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Can’t Sleep. June 3rd.. So this is how it feels to Live in a Totalitarian Regime huh?

Awaiting a Democratic Hong Kong

Been in bed for three hours now and finally gave up. I went for a walk to the seven eleven down the street and bought myself some Yakult hoping it would feel better. It’s so extraordinarily quiet tonight. Not even passing cars. I was supposed to write about what happened in Hong Kong 15 years ago, how I remembered it, how I was sitting outside Xin Hua News Agency and at about 3am the tanks rolled in, and we could hear the shots reverberating in the tunnel over the radio. But I haven’t been able to because I feel so tired of everything that has happening in Hong Kong over the last year. Just our lost of rights, the encroachment of China, making Hong Kong not Hong Kong anymore. What is there to say? It’s the same thing over and over again. We want to keep our civil rights, free speech, we want to have universal suffrage and our powerful mother land won’t allow it. What’s more to say? I guess I am waiting for Friday.

I wonder how many people will turn up. The numbers always hike when the memorial falls on special dates, the five year anniversary, the ten years anniversary and this year it will be the 15th. It goes up if it falls on a weekend too because people don’t have to work the next day and of course with the events of the last year and the recent events of the last two months, a lot more people will turn up to show their dissatisfaction with the state of affairs. It won’t be as big as July 1st protests of last year I am sure. But it will be bigger than the usual 60 to 100 thousand people. I am not worried about if there would be violence, because we as a people are so peaceful. But I still wait and wonder who is going to turn up and how many of us will show. I hope it’s a lot of people. I hope its more than we can imagine, because since we don’t have the power to have a say, the only way we can stand up is through protests. And I wonder when China will come in and try to take away our right to gathers too.

There were some problems with insurance companies refusing to undersign the Tiananmen Square memorial but I heard while walking pass the star ferry on Sunday that someone did. I wonder which brave company decided to go ahead and do this. It disturbs me how old Seto Wah looks now a days, how even Martin Lee can seem deflated. When the two of them don’t walk proud through their righteousness, it’s so worrying. You wonder what’s really going on behind the scenes. I probably should have picked up the paper but I get so irate reading it that I have long since given up. Sometimes I buy it when important news comes up, but I never get pass the first page. I don’t even want to know anymore. If it wasn’t for Glutter, I probably would have long since not bothered, but as I log all the events, I know that it will eventually become a database of all what has been happening in Hong Kong in regards to our rights, over time, it will be a useful resource for myself and others some day.

I can’t really believe I can’t sleep because the world doesn’t stop just because these larger, thought events happen. I still go out for dinner and hang out with my friends. I still want to buy some new clothes every so often, try on shoes, write articles on things other than China. I watch movies, and talk on the phone. I call up friends to ask them questions like “What is the M25 motorway?” “How do I spell Gilded Youth in French?” Coz we don’t talk politics with each other. I rather spend the down time, social time thinking of other things and forget that maybe one day, we won’t be able to protest, that I won’t be able to write on this blog anymore. I mean the truth is my day to day life won’t change one iota if everything that I hold dear goes away. I feel deflated too. Maybe that’s what it means to live under a totalitarian regime. You feel DEFLATED. It’s so bothersome that those thought are better not to be had. To ignore things that doesn’t concern you directly in the most personal and intimate ways. Don’t bother with politics, don’t bother with ideas. Just go, make money, make a living, buy things, forget and not remember that those who have power over you don’t want you to think.

Tomorrow is June 3rd, the next day is June 4th. Maybe another few hundred thousand people will gather in Victoria Park, and we will hold a candle light vigil for all the people who died and went to jail over the 1989 democratic movement, because no one else in China can, and maybe we can make us heard just a little bit more than usual, maybe then I will feel energetic again. Maybe then I will be willing to continue to think because I know so many other people also want to too.


June 4th 1989: The images and memories

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Can’t Sleep. June 3rd.. So this is how it feels to Live in a Totalitarian Regime huh?

Collection of Tiananmen Masscre related Articles from 2004



Hi Yan,
Thanks so much for writing about democracy in Hong Kong. It gives me (and I assume others) a window into a struggle that receives terribly little coverage in the mainstream media. A couple of weeks ago, I read one of your entries about your coworker who put the famous protester vs tank photo up on their desktop. I was in the middle of a miserable set of finals, and your post motivated me to find the picture and put it up as my background. It's still inspiring after all these years.

I'll never forget something that happened when I was living in Beijing. I was in Xiushuilu, happily oblivious, on a shopping trip. A PAP van full of paramilitaries got into an accident with a pedicart. Clearly, it was the PAP driver's fault. The officer jumped out of the van screaming, and the entire crowd froze. The pedicart driver cowered, and I fully expected the PAP officer was about to deliver a beating. But he didn't--afterall it was a tourist area. That's when I realized, that China was still a totalitarian country.

Sometimes, when I talk to my Chinese friends here in the States, I feel like I am one of the few who remembers that government of the PRC is still totalitarian. Or at least, the only one who is not justifying it to myself. It's so easy to get swept up in the triumphalist propaganda about the booming Chinese economy. Lately, I tell them about the internet dissident cases I see on your page.

So thanks again, for writing and keeping up the fight, no matter the odds. Just know that people in the States are cheering for you too.


Know what? The loathsome CCP is not going to change their mind about a crackdown even if given a second chance.

"China has ordered officials to watch a new documentary on the Tiananmen Square demonstrations to persuade younger cadres that the 1989 army crackdown could not be avoided, government sources said on Thursday.

The four-hour documentary has been shown to people holding a rank of ministry department director or higher since March in order to convince a new generation of government officials who may disagree with the government line on the June 3-4 massacre."

Eighteen carat lie!!! And how pathetic HK is under their rule. June 4th could really really happen again.


Sigh.. I hate to think it could happen again, and it could... I just don't want it happenning here.


New China Documentary Defends 1989 Massacre
Thu Jun 3, 2004 02:08 AM ET

By Benjamin Kang Lim
BEIJING (Reuters) - China has ordered officials to watch a new documentary on the Tiananmen Square demonstrations to persuade younger cadres that the 1989 army crackdown could not be avoided, government sources said on Thursday.

The four-hour documentary has been shown to people holding a rank of ministry department director or higher since March in order to convince a new generation of government officials who may disagree with the government line on the June 3-4 massacre.

"Young cadres need to watch it because many think the crackdown was unnecessary," said one government source who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"The message: The disturbance turned into a rebellion ... and there was no choice but to crush the demonstrations," said the source, who saw the documentary. Another government source said officials were recently shown a Tiananmen film.

The documentary, twice as long as one aired to officials not long after the 1989 crackdown, blamed then-Communist Party chief Zhao Ziyang for confronting then-paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, underscoring a rift in the top leadership.

"The narrator said the party had two headquarters then. Zhao Ziyang was behind one. (Then-premier) Li Peng was behind the other which had the backing of Deng Xiaoping," the first source said.

Deng eventually sacked Zhao as party chief. Deng died in 1997. Zhao, now 84 with silver hair and in declining health, has lived under house arrest ever since.

China bans public commemoration of the anniversary of the crackdown, fearing it may spark fresh protests against high unemployment, heavy taxes on farmers and a widening gap between rich and poor.

In the run-up to this year's anniversary, authorities have put top dissidents under house arrest or taken them outside Beijing, the activists and human rights groups say.


Li Peng, dubbed the "Butcher of Beijing" by critics after he declared martial law on state television, tried to publish his memoirs in retirement, apparently to clear his name, the Hong Kong-based Yazhou Zhoukan magazine said.

The current leadership in Beijing blocked Li's plan as too politically sensitive, the weekly said.

Sources said officials were required to watch the documentary after Jiang Yanyong, the military doctor who blew the whistle on a government cover-up of the SARS virus outbreak in China last year, alarmed the leadership in February by writing a letter asking for a reassessment of the protests.

The documentary showed protesters pelting tanks and army trucks with rocks in 1989.

"Troops fired a hail of bullets which looked like a fireworks display in the night sky," the first source said.

Chen Xitong, Beijing's disgraced Communist Party boss who was instrumental in the crackdown, does not appear in the new film.

Chen, serving a 16-year jail term for corruption, was in the two-hour documentary shown right after the massacre.


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Learning the lessons of Tiananmen Square

Wang Dan

TOMORROW is the 15th anniversary of the massacre of student demonstrators in Tiananmen Square. During the six years I spent in prison after the massacre, much of it in solitary confinement, I had ample time to reflect on whether we - the leaders of China’s 1989 democracy movement - made a mistake in encouraging the protests that culminated in the tragic events of 4 June.

Again and again, I have asked myself if there was another path that could have avoided the bloodshed. And whether, by bringing students and other ordinary citizens on to the streets to confront the Communist leadership, we frustrated the plans of reformist leaders - such as the former Communist Party general secretary, Zhao Ziyang - to engineer a peaceful transition to a democratic China. It’s a question I’ve also often been asked during my public appearances in the US, since I was forced into exile in April 1998.

Now, reflecting on the events of 15 years ago, it is clear to me as never before that the Tiananmen massacre was an unavoidable step in the long path to a free China, and that true political reform can never come from within the Communist Party.

Indeed, one of the real tragedies of 1989 was not that we jeopardised the efforts of so-called reformist leaders. Rather it is that they never had the vision or political will to lead China toward democracy.

The events of 4 June were a turning point for me and other members of what we call "The 1989 Generation". Encouraged by the brief relaxation in the political environment in Beijing in the months before the killings, which had even made it possible for me to hold workshops on democracy, we harboured false hopes that change could come from within the Communist Party. It was this fantasy that emboldened us to take to the streets, calling on the government to fight corruption and take steps toward a free society. We petitioned the leadership in the hope of triggering a top-down reform.

Yet the response of "reformists" in the leadership was disappointing, to say the least. Had their hearts been with us, they would have surely seized this unique opportunity to support publicly our calls for democratisation.

Instead, they continued to hide behind closed doors. Only after he had already been outvoted in the Politburo standing committee did Mr Zhao finally come and visit us in Tiananmen Square. And when our modest demands were answered with gunshots on the night of 4 June, it shattered any remaining illusions.

The experience of the 15 years since then has confirmed what we failed to understand in 1989. Namely, that Communist leaders, be they conservatives or reformists, are all wedded to retaining the current political system, complete with its problems such as corruption and lack of accountability.

Look, for instance, at how even relatively enlightened officials such as Premier Wen Jiabao - who visited us in Tiananmen Square in 1989 - and President Hu Jintao have shied away from political reform since taking office. Instead, the issue remains a taboo subject in Beijing. And far from easing its iron grip on all forms of political dissent, the new leadership now seems intent on extending it to Hong Kong.

In the past, the Communist Party has reversed its official verdict on several other major political events in modern Chinese history. The Cultural Revolution, hailed by Mao Tse-tung as a great proletarian movement, has long since been repudiated. Another popular protest that also led to violent scenes in Tiananmen Square, the demonstration on 5 April, 1976, against the leftist leaders known as the "Gang of Four", was also initially suppressed and labelled as counter-revolutionary. Within two years, that verdict had been reversed and it was recognised as a legitimate public protest.

Yet when it comes to 4 June, there has been no change even after 15 years. That’s because Messrs Wen and Hu realise that re-evaluating the official description of the 1989 movement as counter-revolutionary would shake the foundations of the Communists’ grip on power.

But avoiding the issue will not make it go away. On the contrary, the cries for justice are getting ever louder.

In recent months, the group of parents and relatives of those killed in 1989, known as the Tiananmen Mothers, have been gaining increasing domestic and international support in their fight to reverse the official verdict on the 1989 movement. They have been joined by Jiang Yanyong, the heroic doctor who blew the lid on China’s initial cover-up of the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome last year. In an open letter to the Chinese leadership, Dr Jiang recounted what he witnessed on the night of the killings and called on the government to revisit what he called the worst Communist crimes since the Cultural Revolution.

The continued failure of the Chinese leadership to address the issue only increases the risk of further violent eruptions in the future, especially at a time of growing social discontent. With unemployed workers struggling to survive without any form of welfare benefits, residents forced from their homes without proper compensation and farmers living in extreme poverty as they shoulder unfair tax burdens, China is a tinder box which could be set on fire by the slightest spark.

Worse still, until the leadership confronts the past and re-evaluates the official verdict on the 1989 movement, there is always the danger that it could resort to such violent methods again to suppress any future protests.

One positive development is that, since the early 1990s, shoots of civil society have begun to sprout within China. As more Chinese enter the private sector, the state is no longer able to control every aspect of daily life in the way it used to.

On the contrary, people are starting to recognise the importance of monitoring the state and making government more accountable. And as the internet and modern telecommunications have become part of everyday life, it’s become easier to break through the government’s control of news and information and to organise campaigns for basic rights, be they the right to private property or freedom of speech. This provides a stronger basis for continuing the fight for democracy in China.

Fifteen years after the massacre, the 1989 democracy movement remains as much a part of my emotional present as my past. The movement and its aftermath have consumed the idealism and passion of my youth, and the fight for a reversal of the official verdict has become a goal which I can never abandon.

The 1989 student movement played an invaluable role in pointing out the path to democracy in China. Without it, we would still be clinging to the myth that a small group of enlightened Communist officials could rescue China from totalitarian rule. Instead, we have learned from our mistakes that year, and realised that China’s democratisation must be a bottom-up process, driven by forces outside the Communist system.

And when that happens, as it inevitably will, I will be able proudly to say that we, the 1989 Generation, were part of the process that brought freedom to my home country.

Wang Dan is now a doctoral candidate in history at Harvard. This article also appears in the Wall Street Journal.

Angry Chinese Blogger

Hong Kong had over 100 years without democracy while under British rule, and it became one of the greatest centers of comerce in the free and the red world, the people of Hong Kong are strong enough and clever enough to work around the Chiense government so I wouldn't worry too much.

It takes a lot more than aan oppressive government to squash that little hub of freedom

Angry Chinese Blogger

Hong Kong had over 100 years without democracy while under British rule, and it became one of the greatest centers of comerce in the free and the red world, the people of Hong Kong are strong enough and clever enough to work around the Chiense government so I wouldn't worry too much.

It takes a lot more than aan oppressive government to squash that little hub of freedom

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