Tuesday, May 13, 2008

NYT Archive 1989: Protesting Against "Satanic Verses" of China

The student movement of 1989 was inspiring and emboldening people of different sectors, who, in the mid-May, started to find their own voices. On May 13, 1989, New York Times reported that a group of Muslim students held their own march:
In the first demonstration by a Chinese minority group since a wave of student protests began last month, about 2,500 Muslim students marched to the city's central square today to protest the publication of a book they say blasphemes Islam.
''This book has defaced Islam and the Koran,'' said a student. ''It is like 'The Satanic Verses.' ''
The students said the book they were protesting, ''Sexual Customs,'' has a section that refers to the architecture of a mosque as a phallic symbol, and other sexual references. They demanded that the Government punish the authors, who wrote the book under pen names, and the Shanghai publishing company that first released the book in March. Students said the book was not widely circulated in Beijing.

Apparently, Mr. Gorbachev was not the only head of a foreign state visiting Beijing at the time. Iranian President, Hojatolislam Ali Khamenei, had just concluded his visit, which might have helped in triggering this protest.

In a clear indication that the authority was loosing up controls in the midst of the student movement, NYT reported that these Muslim demonstrators were able to obtain a permission ahead of time.

Meanwhile, the waiting for Gorbachev continued. The momentum of hunger strike was building on campuses and would show up in Tiananmen Square in that very evening. But NYT failed to pick up any hint of this coming storm. In an afterthought, it only mentioned that,

The Government spokesman today called on Chinese university students not to demonstrate during the Chinese-Soviet summit meeting next week.

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