Tag Archives: tiananmen square

Power and Tiananmen Square

Residents and soldiers on the street in Beijing on June 6, 1989 after the crackdown on protesters. Credit LIU Heung Shing/Associated Press

Residents and soldiers on the street in Beijing on June 6, 1989 after the crackdown on protesters. Credit LIU Heung Shing/Associated Press

This year marks 25 years since the Tiananmen Square Massacre – or 6-4 as it’s called in Chinese.  It was a very formative event for me as a child, which I’ve written about before.  It always weighs heavy on my heart this time of year, and I am always intrigued to see how journalists will cover the anniversary, or how the Communist government will try and keep people from remembering this year.

I was surprised last night to read this NY Times article – Tales of Army Discord Show Tiananmen in a New Light. It relates new information about a high-ranking general who refused to attack the protesters saying, “I’d rather be beheaded than be a criminal in the eyes of history.”  In fact, there were other officers too who expressed dissent.

The whole article is definitely worth reading, but the thing that has been sticking with me is that the party leaders did not seem to stop and consider his dissent.  Instead, as the NYTimes reports:

Although General Xu was soon arrested, his defiance sent shudders through the party establishment, fueling speculation of a military revolt and heightening the leadership’s belief that the student-led protests were nothing less than a mortal threat to the Communist Party.

It strikes me because it the general’s dissent may have had the unintended effect of causing the government to crackdown even more strongly.  All this because of fear:  fear of losing power, of losing control,  What kind of power is driven by fear?

I think about this also because I am reading Andy Crouch’s book Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power for a discussion next week.  It has prompted all sorts of thoughts about power and the use and misuse of power in our world.  But closer to home, it has forced me to think about my own relationship with power in my own spheres of influence.  You and I don’t control armies, but each of us has our own complex relationship to power.  We need to own how we use our power.

I am even more convinced that I can’t let fear of losing power or control be the driver of my decisions.  Lord, have mercy.

 

june 4 in pictures (and in my heart)

Pro-democracy protesters link arms to hold back angry crowds, preventing them from chasing a retreating group of soldiers near the Great Hall of the People, on June 3, 1989 in Beijing. Protesters were angered by an earlier attack upon students and citizens using tear gas and truncheons. People in the background stand atop buses used as a roadblock. (AP Photo/Mark Avary) #

You can see more images from The Atlantic of Tiananmen Square in 1989 and today in 2012.

This news event shaped my childhood and my ethnic identity.  It continues to shape me and my ministry.  I wrote this a few years ago:

And I’ve spent the last 8 years working full-time with college students.  When I think about Tiananmen Square, I look at my students and imagine men and women their age captivating the world with their hopes and dreams.  Now more than ever,  I believe that college students can change the world.

Read the rest.

I’m pretty interested to hear Chai Ling (one of the main leaders of the movement) speak at Urbana12 in December!

6-4*

As a kid, my job was to make sure that the new-fangled gadget, the VCR, would record the local and national news for my parents.  We recorded WWBT Channel 12 – the local NBC affiliate and grew up with Tom Brokaw so it was great to see him again at my brother’s college graduation (he gave a great speech). We kept up with the weather report, and what was going on in the world.

I remember the day of the Challenger explosion  and talking about it on the bus ride home.  But I vividly remember the Tiananmen Square Massacre.

It was Saturday morning Eastern time, and I had come down to watch cartoons, but there were no cartoons.  Just the news.  And it was bad news. Even before I looked at the TV,  I knew it was bad news because my parents were visibly upset.  For weeks, the Chinese college students had been protesting in the square, and now there were pictures of tanks on TV and the voices of journalists in Beijing talking about gunfire.

I was only in 6th grade, so I only really understood the basics.  I remember going to a vigil/protest/memorial in Richmond soon after, and seeing some of the other Chinese American families we knew in town there.  Some people had created a copy of the “Goddess of Democracy” like the students had in the square.

I know now that there were a lot of factors at work.  The students weren’t as pure as the media made them out to be.  There was a  power struggle going on in the Communist Party, and the hard-liners won.  Even with those nuances, reading eyewitness accounts and seeing video footage still brings tears to my eyes and makes me angry.

But only more recently have I realized what an impact it had on my sense of self.  Richmond back then had so many less Asian Americans… we all stood out, and we were often teased for being different.  The news kept talking about how the Chinese government crackdown was so horrible.  (And it was!)  But whether someone actually said it to me or not, the questions and comments I got after Tiananmen Square  communicated, “You’re from that place where they shoot college students.  That’s bad.  You must be like that.”

I’m not sure why anyone didn’t say (or I didn’t hear), “You’re from that place  where college students are brave and where pedicab drivers risked their lives to rescue the wounded.”  or “You’re from that place (Hong Kong) where millions turned out in protest and solidarity with students.”  But I guess years of racist comments had taken their toll.  Reflecting back, I’m thankful that God has brought me healing in so many of these places.

I still admire the courage of the students and really the workers of Beijing (historians believe that actually more workers may have died trying to keep the Army from reaching the students in the Square).  I have a photo of the Tank Man in my living room – it reminds me of the message it sends when even just one person stands up to something.  

And I’ve spent the last 8 years working full-time with college students.  When I think about Tiananmen Square, I look at my students and imagine men and women their age captivating the world with their hopes and dreams.  Now more than ever,  I believe that college students can change the world.

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Thursday June 5, 2003

june 4

so, today, or rather, yesterday by half an hour, was the 14th anniversary of june 4, 1989. i realized that tonight at border’s, writing in my journal. some of y’all young’uns might not remember it, but it was the day that hundreds, possibly thousands of students were killed in tiananmen square, beijing. i remember watching the news with my parents, struggling to understand why this was happening.

i remember this picture. no one really knows what happened to this guy. but i think we all admire how he stood up even in the face of death.

i want to be able to remember these people… some my age, some younger… how much they must have believed in their cause. and i am challenged about whether i would be willing to die for anything. but perhaps, much harder, am i willing to live? in some ways, it seems harder to live out our convictions, and our ideas… to live day-in day-out in the little things and the big things.

as i’ve read civil rights history, i find myself hoping that i would have been able to stand up for what i believed in, had i been in those shoes. hopefully, we all do. but really, do we live out those values daily? do we even care about the political process around us? do we even inform ourselves enough to vote?

i’ve been challenged to live out that kind of daily stuff, caring about the community i live in… caring about the plight of the poor, choosing to use my political power (my vote!) to make informed choices that benefit the whole community… and it’s hard to do – that daily living thing. but i’m thankful for that difficulty, for the opportunity. i’m thankful for the students 14 years ago that are reminding me of it even today.