Friday, November 27, 2009

A Brief History of Slogans on Tiananmen

Joel Martinsen at Danwei wrote an elegant account on the evolution of slogans placed on Tiananmen as well as Xinhuamen. The article is accompanied with a few interesting photos from different era. As he pointed out, "the slogans have actually changed very little during the PRC's first six decades."

Saturday, November 14, 2009

People of 1989: James R. Lilley

Jim Lilley became the American ambassador to China in the spring of 1989, just as the undercurrent of student movement was emerging. Although he was born in China and had previously served as the CIA station chief in Beijing under George H. W. Bush, he was not as deeply involved with the Chinese intellectual community as his immediate predecessor Winston Lord.

Jim Lilley has been credited for providing daily, detailed reports about the events to then President George H. W. Bush during the turmoil of 1989. But his influence or effects, if any, to the movement itself remains unknown.

He did take some notable actions after the massacre. His embassy provided asylum to the famous Chinese dissident Fang Lizhi and he took an uncompromisable stand on the issue in Fang Lizhi's safety and well-being. At the same time, however, he also arranged a secret diplomatic mission which had the national security adviser Brent Scowcroft visiting Beijing and toasting with Deng Xiaoping.

Jim Lilley successfully negotiated the settlement which sent Fang Lizhi out of Beijing and to the United States. He was subsequently shocked to see Fang Lizhi criticizing the US as well as President George H. W. Bush as soon as he had stepped on the American soil. He had never forgiven Fang Lizhi for that action. Fang Lizhi, on the other hand, quickly lost his standing with the American governmental circle.

James R. Lilly passed away Nov. 12, 2009, at the age of 81.

People of 1989

Friday, November 13, 2009

"The Terminal", Live in Japan

In the 2004 movie "The Terminal," Tom Hank's character is an Eastern European immigrant whose country "disappeared" when he landed in JFK, causing him to be stranded in no-man's land in the airport.

A Chinese dissident by the name of Feng Zhenghu (冯正虎) is currently playing out a similar drama in the Narita Airport in Japan. Feng Zhenghu is a citizen of People's Republic of China, which certainly did not disappear or marred in some war or disaster. However, that country has practically disowned Feng Zhenghu just as the way she has treated many other dissidents who are abroad but maintained their Chinese citizenship. These dissidents have been denied the rights to return to their own country for years if not decades. When they tried to return, many of them were turned back even before they reached the Chinese custom.

Feng Zhenghu is not a very well-known dissident per se. After he visited Japan in April this year, he found himself being denied to return to China. In June and July, he boarded several different international airlines for China seven times, but each time was forcefully put on a return flight to Japan.

His latest attempt was more than a week ago and he encountered the same fate. But this time, he declared that he had rejected his valid visa to Japan and refused to re-enter Japan upon his forced return flight. So, like Tom Hank's character, he is now stuck in the international no-man's land at the Narita Airport in Japan.

For a few days, he suffered the hardships similar to that depicted in the movie, when he was ignored by the airport personnel and struggled to feed and take care of himself. His friends in the Chinese exile community launched an international rescue operation by sending passengers onto international flights destined to the airport to deliver food and other necessities.

Feng Zhenghu's plight is now gaining more publicity and his condition improved after more and more people, including airport workers, recognized his situation and provided help. However, there is still no clear sign how this crisis could be resolved.

Many dissidents are paying close attention to this case as they continued their own fights for the rights to return to their own country.