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China: Lest we forget, Tiananmen Incident 21 years on

On the occasion of the 21st anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Incident (‘June Forth Movement’), Chinese intellectuals, ex-protest leaders, activists, bloggers, writers and ordinary citizens tell us why they refuse to turn their backs on the horrors of the incident, and, in remembering the past, bravely offer insights into how they face the future.

On 4 June 1989, the Chinese authority suppressed by force the student-led democratic movement in the Tiananmen Square of Beijing, resulting in the death of hundreds of citizens. To date, the incident remains one of the most politically sensitive and suppressed topics in China.

Ran Yunfei, Chengdu based writer and activist, on what everyone should do:

我认为我们纪念六四,不仅是要说出真相,更要从具体的实事做起。一是更为广泛地调查六四死难者名单,不只局限在天安门母亲群体,我们每个活着人特别是亲历者都有这个责任,使伤残数据更为具体,只有在事实的基础上,才能使六四遭遇的屠杀更加大白于天下;二是力所能及地帮助死难者或者伤残人士的家人,不在于你每次捐多少,而在于你持续的帮助,让对方感受到一种前行的动力;三是关心六四事件进过监狱的受害者,特别是关心那些底层民众——亦即被诬为暴徒的六四受害者,使他们能到一些基本的救助,六四事件的关注不只止步于有话语权的知识分子圈子当中;四是对六四事件作一个编较详细的编年(月),包括后来所出的各种资料(书籍、光盘、文章等,包括各语种),使得《六四事件编年史》逐渐完善,帮助更多的人快速准确地了解历史。

Remembering June Forth shouldn’t be limited to telling the truth, but also real actions. First is a thorough investigation of the list of deaths in the incident, not only limited to the Tiananmen Mothers group. Every living individual, especially those witnessing the event, has the responsibility to make the records accurate. Only on this basis can we tell the truth to the world. Second is helping the disabled victims or families of the deceased as best as you can. This is less about the amounts involved but more about the consistency of your help, so that they can feel the momentum of progress. Third is caring about and providing basic supports to people who were tortured in prisons, especially the grassroots citizens, i.e. those who were falsely accused as thugs. Our concern shouldn’t be limited to intellectuals. Forth is compiling a more accurate and complete chronicle of the event, including all kinds of materials that have emerged (books, CDs, articles, etc in all languages). This ‘Chronicle of the June Forth Incident’ would help more people understanding history in a quicker and better way.

Wang Dan, then-protest student leader, on why Chinese people should not forget the event, even China has developed significantly 21 years on:

第一,    虽然已经21年了,虽然中国已经发生了很大的变化,但是,我们必须看到,在中国,还有很多很多的东西没有变化。我们看到刘晓波因为言论被判重刑,请问,这与文革时期有变化吗?我们看到司法制度不能独立行使社会功能,人民有冤屈只能通过上访的方式申诉,还要受到打击迫害,这与70年代末期有什么不同?我们看到,贫富差距日益扩大,社会不满逐渐积累,这会比80年代更加进步吗?任何有良知的人,怎么可能蒙住自己的眼睛,只去看那些变化的部分,而不去看那些没有变化的部分呢?既然很多在1989年导致学生上街的问题依然没有改变,我们,凭什么忘记?!

第二,    虽然已经21年了,当时作为镇压一方的政府,有一天忘记六四吗?大批流亡在外的国人至今不能回国,只因为他们不愿意按照使馆的意愿,承认自己当年的行为是错误的,请问,政府有忘记六四吗?今天在中国,六四仍然是最敏感的词汇,不要说民间,连官方都闭口不谈,这样的敏感度,请问,政府有忘记六四吗?那些天安门母亲们,他们没有任何政治动机,如果他们申请去天安门广场,为自己死去的孩子点燃一支蜡烛,政府会同意吗?这一切,都证明了一件事,那就是,当年开枪杀人的那个政府,他们一天也没有忘记六四。我的问题是:如果,作为杀人者,都没有忘记;我们,凭什么忘记?!

Firstly, although China has changed in many ways since then, there are also many things which have not changed. We are witnessing the imprisonment of Liu Xiaobo because of his opinions. How is this different from the Cultural Revolution? We are witnessing the judiciary being unable to maintain its independence. People can only resolve grievances through petitions and complaints, risking suppressions in the process. How is this different from the China of late 1970s? We are witnessing the increasing income inequality and social discontents. How is this better than the 1980s? How can anyone with conscience turn a blind eye to these problems? As the problems which drove students to the street in 1989 are still with us, on what basis can we forget the incident?
Secondly, although 21 years have passed, has the government, as the suppressor, ever forgotten the event? Many Chinese in exile cannot return to China to date, only because they refuse to admit that they have acted wrongly, a demand of Chinese embassies. Please answer me: has the government ever forgotten the event? In today’s China, ‘June Forth’ remains the most sensitive word, not only among citizens but also officials. In view of this sensitivity, please answer me: has the government ever forgotten the event? Those Tiananmen Mothers are without political motives. If they apply to go to the Tiananmen Square and light a candle – only to commemorate their fallen children – do you think the government will approve? All these prove one thing, that the government, as the killer, has not forgotten the event. My question is: if the killer has not forgotten it, on what basis can we forget it?

Tiananmen Mothers, a group comprising the parents, relatives and friends of victims of the incident:

中共權貴集團向來奉行這樣的潛規則︰謊言重復千百遍即成為事實;哪怕是眾目睽睽的事,如果人人「知其白,守其黑」,久而久之,則如黯然無所見。中共權勢者長期以來搞「強迫遺忘」,不準提及有關「六四」的一切,以至于一些80、90後的年少者竟不相信二十一年前中國大地上發生過一場滅絕人性的殺戮,即使偶有耳聞,也是瞠乎其後。中共當局自以為得計,以為這樣做,就似乎找到了一個可以把「六四」推向遙遠歷史年代的機會,甚至可以把「六四」這筆血債遠遠地甩開。然而,我們從1993年6月最早公布的16位死難者起,到後來的96位,155位,186位,196位,直至今天的203位,這一個一個都是有名有姓有血有肉的人啊!可是霎那間他們都一齊在人們的視野里消失了,但是,他們每個人的名字卻都赫然在目,誰能掩蓋得了,誰能抹殺得了?!二十一年前的大屠殺鐵板釘釘,無可逃遁。現如今中共權勢者營造了光怪陸離的「和諧世界」,如果你們尚存的一點良心未泯,那麼在度過了白天的喧囂之後,剩下來的定會是無邊無沿的恐懼!長時間滯留不去的恐懼!

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has this unwritten rule: a lie will become fact when it is repeated hundreds and thousands of times, even though everyone has witnessed the truth. If everyone ‘who knows how white attracts, yet always keeps himself within black’s shade’, we all will soon be in black shades and cannot see a thing. For a long time, the CCP bans all mentions of ‘June Forth’, with the result that young people born in the 1980s and 90s refuse to believe that this massacre has ever happened. The authority thinks that by acting in this way, ‘June Forth’ will fade away and they can evade their responsibility. Yet, we published the names of 16 victims in June 1993, and the list has since then grown to 96, 155, 186, 196, and today, 203. Any single one of them is a real person, with flesh and blood. In a flash, they disappeared from people’s view; but they were real people, how can anyone erase or cover up the fact? No one can evade their responsibilities to the crime conducted 21 years ago. Now the authority has portrayed this strange ‘harmonious society’. If you still have traces of conscience, then after you bear the noises of the day, what remains must be unbounded fear! Fear which will remain for a long time!

Cui Weiping, a professor at the Beijing Film Academy:

那些尽一切可能压制善意言论的人们,扼杀个人与社会基本伦理、捆住基本善行(比如谭作人)的人们,剥夺民族记忆从而剥夺一个民族自身成长空间的人们,他们是否知道自己在做什么?是否知道这样做对于我们民族的今天和明天产生什么样的负面影响?他们是否有一刻想过需要对自己的行为承担起某种责任?结果很可能是,某一天他们即使想要承担,也是他们所承担不了的。到那个时候,谁来为这一切埋单?实际上,二十一年来,我们整个社会为此而蒙受的精神与道德的损失已经多得不能再多了,无数个人所蒙受的痛苦已经不能再累积了,我们民族所付出的代价,已经昂贵得不能再昂贵了。

Those who suppress discussions conducted in goodwill, who suppress ethnics, who suppress good deeds (e.g. like those of Tan Zuoren), who deprive a race of its collective memory and hence its space for growth, do they know what they are doing? Do they know what negative consequences this will bring to our future? Have they ever thought about, for a moment, that they should bear some kind of responsibility? The most likely result is that even though they would like to assume responsibility some day, they would not have the ability to do so. By that time, who would pay the cost for this? In reality, during these 21 years, our society has suffered unbearable spiritual and ethnic losses. Countless individuals have suffered unbearable pains. Our race has suffered unbearable costs. We cannot afford more of these pains and costs.

Zhang Zuhua, in the Foreword of ‘My 1989’, a book of interviews with ordinary citizens witnessing the event, to be published in Hong Kong in June 2010:

自由和幸福的生活不会从天上掉下来,要靠无数中国公民守望相助、坚持不懈、前赴后继地去努力争取。鲍勃。肯尼迪说得好:“一个人每次为一个理念挺身而出,或为改进他人生活而努力,或向不公出击,他传递出的希望仅产生很小的波纹,而千百万不同能量产生的波纹互相交叉,就能汇聚成洪流,并可冲垮阻挡我们的最坚实的墙。”千千万万个普通的中国人在一九八九年携手并肩筑就的道义力量的丰碑,将永久激励着人们为追求自由生活和实现民主宪政而不懈奋争!

Freedom and blessing will not suddenly fall from the sky. They come through sustained efforts and struggles of countless Chinese citizens. Robert Kennedy has it: ‘Each time a man stands for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.’ Thousands of Chinese citizens have constructed a monument of justice in 1989, and this will forever drive people to strive for freedom and democracy!

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