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?