Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Tiananmen, 25 Years Later

I posted this photo once before, but I want to do it again on the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre. I took it five years ago today when I joined the remembrance in Victoria Park in Hong Kong. It was a bizarre day, which started in Shantou on the mainland, where one could not have guessed that the day was an anniversary of anything at all. Perhaps there was an abnormal police presence on the university campus where I had been speaking the day before; I had no way of knowing what would have been considered normal. But there were no posters, nothing, until I got off the plane in Hong Kong, where the energy was everywhere all day, ending with this massive protest in the favoring presence of Queen Victoria herself, who still is enthroned in a huge statue in the park.

I'd like to add a plug for Rowena He's just-published book Tiananmen Exiles, which traces what happened to the student protesters. (Rowena teaches a popular Harvard freshman seminar on those events, and has devoted herself to promoting their lessons.) A nice moral counterpoint to today's NYT story about the success enjoyed by the head of the student union at the University of Beijing at the time, who stuck with the authorities. Today there are not one but two Tiananmen protests in Hong Kong, signaling (according to the NYT) both a division about how aggressively to confront Beijing, and an increased awareness of the events of 25 years ago and their significance for democracy in Hong Kong, in spite of the unwavering insistence by mainland authorities that nothing worth remembering happened on June 4, 1989.

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