During the later days of the hunger strike at Tiananmen in 1989, many prominent people had visited the hunger strikers to express their sympathy, support, as well as persuasion to stop the strike. None of them matched that of Cui Jian (崔健), the undisputed king of rock n roll in China. His impromptu concert at Tiananmen was an unforgettable scene highlighted both in the documentary The Gate of Heavenly Peace and my book Standoff at Tiananmen.
Sipping through some of the historical records, however, I was never able to pinpoint the exact date when he did the performance. Until now.
Danwei reported on a recently surfaced audio tape of Cui Jian's concert. At the beginning of the recording, a voice clearly stated that "it is the seventh day of the hunger strike...," which places the event at around May 18, a day before the hunger strike was finally called off with an impending martial law.
In the recording, Cui Jian altered some of the lyrics to dedicate his songs to the hunger strikers. Curiously, this recording is missing his most famous song, "Nothing to my Name." (一无所有)
Danwei also summarized the conversations during the performance which showed Cui Jian's reluctance to perform the boisterous music out of the concern of the condition of the hunger strikers. He was then persuaded by the crowd to continue. From the tape, voices could be heard in the background appealing for Cui Jian to stop, but it was overruled by the enthusiastic crowd in the foreground, which is most likely made up by those who did not participate in the hunger strike.
I had heard personal accounts from hunger strikers at the scene describing that the music was unbearable for their much weakened heart.
In the background of the recording, one could also hear the sirens of ambulances.