On the night of June 3-4, 1989, Chinese People's Liberation Army troops massacred hundreds of peaceful demonstrators on the streets of Beijing in what the world knows as the Tiananmen Massacre. The troops were executing orders from the top leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) headed by paramount ruler Deng Xiaoping. The conscience of the world was shocked by this brutal repression. Deng condemned the protest movement of April 15-June 4, 1989 as a counter-revolutionary rebellion aimed at overthrowing the People's Republic of China. Ever since then the CCP has clung to this falsehood and prohibited public discussion of both the movement and its violent suppression.
The Tiananmen Initiative Project aims to reignite discussion of the meaning of the Spring 1989 movement in China and the as yet unfulfilled promise of genuine political reform its participants sought. We aim to do this by encouraging various kinds of public meetings around the world around the time of the twenty-fifth anniversary – April 15-June 4, 2014 – of what has aptly been called the Beijing Spring.
Featured book: Tiananmen Exiles: Voices of the Struggle for Democracy in China (Palgrave Studies in Oral History)
By Rowena Xiaoqing He
In the spring of 1989, millions of citizens across China took to the streets in a nationwide uprising against government corruption and authoritarian rule. What began with widespread hope for political reform ended with the People's Liberation Army firing on unarmed citizens in the capital city of Beijing, and those leaders who survived the crackdown became wanted criminals overnight. Among the witnesses to this unprecedented popular movement was Rowena Xiaoqing He, who would later join former student leaders and other exiles in North America, where she has worked tirelessly for over a decade to keep the memory of the Tiananmen Movement alive.
This moving oral history interweaves He's own experiences with the accounts of three student leaders exiled from China. Here, in their own words, they describe their childhoods during Mao's Cultural Revolution, their political activism, the bitter disappointments of 1989, and the profound contradictions and challenges they face as exiles. Variously labeled as heroes, victims, and traitors in the years after Tiananmen, these individuals tell difficult stories of thwarted ideals and disconnection that nonetheless embody the hope for a freer China and a more just world.