yang Jia was often hailed as a hero for standing up to the inhuman police force in China. Yang Jia, on the other hand, was sentenced to death as expected.

During the last couple of days, an open letter has been circulating on Chinese internet appealing for a special amnesty for Yang Jia. The letter was initially cosigned by fourty six scholars, artists, lawyers, and other citizens. The letter argued on Yang Jia's behalf alternately from criticizing police brutality to denouncing death penalty as an act of cruelty itself.

This open letter appealing for amnesty is a faint echo of the letters in the early spring of 1989, when scholars cosigned open letters appealing for amensty for Wei Jingsheng and other political prisoners. Indeed, it has been rare, if ever, to see a citizen action such as this since the days of 1989.

Among the original sigatures of the current open letter are at least two names who had deep involvements in the 1989 movement: journalist Dai Qing and scholar Zhang Lun (张伦). Other signataries include the famous legal scholar Yu Haocheng (于浩成) and outspoken artist Ai Weiwei (艾未未).

More signatures are still being collected for the letter.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A T-shirt Designed for the Coming Anniversary

The twentieth anniversary of the 1989 student movement is now just months away. Plans of commemoration for this occasion are being initiated in many places. In what termed to be from inside of China came a design for a commemorative T-shirt:

It's a fairly simple design. The figure is made by the anniversary dates for June 4, from 1989 to 2009. Together, they trace the shape of a character meaning "twenty" in Chinese. The initiator in the blog page calls for people to make the shirts locally and wear them in public on the day of the twentieth anniversary, as a form of performance art.

The T-shirt is currently available for purchase at Taobao, the eBay of China.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

"Hello Xiaoping" in 1984

1984 was a pinnacle year of Deng Xiaoping's reform. Everything was going well and the future looked extremely promising in China. The October 1 of that year was the 35th anniversary of the People's Republic of China, not a conventional year for a major celebration, which usually occur every ten years. But the biggest commemoration was planed for that year, complete with grandiose military reviews and people parades. The unofficial reason for the celebration? It was also Deng Xiaoping's eightieth birthday.

It was during that parade that a group of young students from Peking University unfurled a banner greeting the top leader of the country: "Hello Xiaoping".

Caught by surprise, Deng Xiaoping smiled and waved from the review stand atop the Tiananmen Gate.

The literal translation of the name Xiaoping is "little ordinary''. In Chinese tradition, it was a term of endearment to refer one's peer or younger folks as "little something''. However, such terms were never applied to an older or respectable figure. Certainly, there was no denying that the spontaneous gesture from these students was genuine and heartfelt. To this young generation, the 80-year-old Deng Xiaoping was not an old statesman, but one of them.

How time would change within another decade.

Danwei translated a recent interview by The Beijing News with a student who had masterminded the banner in 1984 and a reporter who took a picture of it and got it published in the official press. It was a nice piece of time capsule for a brief and happy moment in history.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Wang Dan Calls For Commemorating Tiananmen Square Massacre

October 1 is the National Day of the People's Republic of China. On this day, Wang Dan released a statement calling for the preparation of a world-wide commemoration of the upcoming 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre.

The statement, titled as "Commemorating June 4th, Recover Justice, Let China become the Safe Homeland for all Chinese", is cosigned by his fellow exiled leaders Wang Juntao, Hu Ping, Chen Yizi, Liu Gang, Xiang Xiaoji, Li Jinjin, and Li Hengqing. It proclaims the planning of a series of commemorative activities in Hong Kong, Washington DC, and all over the world, as well as the publication of books and art works. It also calls for volunteers to join the efforts.

Premier Wen Jiabao Talks About Tiananmen

During his recent visit to the United States, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao was interviewed by CNN's Fareed Zakaria. During the interview, Wen Jiabao was asked questions regarding Tiananmen massacre. Here are the excerpts from CNN's transcript:

Zakaria: When I go to China and I'm in a hotel and I type in the words Tiananmen Square in my computer, I get a firewall, what some people call the Great Firewall of China. Can you be an advanced society if you don't have freedom of information to find out information on the Internet?
Wen Jiabao: China now has over 200 million Internet users, and the freedom of Internet in China is recognized by many, even from the west. Nonetheless, to uphold state security, China, like many countries in the world, has also imposed some proper restrictions. That is for the safety, that is for the overall safety of the country and for the freedom of the majority of the people.
I can also tell you on the Internet in China, you can have access to a lot of postings that are quite critical about the government.
It is exactly through reading these critical opinions on the Internet that we try to locate problems and further improve our work.
I don't think a system or a government should fear critical opinions or views. Only by heeding those critical views would it be possible for us to further improve our work and make further progress.
I frequently browse the Internet to learn about a situation.

Zakaria: I will take advantage of your kindness and ask you a question that many people around the world wonder about. There is a very famous photograph of you at Tiananmen square in 1989. What lesson did you take from your experiences in dealing with that problem in 1989?
Wen Jiabao: I believe that while moving ahead with economic reforms, we also need to advance political reforms, as our development is comprehensive in nature, our reform should also be comprehensive.
I think the core of your question is about the development of democracy in China. I believe when it comes to the development of democracy in China, we talk about progress to be made in three areas:
No. 1: We need to gradually improve the democratic election system so that state power will truly belong to the people and state power will be used to serve the people
No. 2: We need to improve the legal system, run the country according to law, and establish the country under the rule of law and we need to view an independent and just judicial system.
No. 3: Government should be subject to oversight by the people and that will ask us, call on us to increase transparency in government affairs and particularly it is also necessary for government to accept oversight by the news media and other parties.
There is also another important aspect that when it comes to development of democracy in China, we need to take into account China's national conditions, and we need to introduce a system that suits China's special features, and we need to introduce a gradual approach.

In the early dawn of May 19, just a day before the martial law, then (and already disposed) General Secretary Zhao Ziyang made a surprise visit to students in Tiananmen Square for a teary farewell. Among the officers who accompanied Zhao Ziyang was Wen Jiabao, then the equivalent of Chief-of-Staff in the central government. The picture Fareed Zakaria was referring to must be one showing him with Zhao Ziyang in the Square at that moment.

At the time, Wen Jiaobao had been considered to be solidly in Zhao Ziyang's camp and was expected to be disposed in the aftermath. Yet Wen Jiabao survived the purge and eventually became the Premier himself.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Wang Dan Denied Visa to Hong Kong

Wang Dan was invited to participate in a conference in Hong Kong but his application for an entry visa was denied by the Chinese consulate. In exile, Wang Dan has maintained his Chinese citizenship but his passport had expired in 2003, when the Chinese officials refused to renew it. Early this year, he had planed for a protest on his citizenship rights, which was later indefinitely postponed due to the earthquake disaster in China.

Wang Dan had also been denied visa to visit Hong Kong in 1999. But other student leaders were able to visit Hong Kong in the past.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Hua Guofeng Passed Away

The one-time "Wise Leader of China", Hua Guofeng (华国锋), has passed away with only a whimper in China. The official announcement only mentioned that he had served in "important positions within the [Communist] Party and the government" without mentioning what those positions were.

In 1976, the previously little-known provincial leader became the surprise successor of the "Great Leader" Chairman Mao Zedong. He assumed the positions of the Party Chairman, President of the nation, as well as the Premier. But his main accomplishment would be the arrest of the so-called Gang of Four that included Mao Zedong's own widow, barely a month after Mao Zedong's death. The coup also signaled the end of the decade-long Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.

Hua Guofeng nonetheless chose to cling to the ideologue of Mao Zedong and saw his grasp of power eroding with the re-emergence of Deng Xiaoping. In December, 1978, Deng Xiaoping engineered a much less dramatic coup to depose Hua Guofeng. That action kicked off the great reform of China.

After losing the top leadership posts, Hua Guofeng lingered on as a nominal leader, making rare and insignificant appearances only at large Party Congresses. He was 87 years old.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Washington Post Looking For Traces of Tiananmen Massacre

Washington Post reports today that "In Tiananmen of Games, No Trace of '89 Massacre". It interviewed or reported the stories of Liu Xiaobo, Wang Dan, Ding Zilin, and Fang Zheng. The report mentioned that Liu Xiaobo has never returned to the Tiananmen Square since the night of the massacre, although he lives in the city of Beijing.

Neither Liu Xiaobo nor Wang Dan sees any hope for an open discussion of the events of the 1989 any time soon. Wang Dan was quoted saying that "The government lacks the confidence. It's very clear a crime was committed against the people. They're afraid of being blamed."

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Yang Jianli Denied Entry In Hong Kong

Yang Jianli, who had embarked on a walk for Tiananmen anniversary, is currently stuck in detention at Hong Kong. He was en route from Japan to Sichuan, where he said he intended to visit the earthquake disaster area and found a new school with donations he had collected overseas. He refused to be sent back to Japan.

Yang Jianli is traveling with a valid passport from the People's Republic of China. His original Chinese passport had become invalid after the government refused to renew it for his activities during the 1989 student movement. In 2002, he entered China with a friend's passport and was caught, for which he served out a five-year sentence in China. After his release, he was able to obtain a new passport before leaving the country. Yang Jianli stated that he had used the passport to travel to Hong Kong earlier this year without any problems.

Hong Kong, a special territory of China, technically has the right to deny entry any person who is not a resident, even Chinese citizens.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

An Athlete With A Crushed Olympic Dream

On the eve of the Beijing Olympics, the Independent carried a profile of Fang Zheng (方政), a former athlete who lost both of his legs during the Tiananmen Massacre.

In 1989, Fang Zheng was a promising twenty-three-year-old discus thrower with a dream for the Olympics. In the early morning of June 4, he was with the students who had withdrawn from Tiananmen Square and on their way back to the campus area. On Chang'an Avenue at the Liubukou(六部口) intersection, three tanks suddenly rushed into the student formation. Fang Zheng was caught under while he was helping a female student. Fang Zheng had previously given a testimony of his experience. The gruesome scene at Liubukou, including Fang Zheng at moments after his injury, was captured in photographs and published in a French newspaper. Please be warned before following this link for the pictures.

As a double amputee, Fang Zheng continued with his athletic career in discus and javelin throwing. In 1992, he won gold medals in All-China Paralympics Game and qualified for international competition. But the government denied this opportunity from him.

In this report, Fang Zheng was quoted saying that he wishes the Beijing Olympics well and thinks that the Olympics will make China more open. But he does not plan to go to Beijing for the Olympics or Paralympics. "These days I live a very ordinary life. I am just an ordinary civilian."

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Tiananmen Massacre Map Now In PDF

A new web site is providing downloadable PDF files of the map of Tiananmen Massacre. The maps are produced based on the previously published maps by Tiananmen Mothers.

The web site apparently intended their maps to be a special kind of tourist guide for people traveling for the Beijing Olympics:
Visitors to the Summer Olympic Games in Beijing will be in a city that fewer than twenty years ago was the site of a massacre of innocent civilians by their government. As you enjoy the athletic events and the sights of the city, you may find yourself at street corners, subway stops, in parks or near hospitals where ordinary Chinese men and women were murdered.
The site has no contact information but the Weekly Standard identified its creator as Ellen Bork and associates.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Protest Near Tiananmen Square

Just four days before the Beijing Olympics, about 20 residents of Beijing staged a protest march at Qianmen, just south of the Tiananmen Square. They were protesting against being evicted from their homes to make way of business development in the name of the Beijing Olympics. The protest did not last long as the crowd was quickly taken away from the scene.

Obviously, this protest happened at a sensitive area, instead of the remote "protest zones" set up by the Chinese government. There have been reports that several groups had applied but denied permission to stage protests within those designated zones.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Chen Ziming and Wang Juntao on Beijing Olympics

During his first oversea trip, Chen Ziming commented that he hopes the Beijing Olympics would be like the Seoul Olympics but feared that it may resemble more of the Berlin Olympics instead.

Chen Ziming was joined by his partner-in-crime Wang Juntao in a Guardian interview. Wang Juntao said it was simply "impossible" for the Beijing Olympics to lead China in opening up. "There are also other problems developed in China and they don't want the world to see it. So they have to close the door now."

Chen Ziming appeared unsure if he would be allowed to return to China at the conclusion of his trip, now that he had publicly criticized the government while abroad. He told the reporter, "Use my face. If I can peacefully return to China it will be an improvement, but if that does not happen it will be a regression." He was due to make his return in a couple of days, according to the article.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Tiananmen Picture Appeared in Beijing Newspaper, and then Censored

It was one thing to mistake a Hong Kong vigil for Tiananmen Massacre victims for a fund-raising event for earthquake victims. It was entirely another to actually publish a picture depicting a scene, albeit a subtle one, of the massacre in the newspaper.

But after nineteen years of tight control in the official media blackout, something is bound to slip through the cracks. It happened last week. A popular Beijing newspaper, The Beijing News (新京报), inadvertently included a photo of the massacre as one of the remarkable news pictures taken throughout the career of a photo journalist.

The photo, seen below in the lower-right corner of a scanned image of the paper, was discreet and simply labeled as "the wounded". Yet the imagery is unmistakable. It was a familiar scene during the massacre, when residents carried dead and wounded to hospitals in flatbed tricycles.

In an Associated Press story, the journalist Li Datong was quoted for his reaction:
Li Datong, a veteran state newspaper journalist who was forced from a top editing job for reporting on sensitive subjects, said the photograph was likely put in the paper by a young editor who was unaware of its background.
"A lot of editors now are really young. News about June 4 has been off-limits. They don't have any memory of it, so they'll think it's just a regular wounded person," Li said.
Editors at Beijing News would definitely be punished for the slip-up, he said. "They'll be lucky if they don't get fired. This is a major political error."
The paper is being recalled off the streets of Beijing and its web site censored.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

A Novel About Tiananmen Wins Japan Book Prize

After Ma Jian's Beijing Coma: A Novel, another novel about Tiananmen massacre and its aftermath was published in Japan and won a prestigious Japanese literary award. The book was written by a 44-year-old Yang Yi, who had moved to Japan at age 22. According to Reuters report,

The novel, staged in China and Japan, is about the fate of two Chinese college students who participated in the demonstrations at Beijing's Tiananmen Square nearly 20 years ago, which ended in a bloody army crackdown.

In the novel, one of the students remains in China, while the other moves to Japan and heads a pro-democracy campaign. He protests against China's plan to host the Olympic Games, only to see enthusiasm wane among fellow Chinese expats in Japan.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Michael Chang Recalls Tiananmen At His HOF Induction

The tennis star Michael Chang won his first and only Grand Slam, the French Open, on June 12, 1989, merely a week after the Tiananmen Massacre. After his miraculous victory, the 17 years old said, "God bless everybody, especially the people in China."

Michael Chang was inducted into the tennis Hall of Fame this past weekend. Once again he remembered that dramatic time:
Michael Chang finds it appropriate he's receiving his sport's highest honor as China awaits the Olympics.

Chang was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame on Saturday and reflected on his experiences as a Chinese-American athlete. He won the 1989 French Open at age 17 -- the youngest man to win a major -- as the Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing were escalating into bloodshed.

"For me, at the French Open, if I wasn't playing my match I was glued to CNN watching the events unfold," Chang said during a news conference before his induction. "The crackdown actually happened that Sunday of the French Open."

He also said that, "For me, I think the Lord wanted me to win to put a smile on Chinese people's faces." Michael Chang is excited about the Beijing Olympics too, for which he had served as an ambassador during the bidding process.

He had also lobbied, unsuccessfully, to become the head coach of the Chinese women tennis team.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Place of 1989: Peking University

When the Peking Metropolitan University (京师大学堂) opened its door in December, 1898, it was located near the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, the center of Peking/Beijing. The school was decreed by the reformist emperor Guang Xu (光绪), who wanted the school to "take the traditional Chinese as the foundation, take the western knowledge as the practical, organically combine the two skills to achieve lasting impact" (中学为体,西学为用,中西并用,观其会通). Led by American missionary W. A. P. Martin (丁韪良), it was the very first school in China that offered courses in modern science. Classes for geometry, physics, and chemistry were held along side those of traditional Chinese literature. After the Revolution of 1911, the school changed its name to Peking University, which has been in use to this day.

Thus, when the students of Peking University launched the great May Fourth Movement in 1919, They only had a very short distance to march into the Tiananmen Square. That movement, regarded as the beginning of the modern China, also firmly established the school's reputation as THE school for student movements. This is a tradition that has lasted for almost a century long, with various student movements in every critical junction of the Chinese history. Indeed, the school is so proud of such a tradition that it adopted May 4 as its anniversary date, never minded that the school had been founded decades before that historical date.

In more modern time, however, the campus of Peking University is located in the northwest suburb of the city, along with thirty or so universities and colleges. It was the site of the old Yenching University.

In the summer of 1920, Dr. John Leighton Stuart (司徒雷登), a son of American missionaries and the president of the private, Methodist-supported Yenching University, was looking for a new site for his school in Beijing. Following the ancient Chinese tradition of garden-style school, he chose to purchase the country estate of a former Imperial Minister northwest of the city. The site was conveniently located near the Yuanmingyuan and the (new) Summer Palace, both former Imperial gardens that were magnificent. By 1926, he secured 200 acres of land for the development of a new campus to be designed, by the American architect Henry Killam Murphy, as a beautiful garden.

All office and classroom buildings were finished in the traditional Chinese palace style, with raised wings on roofs and sculptured and colorfully decorated beams and eaves. Near the main building group, surrounded by hills and willow trees, was a man-made lake, artfully called the “Unnamed Lake.” In the middle of the lake there was an island that could be reached by an arched walking bridge. And, on a hill in the southeast border of the lake there was a majestic 13-story pagoda, a replica of the ancient Tungchow Pagoda, which also served the very practical purpose of supplying water for the campus. Scattered around the campus were many antique artifacts that had been “rescued” from the nearby Yuanmingyuan ruin. These gave the campus even more a feel of an Imperial garden itself.

In 1952, the new Communist government embarked a wide-ranged reorganization of the nation's universities in order to mold them into a system similar to that in Soviet Union. The old Yenching University was dismantled, with its engineering departments moving to Tsinghua University and its science and liberal arts departments absorbed by Peking University. The latter also moved into the campus designed by John Leighton Stuart and Henry Murphy.

It is from this campus, about 10 miles northwest of Tiananmen Square, that students launched many of their marches into the heart of the city in 1989.

Tiananmen Cleanup

Ahead of the Beijing Olympics, a mighty, if not efficient, effort is underway to clean up every inch of the Tiananmen Square, as reported by the official Xinhua News Agency.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Tiananmen Crackdown, Was it a Suppression or Liberalization?

The blog Anti-Dismal carried an interesting video clip by Cato Institute's Johan Norberg, commenting on Naomi Klein's book The Shock Doctrine.

Apparently, Naomi Klein argued that the Tiananmen movement was a protest against liberalization and market reform and its crackdown opened up the new era in China's reform. Johan Norberg argued, correctly, that the opposite is true.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Chen Ziming in Australia

Chen Ziming and his wife Wang Zhihong are currently visiting Australia. On July 6, they gave speeches in a meeting at Sydney. Chen Ziming talked about his new book on the thirty years of reform in China.

Having served out his thirteen-year sentence for his involvement in the 1989 movement, Chen Ziming has consistently refused to be forced into exile like most other activisits. Last year, the couple visited Hong Kong. This was their first trip abroad. It is not clear how long their vacation abroad will be. It is likely that the Chinese government would like to see them out of country during the entire period of Beijing Olympics.

According to the news report, Chen Ziming has been concentrating in writing books in Beijing. Wang Zhihong's work income has to support their family of three.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Today's Youth in China React to Tiananmen

Over at Vice, Jojje Ohlsson reported interesting reactions when he handed downloaded copies of documentaries about Tiananmen to his teacher and fellow students in Beijing. The three people in their twenties reacted with a variuos degree of denial, disbelief, and disinterest.

Tiananmen Massacre is almost twenty years old. Due to the long and deliberate silence in the official media and the strict censorship, today's twenty-somethings have grown up with little or no exposure to this historical event.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

"Chinese Democracy"

TIME's Joel Stein wrote this about the Guns n' Roses album:
I have Chinese Democracy. This is the Guns n' Roses album that lead singer Axl Rose has devoted himself to working on for 14 years, the same amount of time it took to carve Mount Rushmore. More than $13 million is reported to have been spent so far to make it, way more than any other album ever. It still has no formal release date. Every few years Rose assures his fans that it's about to be released, and then it isn't. It's gotten so ridiculous that the album title is used to mean something that is long promised but will never happen, like "That marriage proposal is total Chinese Democracy. Move on, girl."
I have never heard the term "Chinese Democracy" used this way. But then again, I am not a music or art kind of person. Yet how fitting it could/would be? That Chinese Democracy -- the real thing, not the album -- is something that had had been long promised but yet to happen?

Liu Gang got married this past weekend. Wang Juntao and Wang Dan were there to serve as his best men and, in Wang Juntao's words, send Liu Gang off for "a different kind of life". The wedding was a small, elegant, and loving affair.

In a quiet moment at the pre-wedding dinner, after other guests had departed, the three of them raised their glasses for their shared experience and friendship. Suddenly, Liu Gang sighed, "We now have everything we ever wanted. The only thing missing is this Chinese democracy..." He did not finish his sentence. The room was suddenly very silent.

Today is the official anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party, which was founded during this month 87 years ago. It came to power in China almost 60 years ago, partly due to its military strength and partly on its own promise to bring democracy to the Chinese people. More than half a century later, people are still waiting.

Would it be nice, if Chinese Democracy could be made for easy download, legally or otherwise, like the album with the same name?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Beijing's Big Bowl Tea

Danwei has translated the story of Big Bowl Tea that appeared in Beijing in 1977. Just like the first private restaurant story carried in this Blog earlier, the Big Bowl Tea was among the first private entrepreneur adventures in the earlier days of Deng Xiaoping's reform. They had gone through similar obstacles and hardships before they tasted success.

In fact, the owner of the first private restaurant mentioned the Big Bowl Tea when she recalled a visit by officials from national government, who had also visited the Big Bowl Tea folks.

The original Chinese version is here.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Chinese Are Coming!

Danwei has an English summary of an a Beijing News article about the first batch of Chinese scholars being sent to US for study in 1978. During that year, Deng Xiaoping, the new leader of China, had made two dramatic changes in China's education policy, which had been devastated during the Cultural Revolution. One was to reinstall the national college entrance exam and the other was to send scholars to the US for study.

Deng Xiaoping was quoted in the article as saying "It should be tens of thousands, not eight or ten... No matter how much money it takes, it is worth it." and "Let's send them out first. Don't worry about whether they will run away. Even if 20% of them run away, we will still have 80%." These were brave words for a country that had virtually no foreign exchange to spend at the time. It showed remarkable courage and determination of openning the doors of China on Deng Xiaoping's part.

It was a couple of years later when the physicist Tsung-Dao Lee alerted Deng Xiaoping that China did not really have to spend government money sending students abroad. They could utilize the existing scholarships in American universities to do so. The floodgate of Chinese students truely opened after that.

For the record, almost all the earliest batches of scholars had returned to China after concluding their studies in the US. Besides their sense of patriotism, they had also faced the practical problems of being relatively old in age and lacking means to stay in the US legally. Most of the younger students who followed, however, had chosen to stay in the US. After the 1989 massacre, more than 50,000 Chinese students and their family members took advantage of the Chinese Students Protection Act to permanently remain in the US.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

NYT Archive 1989: Death Toll Reassessed

More than two weeks after the massacre, New York Times on June 21, 1989, reassessed the death toll of the crackdown:
The true number of deaths will probably never be known, and it is possible that thousands of people were killed without leaving evidence behind. But based on the evidence that is now available, it seems plausible that about a dozen soldiers and policemen were killed, along with 400 to 800 civilians.
Some of the early estimates of thousands of deaths, including the American estimate, were based on reports that the Chinese Red Cross had counted 2,600 deaths. But the Chinese Red Cross has denied saying any such thing, and this seems to have been an offshoot of two other rumors that variously used the figure of 2,600 to describe the number of students who were missing and the number of students who were killed.
The death toll estimation was based on numbers compiled from hospitals nearest Tiananmen Square, detailed in the article itself.

In the same issue, NYT reported the arrest of Liu Gang:
The television announced that Mr. Liu was arrested in the city of Baoding, 90 miles southwest of Beijing, where he was hiding in a park while awaiting a train to a more distant city.
''Local policemen found him, and were suspicious, so they took him to the police station,'' the television announcer said. ''Liu Gang was in shabby clothes and used the assumed name of Zhang Shun. He said he was a laborer, but the policemen saw that he had no thick callouses on his hands and that he had pale skin and that he didn't have the air of a laborer. So the police questioned him further, and he confessed.''
Like most of the other students who have been arrested, Mr. Liu appeared calm and composed during his interrogation. There were no obvious signs that he had been beaten, as many of the workers seem to have been by the time they are shown on television.
Several days earlier, NYT had also reported that Ma Shaofang had turned himself in.

Hu Yaobang at the Beginning of the Reform Era

It was thirty years ago, in 1978, when Deng Xiaoping launched his great reform in the aftermath of Chairman Mao Zedong's death and the end of Cultural Revolution. A series of significant events during that year opened the curtain of that era, which are being commemorated this year. One of them was the publication of a philosophical essay, Practice is the Sole Criterion for Testing the Truth (时间是检验真理的唯一标准). The essay, published under the name of an unknown author, opened the debate that "truth" may not be whatever Chairman Mao had previously said.

In China, an article like that would not have come out on it own. Thirty years later, Hu Deping, Hu Yaobang's eldest son, tells the story of how his father had spearheaded the preparation and the publication of that essay. A much abbrevated English translation can be read here. It is the first of three installment, to be continued.

Thanks to China Digital Times for the link.

Monday, June 16, 2008

NYT Archive 1989: Death Sentences in Shanghai

The only death sentences in the ensuing crackdown of the 1989 movement came, surprisingly, from Shanghai, where the situation was considerably milder than that in the capital. It came quickly too. On June 16, 2008, New York Times reported three workers sentenced to death there:

In the first trial of Chinese pro-democracy demonstrators since the military crackdown 11 days ago, the Government today sentenced three young men to death for their role in a violent protest in Shanghai.
... ...
The three workers who were sentenced to death today were charged in an incident that began on June 6 when demonstrators held a sit-in on a railway line to block traffic as a protest against the military crackdown in the capital two days earlier. A train rammed the demonstrators, killing six of them, and the protesters then attacked and set fire to the train.
No one was killed in the fire, but some firefighters were beaten, and the burning of nine rail cars forced the closing of the railroad line for two days. It was not clear exactly what role each of the three men was said to have played in the incident, or what evidence there was for their involvement.
... ...
The three workers are Xu Guoming, an employee of a Shanghai brewery; Bian Hanwu, who is unemployed, and Yan Xuerong, a worker at a radio factory. They appeared to be in their 20's or perhaps early 30's, and none were known as leaders of the anti-Government protests in Shanghai.
NYT also reported that a string of students were arrested, including Xiong Wei, who turned himself in. Xiong Wei was relatively unknown before, during, and even after the movement. It was not clear how and why he landed in the "21 Most Wanted List".

Sunday, June 15, 2008

NYT Archive 1989: 21 Most Wanted

The 21 Most Wanted student leaders were announced by the Chinese government and reported by New York Times on June 14, 1989:

The 21 students whose mug shots and biographical details were shown on television included the two most prominent leaders of the democracy movement, Wang Dan and Wuer Kaixi. Others shown on television were Chai Ling, the leader of the students occupying Tiananmen Square, and her husband, Feng Congde, and a 28-year-old graduate student, Liu Gang, who is said to have assisted the students from behind the scenes.
The television showed lengthy film clips of Mr. Wuer, apparently so that viewers could identify him and turn him in. The clips also showed the extent of Government surveillance of the student leaders; it seemed that three different video cameras were used to record one visit by Mr. Wuer on May 29 to a restaurant in a Beijing hotel. One camera was trained on him from above while he ate, another showed him leaving the restaurant, and a third caught him as he left the building.
From NYT's description above, it is clear that Liu Gang's significance in the movement was not understood by outsiders. Even most students were surprised seeing his name in the no. 3 slot, behind Wang Dan and Wuer Kaixi but ahead of Chai Ling.

The list: Wang Dan, Wuer Kaixi, Liu Gang, Chai Ling, Zhou Fengsuo, Zhai Weiming (翟伟民), Liang Jindun (梁擎墩), Wang Zhengyun (王正云), Zheng Xuguang (郑旭光), Ma Shaofang (马少方), Yang Tao, Wang Zhixin (王志新), Feng Congde, Wang Chaohua, Wang Youcai (王有才), Zhang Zhiqing (张志清), Zhang Boli (张伯笠), Li Lu (李禄), Zhang Ming (张铭), Xiong Wei (熊炜), and Xiong Yan.

As Liu Gang would later comment, almost all of the 21 had been, one way or another, involved with the Beijing Students Autonomous Federation he had founded.

NYT Archive 1989: Two Student Leaders Arrested

Zhou Fengsuo and Xiong Yan, two students who had been involved in the movement from the very early stage, were arrested, as reported by New York Times on June 15, 1989:
The television news announced tonight that 2 of the 21 student leaders who had been placed on a wanted list on Tuesday had been captured. It said that Zhou Fengsuo, a 22-year-old physics student in Beijing, had been turned in by his sister and her husband. The television program showed the couple being interviewed by the police.
The other student leader who was reported arrested was Xiong Yan, a 24-year-old graduate law student in Beijing. The circumstances of Mr. Xiong's arrest were not reported.
Partly because he was turned in by his own sister, Zhou Fengsuo was never formally tried or sentenced. He was released after a year in prison. He is currently living in California.

Xiong Yan spent nineteen months in detention and then fled to US in 1992. He then chose a unique path for his life: joining the US Army. He has served as a chaplain in Irag.

NYT Archive 1989: Zhao Ziyang's Crime

On June 14, 1989, New York Times reported what the government had laid on Zhao Ziyang, according to an internal document:
Mr. Zhao was last seen on May 19, talking with student leaders on Tiananmen Square, and there has been almost no official mention of him since then. He is believed to have been stripped of his powers and he may be under house arrest, but it is not clear whether he retains his title.
The documents that criticize Mr. Zhao and are now circulating among high officials make three specific complaints. First, they assert that he helped organize the student mourning of the former party leader Hu Yaobang, whose death on April 15 was the catalyst for the movement. Second, they say that his words and actions encouraged the student movement. Third, they accuse him of violating party discipline, by making unauthorized statements about the party leadership.
The last item is probably a reference to his disclosure on national television, during his meeting on May 16 with Mikhail S. Gorbachev, the Soviet President, that there was a formal policy of consulting Mr. Deng on all important matters.
Any reports about "internal documents" or insider information should automatically be taken with a big chunk of salt, as such reports are notoriously unreliable.

It is strange how Zhao Ziyang could be accused for helping organize student mourning of Hu Yaobang. Not only that there has not been any evidence supporting it, it is also unpractical for him to do so.

It is also curious that his biggest "crime" was not on the list: that he had "split the party" by refusing to go along with the martial law.

Friday, June 13, 2008

NYT Archive 1989: Fang Lizhi's Status

As the Chinese and American governments continued to haggle on Fang Lizhi, New York Times on June 13, 1989, reported how Fang Lizhi got into the American embassy:
Western diplomats said the controversy over the couple began on June 4, hours after the military crackdown in Beijing. A friend of the couple telephoned the embassy, saying that Mr. Fang and Miss Li felt that their lives were in danger and that the couple wanted to take refuge in the American diplomatic compound.
Initially, an American diplomat told the couple to go to a Beijing hotel while the embassy contacted the State Department for instructions. The embassy hesitated because it is against standing rules for an American embassy to grant refuge to a foreign national on the national's own territory.
On June 5, the matter was brought to Secretary Baker at the regular morning staff meeting, during which the major topic at hand was the violence in Beijing. The diplomats said Secretary Baker's position was that the United States should ''not deny refuge or sanctuary'' if the couple was ''in personal danger.''
Since the embassy had concluded that the couple were indeed in such danger, they were granted sanctuary within the American compound, the diplomats said. The couple had no trouble entering the embassy, and no Chinese authorities were in ''hot pursuit'' when they arrived, the diplomats said.
At no time did the couple ask for political asylum, in the sense of seeking to flee to the United States and acquire American citizenship, Administration officials said. Rather, Mr. Fang asked for physical protection, and it was on that basis that he was allowed into the embassy under the diplomatic principle of ''temporary refuge.''
Administration officials said Mr. Fang was very sensitive about the question of asylum and has reiterated to his embassy hosts that he considers himself a Chinese patriot who wants, if at all possible, to remain in his country.
Meanwhile, several Zhao Ziyang's allies made public appearances, saving their jobs:
The television showed a series of senior officials making public appearances to praise the crackdown and visit wounded soldiers. Among those shown was Qiao Shi, a member of the standing committee of the Politburo who is mentioned as candidate to be the next party leader.
The most surprising appearance was by Tian Jiyun, a Politburo member who is closely associated with the Communist Party General Secretary, Zhao Ziyang. Mr. Zhao has been stripped of his powers, and perhaps of his formal position, and at least one associate on the Politburo, Hu Qili, has also disappeared and has presumably been purged. A picture of Mr. Tian had previously been published in a newspaper, indicating that his career might be saved, but his television appearance was the clearest sign so far that members of Mr. Zhao's faction will not automatically lose their posts.
In his televised remarks, Mr. Tian did not mention the ''counterrevolutionary rebellion,'' but simply visited wounded soldiers and thanked them for doing their duty while carrying out martial law.
Two other senior Communist Party officials who have been associated with the moderate point of view also made brief appearances on television. They were Yan Mingfu, an official in the party headquarters who argued for conciliation with the students, and Wen Jiabao, director of the General Office of the Central Committee. Both were shown visiting wounded soldiers, and neither said anything in front of the cameras.
Yan Mingfu, who had played a pivotal role in trying to have a real dialogue with student leaders, did not actually save his job. He held a couple of unremarkable posts and generally faded out of national politics.

Wen Jiabao, however, fared much better. He is currently the Premier of the country.

Meanwhile, NYT realized that the eyewitness account it had published a day earlier was not entirely factual.

Media Coverage of the Tiananmen Anniversary

Andrew at One Man's Revolution compiled a list of media coverage of the 19th anniversary of Tiananmen Massacre, based on LexisNexis News Search. He found nothing in the major TV news network in the US and only scant mentions in the printed media.

This has been a very eventful year for China so far. The Tibet riot and Olympic torch relay had received tremendous media coverage, only to be surpassed by the devastating earthquake in Sichuan. The Olympics is just around the corner. There should be more attention towards China in the coming months.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

NYT Archive 1989: A Famous "Rumor-Monger"

On June 12, 1989, New York Times reported the case of a famous "rumor-monger", as the government cracked down on any expressions of the massacre:
An extraordinary series of broadcasts over several nights on national television illustrates the tone of the propaganda effort. For two nights, both the early and late evening news programs broadcast segments of a street interview done by ABC News in Beijing shortly after the army's assaults. A man is shown being interviewed, his voice rising with anger and his arms imitating the motion of a machine gun, as he describes a scene of terrible carnage committed, he says, by the army.
''Tanks and armored personnel carriers rolled over students, squashing them into jam, and the soldiers shot at them and hit them with clubs,'' the man was shown telling an American interviewer. ''When students fainted, the troops killed them. After they died, the troops fired one more bullet into them. They also used bayonets. They were too cruel. I never saw such things before.''
A caption on the bottom of the screen during the interview identifies the man as ''somebody spreading rumors about the cleanup of Tiananmen Square.'' After the man speaks, the news announcer warns the public to beware of believing such rumors, then says that the man is wanted by the police and he appeals to the public to turn him in.
Tonight, the national news showed the same man, looking haggard and terrified, in police custody, retracting in front of the cameras what he had said to ABC News. The news announcer says that the man, whose name he gives as Xiao Bin, identifying him as an unemployed 42-year-old factory worker, was turned in one hour after the appeal to the public by two shop assistants who recognized him from his picture. They said they caught him in the act of telling someone that 20,000 people had been killed in the military crackdown.
''I never saw anything,'' Mr. Xiao says of the Beijing crackdown. He goes on, his head bowed, ''I apologize for bringing great harm to the party and the country.'' He also admitted that he was a counterrevolutionary. [ ABC News, in a statement issued in New York on Sunday, said, ''We are deeply distressed to learn that in this instance the Chinese authorities intercepted unedited news material that was being satellited, and used it for political purposes.'' ] Television broadcasts such as this one are being shown all across China, generally twice each night on news programs that have expanded from a half-hour to 90 minutes.
For his act, Xiao Bin (肖斌) was sentenced to 10 years in prison. The length of the term was outrageously surprising, as it was longer than that received by any of the captured student leaders.

The same day's edition of NYT also carried an eyewitness account of the massacre by an anonymous student from Tsinghua University. While most of the story seemed plausible, it's dramatic description of students dying in waves to overturn an armed personnel carrier did not agree with what we know today.

Meanwhile, 17-year-old Michael Chang won the French Open on this day in 1989. He became the youngest player ever to win a grand slam and the first American to win French Open since 1955. He was also the first ethnic Chinese to achieve stardom in tennis. After his victory, he said "God bless everybody, especially the people in China."

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

NYT Archive 1989: Massive Arrests in Beijing

On June 11, 1989, New York Times reported that the Chinese government had announced that 400 people had been arrested for participating in the democracy movement. The only one named was student leader Guo Haifeng:
The television news program said that student leaders had been arrested, although it named only one student from Beijing University. The news tonight reported the apprehension of Guo Haifeng, a member of the standing committee of the recently formed independent student union.
''He was arrested just as he and a group of rioters were about to burn an armored personnel carrier,'' the announcer said, without indicating on which day the arrest took place. Nor did he say what kind of punishment the students would receive, and called upon other student leaders to turn themselves in.
''Those leaders who have not been arrested should go to the public security organization and surrender themselves so that they may be dealt with leniently,'' the state television broadcast said. ''Those who refuse to surrender themselves will be arrested and dealt with seriously.''
Guo Haifeng was one of the three students who had staged a kneeling-down petition at Hu Yaobang's funeral. In the early morning of June 4, he was in a bus with several people making Motolov bombs when the bus driver was shot dead and all of them captured by soldiers. He was initially charged for attempting to burn an armed personnel carrier and even destroy Tiananmen itself. But these were eventually dropped for lack of evidence. He was later sentenced for four years on lesser charges.

Presumably, the vast majority of the unnamed arrestees were "rioters and hooligans", who had bravely resisted the advance of the martial law troops. They received much more severe punishments than the students.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

NYT Archive 1989: Scapegoating Fang LIzhi

On June 10, 1989, New York Tims reported that Deng Xiaoping finally appeared in public after three weeks absence, squashing rumors that he had been dead. Without remorse, Deng Xiaoping spoke at length to justify the bloody crackdown.

The news of the day was that the official television news had named Fang Lizhi as the villain of the movement:
The target of the broadcast, Fang Lizhi, a leading astrophysicist who is China's best-known dissident, had perhaps been overlooked because he does not own a gun and for weeks has carefully avoided the student encampment on Tiananmen Square, where troops killed hundreds, or possibly thousands, of civilians early this week.
Nevertheless, the television news accused Mr. Fang, who is now in the United States Embassy for his own protection, of being a traitor who incited the ''rebellion'' and provoked the violence.
The sharp attack underscored not only the passions that Mr. Fang, who is 53 years old, arouses on both sides of the Pacific, but also the difficulties that the United States and China will have in resolving the latest irritant to their relations.
Fang Lizhi (pronounced fahng lee-JER), his wife, Li Shuxian, and their son, Fang Ke, took refuge in the embassy because they feared arrest after the shooting of pro-democracy demonstrators in the center of the city on Sunday and Monday.
In fact, Fang Lizhi and his wife played very little role throughout the entire movement, which he might have helped inspiring earlier in the year. Fang Lizhi chose to stay out partly because he had disagreed with some of the students' aggressive tactics and partly because he did not want to bring trouble to the students with his reputation as a dissident. The students, on the other hand, largely stayed away from him for the same reason. They wanted their movement to stay "pure".

The scapegoating of Fang Lizhi did not last long, however. With Fang Lizhi out of reach in the American embassy and the capture of Chen Ziming and Wang Juntao later that year, Chen Ziming and Wang Juntao became accused for being the "black hands of Beijing".

Monday, June 9, 2008

CCTV Realizes Its "Error"

The link on the CCTV's website, on which CCTV had reported Hong Kong's candlelight vigil for Tiananmen victims, is no longer working. Internet reports say that an internal investigation of the incident is underway.

NYT Archive 1989: Li Peng Reappers

Five days after the bloody massacre, Premier Li Peng became the first leader to appear in public. He reclaimed leadership role by praising the troops on TV. On June 9, 1989, New York Times was still speculating the fates of Deng Xiaoping and ZhaoZiyang. Beijing was still a city in turmoil. Military convoys patrolled the city. Soldiers fired their guns sporadically.

In Shanghai, on the other hand, a kinder and gentler approach appeared to be working.

NYT Archive 1989: Turmoil Continues

On June 8, 1989, New York Times continued its extended coverage of "Turmoil in China". Most articles focused on diplomatic reactions of other countries and the desperate ways of foreigners trying to get out of China. Beijing was still described as at a brink of civil war.

People in Shanghai continued to protest the massacre by setting barricades in the city and staging sit-ins on railroad tracks to block rail traffic. In a chaotic situation, a train plowed into people on tracks, killing six and injuring six. The train was set ablaze by the anger mob.

In the capital, 200,000 troops were reported in and around the city. Dissident Fang Lizhi and his family had taken up refuge in the American embassy, causing a diplomatic standoff.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

NYT Archive 1989: Government's Death Toll Estimation

Three days after the massacre, Beijing was still like a war-time city. On June 7, 1989, New York Times changed their overall theme of China coverage to "Turmoil in China". In the lead story, the government spokesperson Yuan Mu was quoted commenting the government's estimate on the death toll:
Mr. Yuan, whose appearance suggested that Mr. Li is still in power, also estimated today that 300 people had been killed and 6,000 wounded in the military crackdown in the capital. Most independent estimates are higher, ranging from several hundred to 1,500 or more, and the accepted wisdom among many Chinese is that tens of thousands of civilians were shot or beaten to death since troops attacked Tiananmen Square, in the heart of Beijing, early Sunday morning.
The official estimates were also regarded as suspect because Mr. Yuan said that most of the injuries were suffered by troops, rather than by the civilians whom the soldiers raked with submachine-gun fire.
Yuan Mu's 300 also included both soldiers and civilians. "He said that only 23 students were known to have died." Artillery and gun shots could still be heard in the city, disrupting attempts to return to normal life. There were wild speculations that Qiao Shi, a lesser known official, might emerge as the next leader.

In the rest of the country, Shanghai stood at a standstill. Widespread unrest were reported all over the country. Foreigners were scrambling to leave, with emergency airlifts provided by their governments.

Diplomatically, Japan suspended economic development and cultural missions to Beijing but ruled out whole-sale sanctions. Britain reaffirmed that it will handover Hong Kong to China on schedule in 1997. The Soviets took the side of Chinese government and condemned Western pressure.

CCTV Reports Hong Kong Vigil For Tiananmen

Each year at the anniversary of the Tiananmen Massacre, thousands of people in Hong Kong stage a candlelight vigil commemorating the death. The annual ritual survived the Chinese take-over of Hong Kong in 1997, although the number of participants is dwindling as time passes.

This year's version was held in the evening of June 4th and somewhere between 15,700 (police estimate) and 48,000 (organizer estimate) turned out.

What must be a surprising twist for everyone is that the event made it to CCTV, the official television station. Of course, anything related to the Massacre is still taboo in mainland China. But CCTV reported this commemoration in Hong Kong as 40,000 Hong Kong residences holding candlelight vigil commemorating victims of earthquake.

The donations collected during the Hong Kong vigil was indeed allocated to earthquake victims this year.