Thursday, July 14, 2011

This Day in 1989: July 14

July 14, 1989, was the bicentennial of the French Revolution. In the early days of that year, this coming anniversary, along with other important Chinese ones, was a major inspiration for the upcoming student movement.

By the time the date arrived, of course, the movement had already been suppressed in a bloody massacre.

In Paris, however, a splendid celebration was launched to mark the occasion. The French government had by then rescinded their invitation to the Chinese government for participating the festival. Instead of government officials, a group of Chinese dissidents in exile stood on the reviewing stand with other foreign dignitaries.

But the most dramatic act of all was hundreds of Chinese students in Paris participated in the massive parade on the Champs Elysees in place of the absent official Chinese troupe. The students wore their everyday clothes, walked their bicycles, and dragged an enormous Chinese-style drum. The drum was silent and so were the marchers. They had their heads down -- instead of celebrating, they were mourning the death of their own revolution.

You can catch a brief glimpse of the Chinese students formation in this old news reel (at around 47 seconds).

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