Awaiting A Democratic Hong Kong.
Today is the 16th Anniversary of the Tiananmen Massacre.
Today is the day of that one photo, the one everyone remembers, you know the one I am referring to, its lucid, calm symbolism etched into the minds of millions, the photo Wang Dan has over his bed in his dorm in Harvard University, the one that has and will gloss every story regarding Tiananmen Massacre forever more. And as much as I too evoked it a month before, on this day, I don’t always feel it appropriate as the sole photo and symbol for the events of this day, for what that one picture does is sanitize the true story of June 4th 1989.
That early morning on June 4th 1989, Beijing was wreaked with chaos and blood outside of veins reigned. All across the city, long before the soldiers reached Tiananmen Square. On June 3rd day, as the PLA started coming in, the residents of Beijing already began to build barricades to stop those under orders to end a counter-revolutionary insurrection, by whatever means. Tear gas was sprayed, canisters exploded into the crowds, and as the tension rose, more people filed onto the streets, Beijing the city decided to protect their young in the heart of China. By night fall the riots began, military vehicles alighted, the protesting students who were unaware of what was going on outside, finally heard the news and began setting fire to their tents. June 4th 1989 was not just a day when tanks rolled and one boy for a short moment attempted to halt its march but a day when the city of Beijing rose against their own government which by all means should be known as an uprising.
It was an incomprehensible day because few and seldom days in history do we ever see a government launch a military attack on its own people. And in the backdrop students sang the “Internationale” and the residents of Beijing shouted “Ting Si, Ting Si” -Stop the killing, Stop the killing” as machine guns fired, people fell, tanks did not stop, and hospitals overflowed.
We love that photo because for a very short moment in time, we were able to witness a nameless every man who had enough human bravery to stand up against the machinery of death and the power of a repressive government. And for the sake of perfection, on the other end, we had a tank driver who did not keep going because his heart also did not allow the metal he was in control of to do the deed. But that is not what happened in the early mornings of June 4th 1989. Human bravery did not triumph against the machinery of death, when the bullets hit soft flesh, no amount of will could stop its outcome.
That one photo should not symbolize June 4th 1989, and what China did. It may symbolize human spirit, the hope of democracy, the devotion to the cause. It may remind us of that each of us can make a stand, and we could face the inevitable without fear. But it does not speak of June 4th 1989. It does not explain the anger so many of us feel towards our government, and why we still to this day still demand a reevaluation.
What happened in June 4th 1989 was bloody, violent, chaotic, disturbing. It was littered with tragedies of sons and daughters not returning home. It was a day where other tank drivers did run over people, gun shots went through the chest, heads were exploded, and limps lost. It is a day that we should remember, not because one person out there stood up, but because our government brought him down. It’s not a day to celebrate humanity. It’s a day to mourn.
(This is a repost from June 4th 2004.)