December 5, 1978 (a Tuesday)

Democracy Wall in Beijing, August 20, 1979.

In December 1978, the Cultural Revolution was over and it appeared to Beijing residents that China would naturally move toward democracy. No Mao, meant no People’s Republic thought many. Utilizing the political teaching of the rising Deng Xiaoping, Beijing residents began to emphasize the concept of “seeking truth through facts”. On a long brick wall on Chang’an Street in the Xidan District of Beijing, political dissidents and intellectuals began to publicly document problems in China and call for change in its politics. The most famous statement, the statement which truly began the Democracy Wall Movement, was a poster entitled “The Fifth Modernization” by Wei Jingsheng, who signed it and placed it on the wall on this date.

The Democracy Wall in Beijing, just before it was shut down by the government, December 6, 1979.

After Agriculture, Industry, Science and Technology, and National Defense (promoted by Deng Xiaoping in 1978), Wei Jingsheng added Democracy. Chinese citizens wrote freely in prose and poetry (poetry being the traditional way to inform the government of problems). Beijing citizens now had a catharsis to assuage the anger and fear they felt. They were a community in pain, a community without a way to publicly portray their frustrations, a community kept in silence, a community finally allowed to open up. While ultimately unsuccessful, its effects still linger. Even today Chinese and Westerners talk nostalgically about the Democracy Wall Movement.

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