Repost: Interview with a 1989 Demonstrator

In 2003, shortly after I left Beijing for Singapore, one of my clients mentioned to me his participation in the 1989 demonstrations as a student in Shanghai. As I listened to him talk, I realized I had an opportunity for an extraordinary interview. It’s always been my favorite post on this blog, for whatever that’s worth, and I wanted to repost it in honor of tomorrow’s anniversary. I wrote it originally for the now defunct Living in China website, and wish I could include the comments that were posted there six years ago.

The post was a turning point for me personally – the first time I really “got” how today’s Chinese view their government and what it did 20 years ago. For better or for worse, my friend David speaks for many Chinese. This post is as close as I’ve come to an actual case study of how China’s successful young professionals view one of the country darkest moments. I didn’t realize that at the time, but coming back drove the point home. It’s especially relevant right now, as everyobdy thinks back to that impossible moment in history.

Interview with a 1989 Demonstrator
December 17, 2003

Below is the interview I posted a few day’s ago on Living in China. It tells of the evolution of a former flag-waving protestor in the 1989 demonstrations in Shanghai. If you’ve ever looked back at the Tiananmen Square days and wondered what those students are doing and thinking today, you may find this interesting.

David S., 34, is now a prominent executive with a multinational technology company here in Singapore, and I’ve been lucky enough to work with him on his company’s public relations. When I heard that David played a part in Beijing’s sister demonstrations in Shanghai, I asked if I could interview him about the role he played and how he looks back on those days nearly 15 years later.

What made this so interesting for me was seeing the evolution of a 1989 demonstrator, from flag-waving rebel to a proud supporter of China and its government. It is a remarkable story.

Some of David’s viewpoints are quite different from my own, but that isn’t relevant. At the end, I offer a few of my own thoughts, but I don’t want to editorialize about which point of view is right or wrong.

Q. What brought you to the demonstrations in Shanghai?

It’s hard to understand this if you weren’t there, but it would have been abnormal for me not to go to the demonstrations. We all went, it was just natural. My classmates and I were swept up, we simply had to go, it was the natural thing to do. Suddenly, we were all participating.

You have to be aware of the situation in China at that time. It was as though there were two parallel systems, one being the economic system, the other the political system. These systems were like two wheels that weren’t on level ground, and along the way tension built up over a period of nearly 10 years, ever since Deng came back to power after the Cultural Revolution. That tension was tremendous, and no one could escape from it.

Chinese society consists of multiple layers – peasants, students, soldiers, factory workers. At that time, there was tension at every layer of the society. People were confused and frustrated. Earthquakes happen when different layers rub against each other at a different pace, and finally the earth can no longer contain the energy and it erupts. That’s the type of tension that was behind the protests.

So much about the economy had improved and was changing, but politics – the government – remained status quo. In the 1970s, if you said anything disrespectful of Mao, you’d be executed. In 1989, if you said something negative about Deng in public you could still be in serious trouble.

It was the students who were most sensitive to this. Our parents all worked for the state, and there was still little or no private enterprise. They were not as concerned about ideology and change. They only had to worry about feeding their families. But as students we were more liberal, more free-spirited and more engaged in ideologies. We weren’t concerned about raising a family. We were not necessarily practical; we were very idealistic.

Historically, most great movements in China were started by students. Even today, we celebrate China Youth Day on May 4th. That’s because when the KMT [Kuomintang] were still in power and the Communists were outlawed, the students demonstrated for the Communists on May 4th. General Tuan Qi Rui was the warlord over Beijing at the time and he opened fire on them in the street. So after the Communists took power they dedicated that day as the nation’s youth, which is still a holiday today.

Q. Where were you, and what was your own role?

I was studying medicine at the Shanghai Second Medical University, now a part of Fudan University. I was asked by my classmates to be the flag bearer because I’m quite tall, so my role was to carry the flag and wave it in front of the demonstrators. Every day we would march from the university campus all the way to the People’s Square, and I was in the front holding and waving the flag.

Q. Looking back, are you glad you did it? Do you have any regrets?

No, I don’t have regrets and I don’t think what we did was in vain. It was important for us to make our voice heard. For my generation, the crackdown had huge implications for our lives, probably like the JFK assassination had for Americans.

But I have to admit I am no longer interested in politics, especially now that China is undergoing a natural transition toward democracy, with the economy being the core and the catalyst for that change. And nothing can stop that change, no matter how much the Communists want to preserve their old values.

Q. We all know about the violent crackdown in Beijing. How was it handled in Shanghai?

There was nothing like the martial law that took place in Beijing. The Mayor of Shanghai at the time was extremely competent, and he made an appeal to the city on TV and he calmed everyone down. I’ll never forget, he said something that was ambiguous and politically brilliant: “Down the road, truth will prevail.” That could have meant he was sympathetic to the students or totally with the government. But it was very calming to hear him say it.

The mayor organized factory workers to clear the roads, not the army. These workers were the parents and uncles and aunts of the students. Some members of the student body tried to stir up these factory workers, and I think that was a very dangerous thing to do. Students demonstrating was one thing, but if it was factory workers – that would need to be stopped, and there would have been a riot. That’s why Beijing was much more tense.

Bringing in the factory workers truly showed the leadership and tact and common sense of Shanghai’s mayor – Zhu Rongji. Beijing is the political center, but Shanghai is the financial center, and it could absolutely not fall into chaos, no matter what. That’s why you saw factory workers and not the army.

Q. How did you hear of the massacre, and what effect did the news have?

My father and I heard about it on the radio, on ‘Voice of America’. That was the only source there was. Soon we all knew what had happened. We watched CCTV the next day. The reporters were wearing black and some of them were obviously in a deep state of grief, their eyes visibly red, as they announced that the anti-revolutionaries had been put down. I saw those reporters with my own eyes, and soon afterwards they were replaced.

At the moment the news broke of the crackdown, I was angry. How could it happen? All of the demonstrations were peaceful. How could they justify tanks and machine guns? I gave up all hope in my own government, and I felt ashamed to be Chinese. We were also disappointed in [then] President Bush – he was softer than we wanted. All that Bush did was impose sanctions, and that disappointed us. We were in a dilemma. We wanted the US and others to do something, but we also knew that would have hurt us.

That was part of being 20 years old in China when you haven’t seen the world, no Hollywood movies, you’ve only read Stalin-style textbooks. I matured ten years overnight, and I also became a little cynical.

For so many years China had a stringently controlled educational system. From kindergarten to college, we all read the exact same books and took the exact same exams. We always believed everything that the government told us, and they told us it was an honor for ‘the people without property’ to shed their blood and sacrifice their lives for the cause of communism, fighting against the two great enemies, the Nationalists [KMT] and the Capitalists. We were brainwashed.

After Tiananmen Square, most of us believed that all government was evil. We saw that our government would kill us. I remember how my aunt told me she went to the Tiananmen Square area shortly after the crackdown and there was someone saying through a megaphone that there had never been any shooting even though she could see the bullet holes on the walls, which were soon cleaned up.

But now, that sense of shame is gone. When I look at it all objectively, I believe the government did the right thing. Maybe they didn’t do it the right way. I still have reservations about the tanks and the machine guns. But at that time they couldn’t afford to sit down and negotiate. The students wanted power, and in 1989 the social cohesion wasn’t there to support that. It was only 10 years after the Gang of Four, and it wasn’t like today. In retrospect, Deng at that time couldn’t afford to show further weakness. He had to hold the country together. Yes, we paid the price in blood, but we are still one country, one nation.

You have to realize that Deng changed my life – everybody’s life. He opened new doors for all of us. In 1982, my mother was among the first batch of scholars who were sent abroad to study, and she went to Harvard. She returned to become the director of a major Shanghai hospital. So we are grateful. And soon so many other changes happened.

I feel a great respect for our leaders. There are some, like Li Peng, who I still have no respect for. But Deng – soon we felt as though he had torn down the Berlin Wall. I wondered, if Deng had not handled the demonstrations the way he did would China be the country it is today? The whole nation is changing and people are more affluent, and I feel proud of being Chinese. People once looked down at us, and now they have respect for us.

Q. But what Deng achieved – could he not have done it within a more democratic system? Did there have to be the ruthlessness?

After going to the US for five or six years, I saw that the level of democracy there can only happen in a society with a certain level of education. What the people of China now need is leadership. China is one century behind the US, and you can’t expect us to change that fast.

This is why many Asians resent it when Americans try to insist that the Chinese adopt their style of democracy. Shanghai may be ready, but if you go out to the surrounding areas, you’ll see it just isn’t possible, that it will take more time. I believe that one day, China will have Taiwan-style democracy, but it has to be built on a strong economy.

Q. I agree that Western-style democracy isn’t right for China today. But can’t there be a compromise? Can’t the government be strong, without tolerating abuse of the poor by corrupt officials, without tolerating the marginalization of AIDS victims, without arresting kids who write about government reform on the Internet?

The way we view human rights is so different from the West’s. We have 1.3 billion people and many of them go hungry. Putting food on the table and a roof over its people’s heads is what our government has to worry about. AIDS, corruption, the Internet – that is all secondary to the leadership of 1.3 billion people. If I were running China today, I would not be able to hear all the different parties. I would have to have my own agenda and stick to that agenda. I believe that if a secret vote were held today most people in China would vote for the CCP.

For more than 150 years, starting with the Opium Wars, our national pride has been bullied by the Europeans, the Russians, then the Japanese. Now China is an economic and a military power. And it has no intentions of being aggressive. So I am not giving up my Chinese citizenship. Ten years ago I would have jumped to do that.

Looking back, I firmly believe the government did the right thing, though they could have handled it better. We paid a high price. Our leaders in 1989 could have shown greater human skills and greater negotiating skills. But let’s live with Communism for now and change things one thing at a time. The Chinese now have a much better life than they did 100 years ago. Not so long ago, my house was the first in our hutong to have a television set. The whole neighborhood would come to our backyard and sit on the ground to watch. It was just a 9-inch TV, and we put a large magnifying glass in front of it so everyone could see – that is how inventive we Chinese had to be. And now, so many families have two color TVs. They enjoy a better life, they have pride, they just put a man into space. Over the next couple of decades, China will probably overtake Japan. The world now needs China as much as we need them.

Thank you, David.

This was definitely an eye-opening interview for me. Coming from my own background where the rights of the individual are sacred, I was intrigued to hear such a different point of view. As readers familiar with my writing know, I am not quite so easy on the CCP, and don’t feel all can be forgiven under the mantra, Change must take place slowly. But I have the highest respect for David, and find the story of his transformation and his great personal success to be impressive and inspiring.

The Discussion: 42 Comments

I agree that Western-style democracy isn’t right for China today”

I don’t know that I would have conceded that point to him in my question to him. I have lived in China for five years and I am still not ready to concede that only people of a certain income or education level are worthy of democracy.

June 3, 2009 @ 8:23 pm | Comment

I was a fourth year university student back in 1989 and participated most of the demonstrations from April 23~ June 3 at Nanjing. I would say that Chinese Government did the right thing, but did it the wrong way.

June 3, 2009 @ 9:08 pm | Comment

[…] Richard […]

June 3, 2009 @ 9:11 pm | Pingback

I think it is safe to say that most people who participated in the 6/4 turmoil now regret what they did then. There are of course always some hardcore people but they are tiny minority, most them are exiles living on West handouts anyway.

For Chinese youth today, the students of 80s are very foreign and incomprehensible to them, as foreign and incomprehensible if not more so as the Red Guards of the 60s. In fact, both the students of 80s and the Red Guards of 60s belong to the same era, and in today’s ever changing socio-politic terms in China, that era is now called the Red Era. For those provincial and God fearing Westerners, Red meaning communism is very good word in China, so get used to it and don’t freak out.

The central theme of Red Era is the ideal of revolution, an idealistic devotion to a revolutionary course that has been indoctrinated early on to all Chinese children. One characteristic ingredient of the Red Era is the rebellious tendency toward the authority that was encouraged by Chairman Mao. Rebel against authority is a very important theme in Maoism. We can see this rebellious aspect of Maoism in full display in Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution. The students of the 80s were really the second act of this rebellious Maoism, since they grew up during the heydays of Red Era. Red Guards and the students of 80s may hold different banners and shout different slogans, but they were both rebellious and idealistic, distinct products of Maoism education of the Red Era.

In terms of scale of fever, students of 80s were actually pretty lame. Red Guards were far more idealistic and passionate. So for those clueless Laowai looking for fascinating stories of student revolution movement in China, you should really look at the Red Guards – they are king of passion.

6/4 has many consequences. One is the beginning of the end of the Red Era. Gone are the idealistic youth with rebellious tendency, in are the selfish and spoiled youth of single child. There is a wave of nostalgia in recent years for the Red Era. Revolutionary music and arts are becoming popular and trendy.

June 3, 2009 @ 11:57 pm | Comment

Stuart, your site is apparently blocked in China. Another casualty of harmonization?

Tom, welcome back: Red Guards were far more idealistic and passionate. So for those clueless Laowai looking for fascinating stories of student revolution movement in China, you should really look at the Red Guards – they are king of passion.

No one beats the Nazis for passion, though the Red Guard at times may have come pretty close. But this is not about celebrating blind passion. It’s about essential human values, having fair representation and rule of law and freedom form corrupt and venal officials. About accountability and freedom of expression and a whole lot more. These values are not uniquely Western, they are fundamental to being human.

June 4, 2009 @ 12:27 am | Comment

I think I read this article some time ago on another site.

June 4, 2009 @ 1:43 am | Comment

I have lived in China for five years and I am still not ready to concede that only people of a certain income or education level are worthy of democracy.

marc, I remember that in the UK there was “democracy” for many years before universal suffrage – only the electorate was restricted. Not to support it, but if the only problem China had was wealth and/or education then a similar system could be brought in and the electorate expanded in stages.

Of course, it’s more complicated than that.

June 4, 2009 @ 4:13 am | Comment


That’s what many Chinese believe is a good start: more true democracy within the Communist Party (or at least the People’s Congress at each level), and eventually incorporating to greater segments of society.


Yes, exactly. Thank you for posting this. You are entitled to your opinion of 64, just as the higher-profile 6/4 dissidents making the rounds at the NY Times and BBC this week are entitled to their opinions as well. But I wish there was in the West more understanding of (and even respect for) *the* most common opinion held by educated Chinese about the events 6/4.

You’re doing your part in helping improve that understanding.

June 4, 2009 @ 4:18 am | Comment

14 years old?

June 4, 2009 @ 4:45 am | Comment

Oh, 20.

June 4, 2009 @ 4:50 am | Comment

“Gone are the idealistic youth with rebellious tendency, in are the selfish and spoiled youth of single child. ”


I agree with you on most accounts. However, I am not as pessimistic as you.

Due to its naivety and idealism, student movement has always been the vanguard of left movement. Due to its left pedigree, CCP has been encouraging and manipulated student movement all along.

In a sense, 89 event is a watershed event that, on one hand, makes CCP be cautious about student movement, and on the other hand, makes students more realistic. Instead of thinking aobut saving country everyday, they will figure out how to save themselves first.

The passion of young people will always be there. The huge outpouring of rescuing effort after earthquake is a case in point.

June 4, 2009 @ 5:22 am | Comment

@Tom:”For Chinese youth today, the students of 80s are very foreign and incomprehensible to them”
i am a chinese youth and 6.4 is comprehensible to me, although i think that the demonstration was somehow too extreme.

“What the people of China now need is leadership.” yes, indeed, but i don’t think that the freedom of expression,of news, of history research will harm our country(maybe will harm the party). The education in China is still some kind of brainwash. Even the most students don’t know the truth of history and think it is just unrelevant and unimportant to their life.

June 4, 2009 @ 5:46 am | Comment

LaoWai, do not try to impose your democracy and values upon the people in China, as it may have unwanted consequences for you. You may regret it if one day they start to value human rights just as you do, demand better pay and more benefits like the U.S. auto workers do, unionize themselves, jack up the cost and do away with the sweat shop of the world that serve us so well today. further more, with the newly found freedom and democracy, they would take to the street, shouting anti-American slogans and demanding that no more money be lent to the U.S. and it be kept for themselves, the people. At that time, you probably would wish the Chinese govt do something about the people, if not shooting at them.

LaoWai, stop reminiscing the good old days when the Westerners controlled part of China as their colonies. It is gone forever. Today, the Chinese govt actually is serving the U.S. better and exploiting the Chinese people harder than the early Chinese Compradors and definitely than any would-be democratic govt that China may possibly have. No other govt could keep lending the U.S. so much money at he expense of its own people as the Chinese govt. The people in China are treated like cows who eat grass and give you milk and meat under the current regime.

So next time a Chinese person is trashing democracy and freedom in front of you, you say: I totally agree with you, comrade.

June 4, 2009 @ 6:17 am | Comment

And still, the CCP will not last the next 20 years unless it becomes something completely different. I know it. It may take time, but it will happen, and it will happen in our lifetime. Building skyscrapers and selling Luois Vuitton bags cannot change the fact that China is incredibly fragile. I hope the transition will happen in a peaceful manner, both internally and externally, but there’s a good chance it won’t.

The people of China are entitled to as much freedom and prosperity as any other nation. The road to democracy is long, but it’s never too late to start taking steps in the right direction – rule of law, basic freedoms, and nurturing of private and small business.

June 4, 2009 @ 6:54 am | Comment

And still, the CCP will not last the next 20 years unless it becomes something completely different.

My god, how many times have *this* prediction been made?

Did you think the CPC would last the next 20 years, in 1989? (Assuming you were close to old enough to have an opinion.) Did you think the CPC would last the next 10 years, in 1999?

If you said yes, you’ve always been optimistic about the Communist Party’s ability to survive until *now*… then your prediction might have some value. Otherwise, you’re just another doomsday chicken little.

June 4, 2009 @ 7:48 am | Comment

Pugster, as I said at the top, this is a reprint. It appeared in 2003 on another site.

I do tend to disagree with Dror and am by now pretty convinced the current state will just keep on plodding ahead, making progress and often doing appalling things like putting a journalist in jail for 10 years for sending an email that leaks a leader’s retirement date. Here’s how a friend put it to me, paraphrased: What the doom-sayers forget is China’s inertia. Even though things look totally impossible to our foreign eye and we see things we are convinced spell imminent collapse, China somehow impossibly absorbs all these calamities and keeps on going like a gigantic sloth. And not only do they keep going, but they actually do okay. I stopped predicting China’s doom in 2003, not long after I held this interview.

June 4, 2009 @ 8:20 am | Comment

But I wish there was in the West more understanding of (and even respect for) *the* most common opinion held by educated Chinese about the events 6/4.

Another Chinese, perhaps you can fill us in on how *the* most common opinion held by educated Chinese was arrived at? Perhaps it was through studying June 4 at University? Or maybe television documentaries airing an honest account of what happened?

I’d really like to know.

June 4, 2009 @ 9:48 am | Comment

Such an opinion is solely the product of a lack of education on the topic.

June 4, 2009 @ 10:05 am | Comment

The great failing in Western liberalism is the notion that all men are created equal. They are not, they never have been and they never will be. This and the obfuscation of what constitutes “rights” and what are in fact “privileges” is driving the Western democracies on the path towards extinction. Simply put, a great many people, the majority even, really should have no business whatsoever in the affairs of governance.

June 4, 2009 @ 10:27 am | Comment

Another Chinese/Richard: IMHO there are much bigger forces threatening the CCP today than there were in 1989. True, the CCP has learned a lot of new tricks since then, but it also embarked on a path that will force it to change or perish. In any case, unlike many other things I write, this is my personal prediction. No need to argue about this. Let’s wait and see.

June 4, 2009 @ 10:51 am | Comment

[…] To mark the 20th anniversary of the PRC government crackdown on the democracy movement in 1989, Peking Duck has reposted an interview from 2003 with a former student who was caught up in the demonstrations in Shanghai, not Beijing. […]

June 4, 2009 @ 11:23 am | Pingback

I don’t think that the right to not be run over by tanks or the right to be able to remember and mourn an innocent family member are any sort of extremist hyper-liberal creation.
A group of people who would treat their fellow humans in that manner are the ones who really should have no right to participate in governance.

June 4, 2009 @ 11:24 am | Comment

I don’t think that the right to not be run over by tanks or the right to be able to remember and mourn an innocent family member are any sort of extremist hyper-liberal pipe dream.
A group of people who would treat their fellow humans in that manner are the ones who really should be denied the right to participate in governance.

June 4, 2009 @ 11:25 am | Comment

jing: All men have an equal right to prosperity and happiness. They are definitely not equal. The whole point of liberalism is to let men and women express their differences for the benefit of society as a whole.

June 4, 2009 @ 11:47 am | Comment

Jing: The notion is that all people are equal under the law, even the leaders. It’s not a privilege, it’s what separates civil society from thugs and barbarians.

Hopefully one day China can learn, and western countries can remember, this vital ideal.

June 4, 2009 @ 11:48 am | Comment

raj, i would take that over no change. unfortunately, it appears the plan is no change, no move towards any type of “democratization” anytime in the foreseeable future.

June 4, 2009 @ 12:00 pm | Comment


Elitism is nothing new, exclusive elitism or populism both will fail. They have to be blended in a mutual beneficial way. U.S has one of the best political and economical system because they have been very creative and adaptive at blending these 2.

I would agree that governance is not a right, it is a privilege. But having a say in selecting who should be in the business of governance is a right, and what constitutes the privilege of governance should be a scientific standard, alone, partisanship has no business in any part of the process.

June 4, 2009 @ 12:10 pm | Comment

Twisted_Colour, get off ur high horse, emotional slogans only stirs up shit, never helps.

Dror, quit posting like the messiah for Chinese, it’s silly and ridiculous.

June 4, 2009 @ 12:42 pm | Comment

Moneyball: Richard wants me to be keep my profanity to a limit when I comment on his site. This is hard for me as I’m a rather coarse Aussie and an a***hole, but I’m going to respect his wishes.

Understand, what I write now is written in a spirit of vulgarity and pure invective. Any foul language that you know please add it to my next statement, it’s aimed at you.

Equality under law is not a slogan, it doesn’t ride a horse and it only stirs up shit with people who think the law doesn’t apply to them i.e thugs and barbarians. This is very, very simple, if you don’t understand then……

June 4, 2009 @ 1:55 pm | Comment

Another Chinese, perhaps you can fill us in on how *the* most common opinion held by educated Chinese was arrived at? Perhaps it was through studying June 4 at University? Or maybe television documentaries airing an honest account of what happened?

In the case of the person that Richard interviewed, through personal experience.

For the rest of us, I have to say that in addition to discussions with those who were there… Carma Hinton’s documentary is hugely influential. I think probably most Chinese university graduates (certainly all of those who care about politics + history) have watched the documentary. It’s widely distributed + available.

June 4, 2009 @ 2:52 pm | Comment

Moneyball: I can’t help it. It’s in my blood.There’s nothing messaianic about wishing others the basic rights that most of us take for granted.

June 4, 2009 @ 3:14 pm | Comment

Another Chinese: I have had similar experiences to Richard (no names, no pack drill). But, fair enough. I’m gonna try to watch… Back soonish, I’ve got a party to go to…

Curiously, who is “the rest of us”?

June 4, 2009 @ 5:11 pm | Comment

Kevin, I just wanted to thank you for your earlier comment:

I don’t think that the right to not be run over by tanks or the right to be able to remember and mourn an innocent family member are any sort of extremist hyper-liberal creation.

A group of people who would treat their fellow humans in that manner are the ones who really should have no right to participate in governance.

Perfectly stated.

June 4, 2009 @ 10:02 pm | Comment



June 4, 2009 @ 10:16 pm | Comment

Thank you for the repost.

It is a most significant response, and one that rests on similar reflections to my parents. My father was also involved directly in the Shanghai protests, and today he has come a long way. I have grown up in Australia with a Western education that my father is grateful for but also worries him very much. When I was little and not very concerned with my cultural identity, and the history of my ‘motherland’, I too posed similar questions, ones perhaps more antagonizing than current 6/4 sympathizers. But today, I owe my understanding, love, respect and sometimes hurt for the Country that gave birth to me, China, to my father’s patient and inspiring devotion to this very country. I could never understand as a child, how being a demonstrator himself, he could view the crackdown on 6/4 as a necessary action.

Now a generation apart and still with Western upbringings, I can not fully understand the mental journeys of my father, but with full respect for his experiences and matured understandings, I know that the shades of history are dark, deep and many, but what one can not understand at one point in time, may be revealed in another, whether this realization be exposed publicly or felt in the heart and left for personal reflections; the significance lies for the individual and the nation it belongs to.

I have come a long way since my early cultural ignorance, and I find that my studies in China, and my personal experiences and understandings, along with my exchange period in Tsinghua, I have come to appreciate these different views, and I find it has removed the shades that were previously blocking the bigger picture.

What I mean to say is that it takes more than a couple of readings to change or even open one’s views. Each of us have our shades, conditioned by our environment, culture, education and experiences; but the more we listen to others, and try to understand their methods and logic, we can only grow wiser, and always, more humble.

I sincerely feel a pain for the 6/4 tragedy, which is not limited to those who lost their lives, friends and family in the incident, but also as my father puts it, “Ziyang’s pain, the revolutionaries’ pain, the student’s pain, the nation’s pain, but also Deng’s pain, the elders’ pain, historical pain, and finally the pain of realisation; the modernists’ pain”.

My father has experienced all, once in his youth his pain stood with those of Zhiyang and Yaobang, his friends and the youth of the day, after the tragedy, his pain was one against the nation, one against the elders, but as he came to experience life and the hardships unique to China, and as a student migrant to a foreign country, and as a father, he began to understand Deng’s pain, the pain of a leader, of making hard decisions, of misunderstandings within the family, and gradually the reflection, and true understanding of the event in hindsight, brings a new pain that can only come with understanding.

A painful worry also was my father’s fear of his daughter forgetting and neglecting her culture and motherland. The fear of me making the same mistake of misunderstanding, of shaded vision.

I think it is actually a hard thing to learn: acceptance.

June 5, 2009 @ 9:15 pm | Comment

Btw, it would be much appreciated if someone doesn’t make a miserable comment on punctuation and grammar errors. I just read over it and even I am amazed at it’s lack of coherence and full of carelessness.

I wasn’t planning to write much but got carried away. It’s late, I’m tired and I had no energy to draft it.

Apologies for any awkward reading.

If I don’t make my point clear…

Oh well. My bad. 🙂

And again, it really is a good post. I think this is the first time I’ve ever commented, though I read your posts often.


June 5, 2009 @ 9:25 pm | Comment

I don’t think that the right to not be run over by tanks or the right to be able to remember and mourn an innocent family member are any sort of extremist hyper-liberal creation.

A group of people who would treat their fellow humans in that manner are the ones who really should have no right to participate in governance.

People putting themselves in front of a tank are either suicidal or want to be a martyr, maybe both. They can also make their point by having a peaceful protests and by not putting up barriers and disrupting other people’s lives.

June 6, 2009 @ 12:24 am | Comment

Yes pugster, we all know those people chose to put themselves in front of tanks. And it was the protesters who were all violent, not those who suppressed the demonstrations. Thank god we have an historian here like you to keep us all on course.

June 6, 2009 @ 1:00 am | Comment

To misappropriate Arthur Koestler’s words:

“If power corrupts, the reverse is also true; persecution corrupts the victims, though perhaps in subtler and more tragic ways.”

June 6, 2009 @ 1:13 am | Comment

Nausicaa, excellent point, And nice to see you.

Si-si, I would hope no one would be so petty as to fault you for spelling or grammar. And you made your point, not only clearly but beautifully. Thanks again.

June 6, 2009 @ 1:37 am | Comment

@Nausicaa: Wonderful quote. I am not sure it is ‘misappropriated’ though. Koestler was originally a communist then turned anti-communist and spent his life fighting for (personal and communal) freedom and experimenting with various ways of living. I am not sure where the quote above is taken from, but there’s a good chance it was said specifically about an apparently well-meaning group of communists who take over a country and end up turning against their own people. Got more info on the context?

June 6, 2009 @ 7:46 am | Comment

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July 3, 2009 @ 4:47 pm | Pingback

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