Remembering Tiananmen Square
Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 4th June, 2008
Last evening, I joined several other writers and a large group of human rights activists at a rally outside the Chinese Embassy in London, in commemoration of the 4 June 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. The Mistress of Ceremonies was the journalist and former newspaper editor, Rosie Boycott, and there were speakers from both of the sponsoring organisations: Kate Allen from Amnesty International UK, and Carole Seymour-Jones of English PEN. But the main focus was rightly on the Chinese representatives there: Shao Jiang, a former student leader who was present in Tiananmen Square during the pro-democracy demonstrations, which were so ruthlessly supressed; Xia Ze, a relative of one of the people killed in the massacre; and last but not least, Wei Jingsheng, the prominent Chinese dissident who served nearly 15 years in jail in the People’s Republic for ‘divulging state secrets’ — for what in most Western countries would be described as good investigative journalism.
Wei Jingsheng and I were born literally just a few days apart, and I did part of my university studies in Hong Kong at the time of the Cultural Revolution before later visiting China many times as an academic. It was eerie going to Tiananmen Square just a short time after the June 1989 events — and to see not a trace of what had gone on then. Indeed, in contrast to the dramatic television coverage that the events of 19 years ago received in the West, the Chinese public were kept — and to a large extent, still are kept — in the dark.
As I said in a couple of interviews I gave at the London rally (to the Mandarin service of Radio Free Asia, and to the English-language newspaper ‘The Epoch Times’) we demonstrators were not being ‘anti-Chinese’. And we do not support a boycott of the Beijing Olympic Games. On the contrary, we want those Games to be a success and for China to live up to the clear commitment it gave at the time of being granted the Games to allow full freedom of reporting and expression, which is clearly not the case so far. Moreover, when foreign visitors are in China for the Games later this summer, I hope they will enter into real dialogue with local people, listening carefully as well as sharing information and ideas.