Tuesday, April 26, 2011

People of 1989: Wang Zhiyong

In the spring of 1989, Wang Zhiyong (王志勇), a senior at the University of Political Sciences and Law, was looking forward to his graduation just like many of his classmates. He grew up in a poor rural area. Graduating from a prestigious college in the capital was to be a remarkable milestone in his young life.

In the evening of April 19, he also went to the Xinhuamen, the site of China's government, like many of his classmates. There, they continued a mass sit-in protest from the previous night, following the death of Hu Yaobang. After the midnight, the peaceful petition turned confrontational. The student body was broken up by police forces. Wang Zhiyong and two of his fellow students left the area and went to Qianmen to catch the subway home. What followed was described in a Big Post written by one of his classmates the next day:
In the evening of April 19, Wang Zhiyong and two other students from our school came to Tiananmen Square to participate in the memorial activities for Comrade Hu Yaobang. Around 4am of April 20, they crossed Chang'an Avenue and went on the street south of the Great Hall of People. Just then, they faced two platoons of the People's Armed Police. The commander shouted, "Who are you? Beat them up!" dozens of policemen surrounded them. Several of them rushed on and beat Wang Zhiyong's head with their metal-knuckled belts. Wang Zhiyong's head was broken and had to have three stitches later. His head was badly swollen and he could not open his left eye. After the beating, Wang Zhiyong ran to the subway station and sat there in a daze. He was sent back to school by two kind-hearted passers-by.
I was able to get contact with Wang Zhiyong, who is now in the United States, recently. He confirmed the above description as truthful. The day after, he had also displayed his blooded shirts on campus and told his own story in the student broadcasting station.

The conflict between students and police in the early morning of April 20 at Xinhuamen had been exaggerated to become the "April 20 Bloody Tragedy" at the time. There were however very few reported injuries among students. Wang Zhiyong's experience, albeit some distance away from Xinhuamen, was undoubtedly one of the most serious. It could also be the only verifiable case. The above poster was widely circulated in the college campuses in Beijing and was a major factor in leading students to further their protesting actions.

Wang Zhiyong did not shy away from the movement himself either. He participated in and contributed to the movement as a member of student martial from his school. As they were leaving Tiananmen Square after their duty in the afternoon of June 3, they could hear the approaching gunshots.

After the massacre, Wang Zhiyong escaped from punishment largely due to the protective actions by his school teachers and authorities. He worked for two years and then became a graduate student in Peking University, from which he earned a Masters degree in law. Later, he became a Christian and devoted his life to God. In 1997, he left China for theological education in the US. Today, he is a pastor in Virginia.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Book Review: Inside Story of the Bloody Clearance at Tiananmen Square

The Inside Story of the Bloody Clearance at Tiananmen Square is a book currently only available in Chinese language. The book was published about 4 years ago at the 18th anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre.

This book was written by Wu Renhua, an integrate character in the 1989 student movement and in my own book Standoff at Tiananmen. As early as April 17, 1989, Wu Renhua, then a teacher at the University of Political Science and Law, had helped to organize the very first public demonstration following Hu Yaobang's death. Later on June 3rd, just as the bloody crackdown was approaching, he volunteered to lead a special team of student marshals into the Square to safeguard the hunger striking "Four Gentlemen" there. It is also because of this act, he put himself right in the middle of the actions of that fateful night. From the vantage of his location on the top of the Monument of People's Heroes, he had an excellent view of the entire Square.

After the massacre, Wu Renhua eventually escaped by swimming to Macao through icy sea water. He settled at Los Angeles and was the chief editor of a dissident newspaper Press Freedom Herald for many years. Through the paper he collected and published numerous articles on the history of the movement.

The book Inside Story of the Bloody Clearance at Tiananmen Square was the first book Wu Renhua wrote. It traces, hour by hour and sometimes minute by minute, the some 20 hours from when he arrived at the Square in the early afternoon of June 3, 1989 to the dawn of June 4, as he led the last group of the students withdrawing from it under gunpoint.

It was not just a timeline, however. The author also included much material that were written by others which added either scenes from locations the author could not witness directly or to the historical perspectives to the individuals and events.

There are indeed surprised. The most startling of which is the exact sequences of students' exit from the Monument, their last base in the Square. Previously, it was widely believed that they made a remarkably orderly retreat after a voice vote conducted by Feng Congde, therefore avoided a potentially horrendous bloodshed. Yet Wu Renhua pointed out from his own experience that only less than half students followed that decision and left in somewhat orderly fashion. The majority of them insisted to stay and left only after a combination of persuasion from their teachers and brutal beatings by the advancing soldiers. Their final withdraw was chaotic and almost fatal. At least one student leader was almost stampeded to death.

This, and much of the author's own observations that night at the Square, was adopted in the final Chapter of Standoff at Tiananmen.

Wu Renhua's book is not without shortcomings. As a self-edited and self-published book, it lacks sophisticated layout control. This is especially a problem when the author quotes substantial passages of other people's work. It is easy for readers to get lost and confused with what they are actually reading. Some of these materials used in the book had not been properly vetted for credibility and reliability and contain paragraphs that are known to be untrue or vastly exaggerated.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

People of 1989: Ge Yang (戈扬)

Born in 1916, Ge Yang was a first-generation revolutionary. She joined the then underground Communist Party when she was only a teenager in the 1930s and participated in the anti-Japanese and later civil wars. From the 1940s, she settled into working with the press and news agencies in the army and later in the New China news agency.

Like many liberal minded intellectuals within the Party, Ge Yang became a "rightist" in the 1950s and was expelled from the Party for the first time in the 1950s. She spent more than 20 years in physical labor to "reform" her thoughts. It was only in 1978 that she was able to return to a normal life with Deng Xiaoping's new regime. She became the editor-in-chief of a newly reemerged magazine New Observer, which instantly became a strong voice of liberal thoughts.

In 1989, after the death of Hu Yaobang, Ge Yang organized a large-scale symposium of more than 50 prominent intellectuals. The theme of the meeting became an appeal to correct the injustice imposed to Hu Yaobang and victims of recent ideological struggles. When its proceedings were carried in the World Economic Herald, the newspaper was promptly closed and its chief editor fired.

On April 22 that year, Ge Yang attended Hu Yaobang's funeral inside the Great Hall of People. Through the glass door she saw the thousands of college students gathered in Tiananmen Square, and observed:
After Zhao Ziyang delivered the eulogy for Hu Yaobang, we filed past to pay our last respects. As we walked by the glass doors of the Great Hall of People, many lingered for a moment to observe the many thousands of students sitting outside on the Square. Rows of soldiers stood with arms linked to separate the students from us. I felt rage as I stood there silently watching them. The atmosphere was tense. Some of the officials feared that the students might try to force their way into the Great Hall. A soldier came over and asked me politely to move on.

"My driver walked up to me and took my arm. I replied, 'I just want to stand here for a while. I belong to the Communist Party, and I was wounded serving the Party during the war. I have seen much, but I have never before seen such abuse of students by Party members like yourself.'

"The soldier listened and then left.
Later, she described her feelings in a little poem:
A land has been divided into two parts,
In the middle is a wall of brutal force.
This side is the chilly ice glaciers,
That side is the sea of true feelings.
Yaobang's body lay on this side,
Yaobang's soul is over there.
We all came from that other side,
There would not have been this side if not for the other side.

Ge Yang at Tiananmen Square on May 14, 1989.

Later, Ge Yang left Beijing to attend a meeting in America. After martial law was imposed in Beijing, the then already 73 year old woman decided to stay in the US, thus began her life in exile. After the massacre, she publicly declared her withdraw from the Party: "The Communist Party we had joined years ago was not the Party of today. I must completely break from this Party that suppressed her own people."

In her old age, Ge Yang lived on feeble incomes from her writing and supports from friends and charity. In 2002, she met the famous scholar Sima Lu (司马璐) and discovered that they had known each other years ago when they were young. (Both of them had changed their names since the war period.) They married each other.

Ge Yang died in New York City on January 18, 2009. She was 93.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Confucius Departs Tiananmen Square

Tiananmen Square is not a good place for Confucius, after all, at least not in plain sight. Just three months ago, a statue of Confucius was erected at the Square. Some hailed it as a new cultural landmark for the symbolic location. The contrast between the ancient philosopher and the modern leader Mao Zedong in the same Square created quite a buzz in symbolic interpretations.

Well, Confucius did not last long. The statue has now been quietly moved into a courtyard designated to be a "sculpture garden" in the same museum, but largely out of the sight.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Wang Dan Refutes Media Report on Taiwan Funding

Wang Dan, who is currently teaching in Taiwan, is once again involved in a controversy of having received money from Taiwan government. This time the news came from the Central News Agency and carried in the newspaper China Times, both respectable media outlets in the island. The news report says:
The Taiwan High Court today called on mainland democracy fighter Wang Dan and former Minister of Foreign Affairs Huang Zhifang to testify in the corruption trial of former President Chen Shuibian. In the hearing, Wang Dan frankly stated that he had received $400,000 financial support from Chen Shuibian.
The report further explains: "according to sources, Wang Dan stated in court that he twice received donation from Chen Shuibian, each in $200,000, for a total of $400,000.

Within hours of the news release, Wang Dan issued a statement to rebuke the report, claiming that the report's "essential content is absolutely not factual." He pointed out that the court trial was a secret proceeding without media presence. The Central News Agency had not interviewed or confirmed with him before releasing "such a ridiculous report." He voiced a strong protest.

Although Wang Dan also indicated that, because the trial involves Taiwan government secrets, he will not provide any further explanation or response on the matter, he nevertheless provided more information today through his Facebook page. He explained that a more detailed account of his side of the story will be published in the Apple Daily on Monday.

Wang Dan stated that the money he had received before originated from Taiwan government, not Chen Shuibian's personal donation. He said, "As an oversea democracy force, we welcome all political donations that are from proper sources and not imposing political conditions." Secondly, he again stated that the amount he had received had "a very big discrepancy" with that reported by the Central News Agency. But because he has to abide the secrecy order from the court, he could not disclose the real amount. In his discussion with his Facebook followers, he repeated assured them that all the donations "have been used for efforts in pushing for democracy. All accounts are very clear." However, because some of the money had been spent for people in mainland China, he could not disclose any account due to concerns of their safety.

Chen Shuibian was the first non-Nationalist president elected by the people of Taiwan. During his presidency, he had established special account to supply government money to support mainland activists exile overseas. Because the means of money transfer was often murky, he ran into serious trouble in not being able to account for the funds. After his term, he was formally charged for corruption. He called Wang Dan to the trial in an effort to clear his name.

On the other hand, the oversea exile community is also immersed in its own financial troubles. Pretty much every significant organization had experienced serious corruption and embezzlement charges of their leaders. The investigation of such scandals are often fruitless since the leaders claim their money were spent in secret support of mainland underground.

Both Wang Dan and Wang Juntao had gone exile during the time when Chen Shuibian was the President at Taiwan. In the last few years, there had been consistent rumor that the Taiwan government had a special "Two-Wang" fund supporting them. Just last year, the long-running dissident magazine China Spring, for which Wang Dan was the Chairman, ceased its printing operation for a lack of funds. At the time, Wang Dan revealed that financial support for the magazine had stopped as soon as Ma Yingjiu succeeded Chen Shuibian as the President at Taiwan.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Document of 1989: Official Obituary for Hu Yaobang

The news of Hu Yaobang's death was first released by the official Xinhua News Agency on April 15, 1989. The April 16's edition of People's Daily carried the official obituary on its front page but without the usual fanfare for such an occasion. Following is an English translation of the obituary:

Xinhua News Agency, April 15
Obituary by the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party

The Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party announced with a heavy heart that Comrade Hu Yaobang, a long-tested loyal communist soldier, a great proletarian revolutionary and politician, an outstanding political worker in our army, who had served in the Party's important leadership positions for a long time and been a marvelous leader, had suffered a large-area acute myocardial infarction while attending a Politburo meeting on April 8, 1989. Despite all medical efforts, he passed away at 7:53AM, April 15, 1989. He was 73.

The life of Comrade Hu Yaobang was a glorious one, which is filled with achievements for the Party and the people. He joined the land revolution led by the Chinese Communist Party while he was still a youth and participated in the well-known Long March. From 1939 to 1945, he served as the Minister of Organization in the General Political Department of the Central Military Committee. From 1946 to 1949, he served as the acting Political Department Chief of the Jin-Re-Liao Military District and the Political Commissar of 3rd and 4th Columns of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, as well as the Political Chief of the 18th Corp. After the founding of the People's Republic, he served in various positions such as the Party Secretary and Governor of the North Sichuan area, the First Secretary of the Chinese Youth League Central Committee, the First Party Secretary of the Shaanxi Province, and the Second Party Secretary of the Northwestern Region. During the period of "Culture Revolution," he continuously fought against the counter-revolutionary gangs of Lin Biao and Jiang Qing, without regards of his own safety. In 1978, he took the position of the Minister of Organization in the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party and did tremendous work in restoring orders from chaos, reversing past incorrect verdicts, and implementing policies for cadres. He displayed extraordinary courage and bravery in being truthful and achieved undisputed results. During the new historical period of Socialist reconstruction, he upheld the policies established by the Party's 11th Congress, 3rd Plenum, and made important contributions in pushing forward the modernization and reform.

Comrade Hu Yaobang was a member of 8th, 11th, 12th, and 13th Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party. He had also served as the Vice President of the Central Party School, the Third Secretary of the Central Disciplinary Committee, General Secretary and Minister of Propaganda of the Central Committee. He was elected into the Central Politburo during the Party's 11th Congress, 3rd Plenum. He was elected to be the Chairman of the Central Committee by the Party's 11th Congress, 6th Plenum. He was the Central Politburo member and its Standing Committee member of the Party's 12th Congress. From September, 1982 to January, 1987, he served as the General Secretary of the Central Committee. He was also a member of the Central Politburo of the Party's 13th Congress.

The death of Comrade Hu Yaobang is a tremendous lose for our Party and our people. We must turn our sorrow into strength, learn from his spirit of dedication in being loyal to Party's business, sparing no efforts, and struggling for Communism; learn from his excellent work ethic in closely relating to the masses and serving the people whole-heartedly; and learn from his noble ethics in being modest and curious, yielding to the big picture, and being frugal. Under the leadership of the Party Central, we shall continue to march forward along the path of constructing a Socialism with Chinese characteristics.

Be immortal, the great proletarian revolutionary and politician Comrade Hu Yaobang!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Harvard Class Teaches Freshmen China's 1989

This year, freshmen attending Harvard University had an opportunity to attend a class named "Rebels with a Cause: Tiananmen in History and Memory," taught by Lecturer Rowena Xiaoqing He. The class covers the entire history of the 1989 Chinese student movement

In 1989, Dr. He was in China and had first-hand experience with the movement herself. In an interview with the Harvard newspaper, she recalled that "we learned to lie to survive" during the ensuring crackdown.

The class at Harvard is a part of the school's freshman seminar series. Students, who were not even born at the time when the event took place, had face-to-face discussions with some of the leaders of the movement. They studied archives collected in the Harvard-Yenching Library and re-enacted some of the scenes. As an conclusion, they are organizing a conference to present their papers on the subject.

14 students attended this year's class, which is a sold-out crowd, according to Dr. He. She also said that the class will continue to be offered this fall as well.

As a significant historical event, the 1989 Chinese student movement is undoubtedly a part of many history lessons. But a class exclusively dedicated to this single event is a first at Harvard and possibly everywhere else.

Friday, April 8, 2011

People of 1989: Ai Weiwei (艾未未)

Ai Weiwei was not exactly a part of the 1989 student movement. At that time, he was a young, aspiring artist living a free life in New York City, supporting himself by drawing portraits on sidewalks, performing various manual labors, taking pictures for news magazines, and playing blackjack at Atlantic City. But in May that year, he did fast for a few days on his own to show solidarity with the hunger striking students in Beijing.

A few years later, he moved back to Beijing. At the fifth anniversary of the Tiananmen Massacre, he shot a famous picture showing his future wife exposing her underwear at that holy place.
Ai Weiwei was born in 1957 to a prominent family. His dad Ai Qing (艾青) was one of the most famous poet of the country. But Ai Weiwei did not grow up with a privileged life. Rather, he had to spend his childhood in the remote Xinjiang where his parents were forced into degrading labor work during the Cultural Revolution. It was not until late 1970s that his family was allowed to return to Beijing. (During the 1989 movement, the then 79-year-old Ai Qing joined a demonstration in a wheelchair.)

Ai Weiwei became an art student in the prestigious Central Film Academy in 1978. He promptly got involved in the "Stars," an early avant garde artist group which played a fringe role in the Democracy Wall movement.

His career really took off in China at the turn of the century, gaining international fame with various exhibits abroad. At home, he was part of the team that created the famous Bird Nest Olympic Stadium and was successful in painting, photographing, sculpture, architecture, and later as a blogger.

It was his blogging endeavor that gradually led him into troubled waters. He applied his avant garde style to social issues and was deeply involved in several hot topics as he sought to speak for victims of earthquake, poisoned milk, and government harassment. Even his artwork became more and more about symbolic protests to repression. Although he had been careful in staying within a carefully observed boundary, he found himself badly beaten once and his studio in Shanghai demolished.

Last Year, New Yorker profiled his life, titled "It's Not Beautiful."

He might finally have pushed the envelop too far. This week, Ai Weiwei was arrested in Shanghai. After days of silence and rumors, the government appears to be investigating him for "economic crimes."

UPDATE: After three months of detention, Ai Weiwei was released on June 22, 2011, under conditions similar to on bail.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

AP Tells the Story of Chinese Jasmine Instigators

Ever since the so-called Chinese Jasmine Revolution stirred up in mid-February, many individuals and groups have tried to claim as its initiators. Since the initial call for action was done anonymously, it's virtually impossible to ascertain the true responsible party.

In an exclusive story, Associated Press jumped into the foray today by revealing what they called "one group of campaigners behind the online petitions," led by a young Chinese student in Seoul:
The group is a network of 20 mostly highly educated, young Chinese with eight members inside China and 12 in more than half a dozen other countries.

Calling itself "The Initiators and Organizers of the Chinese Jasmine Revolution" after a phrase used in the Tunisian uprising, the group is not the sole source of the protest calls; at least four others have sprung up.

Interviews with four members of the Initiators show similar evolutions: All are young people who grew to resent the government's autocratic rule and China's widespread inequality and injustice. The uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt made change look possible.

"People born in the late '80s and the '90s have basically decided that in their generation one-party rule cannot possibly outlive them, cannot possibly even continue in their lifetimes. This is for certain," the lean, soft-spoken 22-year-old who goes by the Internet alias "Forest Intelligence" said in an interview at a cafe in Seoul's trendy Samcheong-dong district.
AP explained that the group has established a significant presence in the online world of social networking, but most of its 1,000+ users seem to be living outside of China. They also list Wang Juntao as one of their advisers.

The story did not present any real evidence of the group's reach and effectiveness, however.