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Saturday, June 04, 2005

Tiananmen Then & Now

Today marks the sixteen year anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre in which pro-democracy students who assembled peacefully, were met by troops and tanks that opened fire on them in the square at Tiananmen.

While the past 16 years have seen many cultural changes in China, one thing remains unchanged. The present Chinese government is still entrenched in a belief that what happened on June 4, 1989 at Tiananmen was necessary and not only maintains an unapologetic stance, continues a paranoia about the flow if information that might open up any dissenting view.

The rest of the world has enough information about the actions in Tiananmen that history will not allow it to be defined in such narrow terms as the Chinese governments presently clings to. While the government remains hopelessly committed to a policy of information containment as a way to deal with this sad piece of Chinese history, the truth and an internet age make shielding from such information from society almost an impossible task. Still, the fear that dictated such actions 16 years ago continues to fuel government actions. The most recent evidence of this is the detention of a journalist named Ching Cheong.

On April 22 of this year, Ching Cheong, a Chinese nationalist, left his residence in Hong Kong to travel across the boarder to the mainland to meet with a man named Zong Fengmin only 45 minutes way. He hoped to return with an unpublished manuscript titled "Conversations with Zhao Ziyang Under House Arrest" The work was that of Zong Fengmin, a retired Chinese official.

While the contents of the this conversation with Zhao (who died this January) are unknown, a central point of a recently published memoir of Zhao by Zong stresses that the demands by the students for greater openness and democracy was also shared by a great many mid-level and higher ranking party members in Beijing as well.

Ching Cheong however, has not returned from his 45 minute journey, but is being held on the mainland and this week was charged with espionage. There has been no evidence offered by officials to substantiate these charges. He has not been allowed contact with family, visitors, legal council or the Straits Times of Singapore, for whom he writes. This has prompted nearly every newspaper and press freedom group in Asia to call for his release.

Sources:

Reporters without boarders

NY Times - Thousands at Hong Kong Vigil for Tiananmen Anniversary

Singapore journalists petition Chinese embassy on detained correspondent




Much earlier this year I wrote a poem about the death of Zhao in the persona of Tiananmen Mother. An audio of the poem remains on the sidebar. I am posting the complete text here below on the anniversary of the massacre. I believe given the existing situation in China,the threat that exists at the hands of governments around the world to suppress the flow of information, literature, and ideas - including the United States, who currently is challenging some of our most basic civil liberties in the name of Homeland Security - by way of intrusive componnets of the Patriots Act... it is a good time to remember that the price people sometimes pay for those liberties is easily taken for granted.
~
Tiananmen Mother
for Zhao Ziyang

The Beijing breeze whispers
mournful strophes.
Tears like the mountain rains
follow slopes

to tributaries until they become one
with the rippling waters of the Yangtze.

I am a Tiananmen mother.
My eyes have swelled
with this sadness before.
The wetness follows a path
well rehearsed.

My nights are immense.
I am but a lone bare branch
in a cold, dark world.

They replicate
that June night
etched in my soul
over and over.

My son stood
in the Square
armed only
with a vision
and they came-
The People's Army.

My son stood
in Tiananmen Square,
amid a sea of other
sons an daughters
and they came-

armored tanks
clanking along the streets into Tiananmen
driven by fear, ordered by paranoia.

Our sons and daughters
toppled to the earth
at their hands.
Crimson crawling into every crevice
Of these ancient Chinese streets
A stain still upon us today.

I cannot count the nights
I've wept for my son since.
Today, I weep for another.

There is no official news
but the Beijing breeze whispers again.
This time for the death of the old man.
There are guards of fear
stationed outside my door.
The lump in my throat is big,
I cannot begin to swallow,
that is how I know the truth.

Guilt always gnawing at my heart.
I could not help my son that June night.
Again as I am helpless.

I want to pay my respects
to the old man who stood up
for my son and others
massacred in Tiananmen,
but the thugs watch
my every move.

I am a Tiananmen mother.
It is my duty to weep
for the lost ones.
© 2005 Michael A. Wells
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