Tag Archives: China

November 27, 1940 (a Wednesday)

Bruce Lee

On this date, Chinese-American martial artist, actor, filmmaker, writer, and philosopher (Bruce) Lee Jun Fan was born in the hour of the Dragon (between 6:00 and 8:00 am) in the year of the Dragon (according to the Chinese zodiac) at the Jackson Street Hospital in San Francisco’s Chinatown.  Today, a plaque in the hospital’s entry commemorates the place of his birth.  His father was in San Francisco while on tour with the Cantonese Opera at the time, so Bruce Lee was actually raised at the family home in Hong Kong.  It was there at the age of 13 that Bruce began his first formal training in martial arts with Master Yip Man, who taught the Wing Chun style of gung fu (or kung fu).

One of Bruce’s recollections of his many training experiences with Yip Man is personally significant to me. It is from an essay he wrote for one of the courses he took while a student at the University of Washington (I have added emphasis to relevant parts):

About four years of hard training in the art of gung fu, I began to understand and felt the principle of gentleness – the art of neutralizing the effect of the opponent’s effort and minimizing expenditure of one’s energy. All these must be done in calmness and without striving. It sounded simple, but in actual application it was difficult. The moment I engaged in combat with an opponent, my mind was completely perturbed and unstable. Especially after exchanging a series of blows and kicks, all my theory of gentleness was gone. My only one thought left was somehow or another I must beat him and win.

My instructor Professor Yip Man, head of the Wing Chun School, would come up to me and say, “Loong [Bruce], relax and calm your mind. Forget about yourself and follow the opponent’s movement. Let your mind, the basic reality, do the counter-movement without any interfering deliberation. Above all, learn the art of detachment.”

That was it! I must relax. However, right there I had already done something contradictory, against my will. That was when I said I must relax, the demand for effort in “must” was already inconsistent with the effortlessness in “relax.” When my [frustration grew], my instructor would again approach me and say, “Loong, preserve yourself by following the natural bends of things and don’t interfere. Remember never to assert yourself against nature; never be in frontal opposition to any problem, but control it by swinging with it. Don’t practice this week. Go home and think about it.”

The following week I stayed home. After spending many hours in meditation and practice, I gave up and went sailing alone in a junk. On the sea, I thought of all my past training and got mad at myself and punched at the water. Right then at that moment, a thought suddenly struck me. Wasn’t this water, the very basic stuff, the essence of gung fu? …That was it! I wanted to be like the nature of water…I lay on the boat and felt that I had united with Tao; I had become one with nature.

Master Yip Man essentially guided Bruce to the spiritual aspect of gung fu, an aspect which back in the late 1950s was, and still is, for the most part omitted by martial arts instructors teaching in the United States.  Not only was Bruce attracted to the spiritual aspect of the martial art, he pursued it with great fervor. It was the single factor, even above and beyond his physical prowess and expertise, which made him incredibly unique, and subsequently highly sought after.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

In 1959, at the age of 18, Bruce returned to the United States, invoking for the first time his citizenship from having been born there, to further his education.  After a brief sojourn in San Francisco, he moved to Seattle where he enrolled in 1961 in the University of Washington, majoring in philosophy.  It was here that he began to train students in the art of Chinese gung fu.  With the help of several local television appearances and public demonstrations, Bruce began to give instruction to all Americans — regardless of race, creed, or national origin. Even while growing up in Hong Kong, Bruce had experienced his fair share of prejudice and discrimination.  This led him to become involved in the martial arts for both mental and physical self-preservation.  He often spoke to his friend, Taky Kimura, of the way the British officers looked down upon and mistreated the Chinese.  From this background, Bruce swore to use the martial arts as a tool to express his ultimate desire: to create equality among the peoples of the world.

Bruce Lee

In Seattle, Bruce met his future wife, Linda, and opened his first school, the Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute.  He later opened a branch in Oakland, California.

For historical reasons, Chinese in the early 1960s, particularly in America, were reluctant to disclose the secrets of their martial arts to Caucasians. In fact, it had become an unwritten law that the art should be taught only to Chinese. Bruce considered such thinking completely outmoded.  So in 1964, the elders of the San Francisco Chinatown community nominated Wong Jack Man, a local gung fu expert, to challenge Bruce to a contest. For both fighters, the stakes were high: if Bruce lost, he would be duty-bound to either close his school or stop teaching Kung Fu to Westerners; if Wong lost, he would be similarly bound to stop teaching indefinitely. When the time for the fight came around, Wong, intimated by Bruce’s fearsome reputation, tried to delay the match and then to impose restrictions on the techniques which could be used. Bruce was furious and insisted that the fight be a “no-holds-barred” contest. When the match finally took place, Bruce defeated his opponent quickly and easily using his refined Wing Chun technique.  From that point forward, the San Francisco martial arts community never again dared to threaten Bruce directly.

[picapp src=”7/2/4/d/Lee_In_The_bde9.jpg?adImageId=7110604&imageId=3603115″ width=”457″ height=”594″ /]

Despite his ease of victory, Bruce was still concerned that he took too long to defeat his opponent in the Oakland fight.  He quickly began to develop new ideas about martial arts and training based on many of his own experiences, leading him to create his own art called Jeet Kune Do.

Bruce Lee’s name in Chinese.

Interestingly, John Little states that Bruce was an atheist. When asked in 1972 what his religious affiliation was, Bruce replied “none whatsoever.”  Also in 1972, when asked if he believed in God, he responded, “To be perfectly frank, I really do not.”

On January 6, 2009, it was announced that Bruce’s Hong Kong home (41 Cumberland Road, Kowloon, Hong Kong) will be preserved and transformed into a museum by philanthropist Yu Pang-lin.

References:

  • Bruce Lee and John Little, The Tao of Gung Fu: A Study in the Way of Chinese Martial Art, (Tuttle Publishing, 1997), p. 16.
  • Linda Lee, Jack Vaughn, and Mike Lee, The Bruce Lee Story, (Black Belt Communications, 1989) pp. 37-39, 51-53.
  • John Little, The Warrior Within: The Philosophies of Bruce Lee to Better Understand the World around You and Achieve a Rewarding Life, (Contemporary Books, 1996) p. 128.
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November 12, 1900 (a Monday)

Edward Alsworth Ross

On this date, the economist and sociologist Edward Alsworth Ross was forced to resign from Stanford University as Professor of Sociology. This intrusion on academic freedom, which partly led to the founding of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), clearly mixed not only intramural and extramural speech but also disciplinary and non-disciplinary speech.

In 1896, Ross endorsed the idea of free silver in a pamphlet and spoke in public on behalf of the Democratic presidential candidate, William Jennings Bryan. Leland Stanford, the university’s founder, had died and left control of the institution to his widow Jane. She was offended at Ross’ break with Republican orthodoxy and demanded that he be fired. The university president managed to secure a delay and a sabbatical for Ross to provide a cooling off period.

On his return in 1900, however, Ross extended his public persona to include a condemnation of Chinese immigration which mixed labor issues with issues of race. In his words:

I tried to show that owing to its high Malthusian birth rate the Orient is the land of “cheap men,” and that the [Chinese immigrant worker], though he cannot outdo the American, can underlive him [in other words, because Chinese immigrants are racially disposed to work for lower wages, they are able to displace the native workers]. I took the ground that the high standard of living that restrains multiplication in America will be imperiled if Orientals are allowed to pour into this country in great numbers before they have raised their standard of living and lowered their birth-rate. I argued that the Pacific is the natural frontier of East and West, and that California might easily experience the same terrible famines as India and China if it teemed with the same kind of men. In thus scientifically co-ordinating the birth-rate with the intensity of the struggle for existence I struck a new note in the discussion of Oriental immigration, which, to quote one of the newspapers, “made a profound impression.”

I quote Ross at length to show that Ross, although his racism and his deplorable and misguided defense of it were not peculiar to him and were actually quite common among influential “progressives” of the time, was no angel. Somewhat obsessed with race, Ross was of course convinced that “the blood now being injected into the veins of our people is sub-human”; the newer immigrants were “morally below the races of northern Europe”; and that it all would end in “Race Suicide”.

Jane Lothrop Stanford was outraged, not because of Ross’s racism but because the Stanford fortune had been built on Chinese labor. Now he was out of a job.

Professional economists and some of the future founders of the AAUP came to Ross’s defense, despite the fact that while the 1896 comments were partly within his area of expertise, at least insofar as an economist was qualified to comment on the gold standard, the 1900 remarks were clearly not, since they went beyond commenting on Chinese labor to include a plea for Anglo-Saxon racial purity. Of course the 1896 statements included not only economic analysis but also a political endorsement. One would like to think that at least some of Ross’s defenders found his racism objectionable, but that they defended his right to speak nonetheless.

From 1900 to the 1920s, Ross supported the temperance (alcohol prohibition) movement as well as eugenics and immigration restriction. To his credit, by 1930 Ross had shed these notions and spent the greater part of his efforts promoting the New Deal reform and the freedoms of the individual. In fact, he became national chairman of the American Civil Liberties Union in 1940, serving until 1950.

References:

Xinjiang: An Inconvenient Truth for the Chinese Communist Party

“URUMQI, China — An exhibit on the first floor of the museum here gives the government’s unambiguous take on the history of this border region: ‘Xinjiang has been an inalienable part of the territory of China,’ says one prominent sign.

But walk upstairs to the second floor, and the ancient corpses on display seem to tell a different story.”

– Edward Wong. “The Dead Tell a Tale China Doesn’t Care to Listen To“, The New York Times, 18 November 2008

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Uncomfortably for the Communist Chinese authorities, hundreds of mummies unearthed in remote parts of the Tarim Basin in what is now the Xinjiang region of China offer a far more nuanced history of settlement than the official Chinese version. By that official account, Zhang Qian, a general of the Han dynasty, led a military expedition to Xinjiang in the second century B.C.E. His presence is often cited by the ethnic Han Chinese when making historical claims to the region ( even though ancient Chinese sources describe the existence of “white people with long hair” — the Bai people of the Shan Hai Jing — beyond their northwestern border).

Tian Chen mummy, close-up of head. One of the mummies from four burial sites between the Tian Shan (‘Celestial Mountains’) of north-west China and the Taklimakan Desert.

The Tarim mummies show, though, that humans entered the region thousands of years before Zhang Qian, and almost certainly from the west. In fact, the mummies provide evidence of heterogeneity throughout the region’s history of human settlement. As a result, the Chinese authorities have been unwilling to give broad access to foreign scientists to conduct genetic tests on the mummies.

What is indisputable is that the Tarim mummies are among the greatest recent archaeological finds in China, perhaps the world.

The corpses, dating from about 2000 B.C.E. to 300 B.C.E., are astonishingly well preservedand Caucasian. In contrast to most central Asian peoples, these corpses have obvious European features — blond hair, long noses, deep-set eyes, and long skulls. Unlike the roughly contemporaneous mummies of ancient Egypt, the Xinjiang mummies were not rulers or nobles; they were not interred in pyramids or other such monuments, nor were they subjected to deliberate mummification procedures. For this reason, these so-called mummies are technically desiccated corpses. Unlike Egyptian mummies, their lifelike appearance is due not to any artificial intervention on the part of those who buried them. Rather, it is the outcome of environmental conditions in the parched, stony desert of the region, with the best-preserved bodies being those who died in winter and were buried in especially salty, well-drained soils — all of which would inhibit putrefaction and prevent deterioration; after thousands of years, not even slight amounts of moisture penetrated these burials. The bodies were quickly dried, with facial hair, skin, and other tissues remaining largely intact. The famous mummies of Egypt appear dry and shriveled, blackened like discarded walnut husks, compared with these lifelike remains.

A Tarim Basin mummy photographed by Aurel Stein circa 1910.

At the beginning of the 20th century European explorers such as Sven Hedin and Sir Aurel Stein recounted their discoveries of desiccated bodies in their search for antiquities in Central Asia. However, no further attention was given to the mummies until 1978 when Wang Binghua, one of China’s most distinguished archaeologists, found one. Before Wang’s work in the region, evidence of early settlements had been virtually unknown. In the late 1970s, though, Wang had begun a systematic search for ancient sites in the northeast corner of Xinjiang Province. Knowing that ancient peoples would have located their settlements along a stream to have a reliable source of water, Wang followed one such stream from its source in the Tian Shan, asking locals along the way whether they had ever found any broken bowls, wooden artifacts, and so forth. Finally, one older man tipped him off to a place they called Qizilchoqa, or “Red Hillock.” It wasn’t much to look at — a sandy slope in a green ravine next to a village called Wupu.

In the early 1990s, several Western academics accompanied Wang to the region to observe the excavations. Among them were Victor Mair, a professor of Chinese literature at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Jeannine Davis-Kimball, executive director of the Center for the Study of Eurasian Nomads, and English archaeologist Charlotte Roberts.

Despite the political tensions over the mummies’ origin, the Chinese said in a report published in February 2010 in the journal BMC Biology that the people were of mixed ancestry, having both European and some Siberian genetic markers, and probably came from outside China. All the men who were analyzed had a Y chromosome that is now mostly found in Eastern Europe, Central Asia and Siberia, but rarely in China. The mitochondrial DNA, which passes down the female line, consisted of a lineage from Siberia and two that are common in Europe. Since both the Y chromosome and the mitochondrial DNA lineages are ancient, the research team concluded that the European and Siberian populations probably intermarried before entering the Tarim Basin some 4,000 years ago.

East Asian peoples only began showing up in the eastern portions of the Tarim Basin about 3,000 years ago, while the Uighur peoples arrived after the collapse of the Orkon Uighur Kingdom, largely based in modern day Mongolia, around the year 842. But politically, the region came under Chinese control only under the Qing Emperor Qianlong in the 18th century. Uighur separatists resist the term Xinjiang — which means “New Frontier,” given to the region by the Chinese in 1884 — and prefer East Turkestan.

Interestingly, in the preface to the 2002 book, The Ancient Corpses of Xinjiang, written by Wang Binghua, the Chinese historian and Sanskrit specialist Ji Xianlin soundly denounced the use of the mummies by Uighur separatists as proof that Xinjiang should not belong to China.

“What has stirred up the most excitement in academic circles, both in the East and the West, is the fact that the ancient corpses of ‘white (Caucasoid/Europoid) people’ have been excavated,” Ji wrote. “However, within China a small group of ethnic separatists have taken advantage of this opportunity to stir up trouble and are acting like buffoons. Some of them have even styled themselves the descendants of these ancient ‘white people’ with the aim of dividing the motherland. But these perverse acts will not succeed.”

Further on, in an apparent swipe at the Chinese government’s lack of eagerness to acknowledge the science and publicize it to the world, Ji wrote, “a scientist may not distort facts for political reasons, religious reasons, or any other reason”.

And, Ji Xianlin, the facts speak for themselves.

References:

October 11, 1978 (a Wednesday)

Ban the Chinese Government

In October 1978, Huang Xiang was feeling restless and one day was moved to take out of concealment the political poems he had written during the Mao Years. He then conceived of going to Beijing to post them so people could see them, in spite of the danger still inherent in anti-Mao sentiments. Word of Huang Xiang’s plan got around in his circle of friends, and soon three of them – Mo Jiangang, Li Jiahua, and Fang Jiahua – decided to accompany him on the 1,500 mile trip to Beijing.

On October 11, 1978, with a bucket of flour paste, they proceeded to an alley off Wangfujing Avenue in downtown Beijing near the offices of The People’s Daily, and began to glue up the hundred-odd sheets of Huang Xiang’s poetry. The four brushed as big characters a series of Huang Xiang’s poems collectively referred to as “The Fire God Symphony”. According to Huang, those poems were meant “to oppose the idol worship of Mao Zedong and his personal cult, to criticize romanticism, feudalism, fascism, and modern emperorship, to completely negate the Cultural Revolution, and to appeal publicly for freedom, democracy, and human rights.”

Huang Xiang, aged 63. The largest character that appears on his front door is “door” in Chinese.

The well-constructed poems of “The Fire God Symphony” are united in their coherent references to fire symbolism – fire, light, torch, fire god – to express a compelling discontent with reality and an open advocacy of democracy and human rights. In terms of articulating an infectious spirit of defiance and rebellion, Huang Xiang at his best stands shoulder to shoulder with other famous poet-rebels such as Guo Moruo and Walt Whitman. Huang demonstrates a rare political prescience in his frontal assault on the idolatry of Chairman Mao and his suffocating ideology. For example, in “The Fire God Symphony” he writes:

Why can one man control the wills of millions of people
Why can one man prescribe life and death everywhere
Why should we bow and worship an idol
Letting blind faith confine our will to live, our thoughts and emotions

[…]

Let man be restored to his dignity
Let life become life once again
Let music and virtue be the soul’s inner essence
Let beauty and nature be man’s once again

Later on October 11, a curious crowd gathered in the alley off Wangfujing Avenue and soon spilled out onto the avenue, causing a huge traffic jam. Sympathizers linked arms to protect the four from the surge of the crowd. Huang Xiang, encouraged by the crowd, recited all of his poems from memory (some six hundred lines). That night people crowded the alley trying to read the poems by torch light.

Later recalling these events, Huang Xiang wrote:

We “set fire” on Wangfujing Avenue in Beijing. Myself and my three friends, Li Jiahua, Fang Jiahua, and Mo Jiangang, put up my poem “The Fire God Symphony” in big character posters. This first batch of posters lit a spark for seeking enlightenment and freedom in Communist China. We founded and published the first independent periodical ever, called Enlightenment, and staged a poetic campaign to advocate human rights and freedom of expression.

On November 24, 1978 they returned and posted big character posters (dazibao) on seventy yards of fence near Mao Zedong’s mausoleum in Tiananmen Square. Huang Xiang then brushed two big character posters on the spot, “The Cultural Revolution Must Be Reevaluated!” and “Mao Zedong was thirty percent right and seventy percent wrong!” Both were absolute heresies even two years after Mao’s death. These astonishing statements, in full sight of the usual people lined up to enter Mao’s mausoleum, caused a sensation.

By December 1978, cultural and political activists had gravitated to Xidan, west of Tiananmen Square. Many posters appeared on a wall next to a busy bus stop. The wall soon acquired its historic name, the Democracy Wall.

The Democracy Wall Movement quickly spread from the Xidan Wall in Beijing to other walls in the city and to other cities: ­Shanghai, Guangzhou, Wuhan, Huangzhou and Qingdao. While most focused on economic issues and Cultural Revolution grievances, a small number emphasized political issues. Participants coordinated their actions in each city and sometimes between cities. By mid-1979, activists were beginning to set up connections between regions, which developed into a loose network. Although the activists were small in number, several hundred to several thousand at any one time, their posters, debates and magazines attracted tens of thousands of readers and listeners. Officials as well as ordinary people, who shared their revulsion at Mao’s use of terror and chaos for his own political purposes and also sought to reform the political system were among the readers and discussants at the walls.

From 1959 to 1997, Huang was incarcerated six times for political dissent and spent a total of 12 years in jail. He continued to write even though he was tortured for his work, which was completely banned in China. He has lived in exile in the United States since 1997. Huang has published poems and essays, and a bilingual edition of his Out of Communist China was published in 2003.

References:

October 8, 2010 (a Friday)

All dictatorships like to proclaim patriotism but dictatorial patriotism is just an excuse to inflict disasters on the nation and calamities on its people.

— Liu Xiaobo, “The [Communist Party of China’s] Dictatorial Patriotism” (2005)

[China] provides large quantities of economic assistance to dictatorships such as North Korea, Cuba, and Myanmar, offsetting to some degree the impact of Western economic sanctions and enabling these remaining despotic regimes on their last legs to linger on.

— Liu Xiaobo, “The Negative Effects of the Rise of Dictatorship on World Democratization” (2006)

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The prominent dissident writer Liu Xiaobo, one of the first signers of Charter 08.

Liu Xiaobo (刘晓波), 54, the prominent independent intellectual and long-time democracy advocate, was awarded the Nobel peace prize on 8 October 2010, for his “long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China.” The first resident citizen of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to win a Nobel prize, Liu becomes only the second person to win the peace prize while incarcerated, following German pacifist Carl von Ossietzky, who won it in 1935 while jailed by the Nazis. In its press release, the Norwegian Nobel Committee noted:

. . . [T]here is a close connection between human rights and peace. Such rights are a prerequisite for the “fraternity between nations” of which Alfred Nobel wrote in his will.

Over the past decades, China has achieved economic advances to which history can hardly show any equal. The country now has the world’s second largest economy; hundreds of millions of people have been lifted out of poverty. Scope for political participation has also broadened.

China’s new status must entail increased responsibility. China is in breach of several international agreements to which it is a signatory, as well as of its own provisions concerning political rights. Article 35 of China’s constitution lays down that “Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration”. In practice, these freedoms have proved to be distinctly curtailed for China’s citizens.

For over two decades, Liu Xiaobo has been a strong spokesman for the application of fundamental human rights also in China. He took part in the Tiananmen protests in 1989; he was a leading author behind Charter 08, the manifesto of such rights in China which was published on the 60th anniversary of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 10th of December 2008. The following year, Liu was sentenced to eleven years in prison and two years’ deprivation of political rights for “inciting subversion of state power”. Liu has consistently maintained that the sentence violates both China’s own constitution and fundamental human rights.

The campaign to establish universal human rights also in China is being waged by many Chinese, both in China itself and abroad. Through the severe punishment meted out to him, Liu has become the foremost symbol of this wide-ranging struggle for human rights in China.

Liu Xiaobo.

Liu is one of the leaders of the Independent Chinese PEN Centre (ICPC), a group of writers that promotes freedom of expression. The ICPC is among 145 member centers of the International PEN, a human rights organization and international literary organization founded in 1921. Liu’s writing is banned in China but his books are sold in Hong Kong. “Awarding Liu Xiaobo the Nobel Peace Prize is an affirmation of the central importance to everyone of freedom of expression, of which he is a courageous exponent,” states PEN International President, John Ralston Saul. “Charter 08 contains this phrase: We must stop the practice of viewing words as crimes,” says Marian Botsford Fraser, Chair of PEN International‘s Writers in Prison Committee. “Liu is serving 11 years for that simple credo, and his belief in democracy for the Chinese people. We fervently hope that Liu’s winning of the Nobel Prize furthers those causes.”

“Liu Xiaobo is a worthy winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, we hope it will keep the spotlight on the struggle for fundamental freedoms and concrete protection of human rights that Liu and many other activists in China are dedicated to,” said Catherine Baber, Amnesty International USA‘s Deputy Director for the Asia-Pacific region. “This award can only make a real difference if it prompts more international pressure on China to release Liu, along with the numerous other prisoners of conscience languishing in Chinese jails for exercising their right to freedom of expression”, said Baber.

Harry Wu, former Chinese political prisoner and founder of Laogai Research Foundation, said of the decision, “the Nobel Committee has sent a clear message to China that it will not be intimidated by its economic and political might.” He added, “for decades, Liu Xiaobo has advocated for freedom. It’s time that the Chinese government releases him from prison and listens to his suggestions.”

“This award comes at a critical historical crossroads in China and constitutes a powerful affirmation for the voices calling for change,” said Sharon Hom, Executive Director of Human Rights in China. “As Liu Xiaobo and other Chinese advocates for change have pointed out, the only sustainable road ahead for China is one towards greater openness and political reform. This has most recently even been publicly stated by senior Chinese officials [Ed.: See transcript of interview with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on 28 September 2010].”

I agree. Amnesty International has documented widespread human rights violations in China:

  • An estimated 500,000 people are currently enduring punitive detention without charge or trial.
  • Millions are unable to access the legal system to seek redress for their grievances.
  • Harassment, surveillance, house arrest, and imprisonment of human rights defenders are on the rise.
  • Censorship of the Internet and other media has grown.
  • Repression of minority groups, including Tibetans, Uighurs and Mongolians, and of Falun Gong practitioners and Christians who practice their religion outside state-sanctioned churches continues.
  • While the recent reinstatement of Supreme People’s Court review of death penalty cases may result in lower numbers of executions, China remains the leading executioner in the world.

Furthermore, the totalitarian nature of China’s government makes it nearly impossible to effect change in the notoriously oppressive government of North Korea (DPRK), essentially a puppet state of China. Human rights in China is a prerequisite to human rights in North Korea.

Not surprisingly, China’s foreign ministry last week warned that Liu was not suited for the Nobel Peace Prize as he was “sentenced to jail by Chinese judicial authorities for violating Chinese law.” The Chinese government told reporters the committee had violated its own principles by giving the award to a “criminal.” Of course, the Chinese don’t get it: Liu is a political prisoner, not a criminal. In the run-up to the decision, China warned Norway that selecting Liu would affect mutual ties and dispatched a Foreign Ministry official to Oslo to press its case. The two countries are in the process of negotiating a free-trade deal, and Norway’s oil industry — a crucial sector of its economy — wants to boost its business dealings in China. In a sign that it was unwilling to be cowed, however, Norway’s government chose to publicize the Beijing official’s ostensibly private visit.

____________________________________________________________


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Liu was born on 28 December 1955 in Changchun, Jilin Province. He received a BA in literature from Jilin University, and an MA and PhD from Beijing Normal University, where he also taught.

In April 1989, he left his position as a visiting scholar at Columbia University to return to Beijing to participate in the 1989 Pro-Democracy Movement. On 2 June, Liu, along with Hou Dejian, Zhou Duo, and Gao Xin, went on a hunger strike in Tiananmen Square to protest martial law and appeal for peaceful negotiations between the students and the government. In the early morning of 4 June 1989, the four attempted to persuade the students to leave Tiananmen Square. After the crackdown, Liu was held in Beijing’s Qincheng Prison until January 1991, when he was found guilty of “counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement” but exempted from punishment.

In 1996, he was sentenced to three years of Reeducation-Through-Labor on charges of “rumor-mongering and slander” and “disturbing social order” after drafting the “Anti-Corruption Proposals” and letters appealing for official reassessment of the June Fourth crackdown.

“There was never a question for him of abandoning the struggle, although he was very critical about the [1989 student] movement,” said Jean-Philippe Béja, of the Paris-based Centre for International Studies and Research, who first met Liu in the early 90s.

“He is a person who wants to live in truth.”

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TAKE ACTION HERE: Demand that China release Nobel Peace Prize activist Liu Xiaobo!

AND HERE: Demand that China release Nobel Peace Prize activist Liu Xiaobo!

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Remembering Tiananmen Square » The Endless Further

It’s a bit late, but I came across this post about the recent, 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989. It’s worth reading.

Remembering Tiananmen Square » The Endless Further.

September 15, 1935 (a Sunday)

Massed crowds at the Nazi party rally in Nuremberg. Nuremberg, Germany, 1935.

On this date, the Nuremberg Race Laws, as they became known, stripped German Jews of their citizenship, reducing them to mere “subjects” of the Nazi state.

The laws also prohibited Jews from marrying or having sexual relations with persons of “German or related blood.” “Racial infamy,” as this became known, was made a criminal offense. Interestingly, the Nuremberg Laws did not define a “Jew” as someone with particular religious beliefs. Instead, anyone who had three or four Jewish grandparents was defined as a Jew, regardless of whether that individual identified himself or herself as a Jew or belonged to the Jewish religious community. Consequently, the Nazis classified as Jews thousands of people who had converted from Judaism to another religion, among them even Roman Catholic priests and nuns and Protestant ministers whose grandparents were Jewish.

What was the outside world’s reaction? Because unemployment had dropped precipitously under Hitler’s early commandeering of the economy, and the average German felt renewed hope and pride, the face of Germany seemed brighter, more at peace with itself. While some foreign visitors, even some political opponents within Germany itself, decried these racist laws and practices, most were beguiled into thinking it was merely a phase, and that Hitler, in the words of former British Prime Minister Lloyd George, was “a great man.”

This is David Lloyd George’s impression after a meeting with Hitler on 4 September 1936, from the Daily Express (London), published on 17 November 1936:

I have just returned from a visit to Germany. In so short time one can only form impressions or at least check impressions which years of distant observation through the telescope of the Press and constant inquiry from those who have seen things at a closer range had already made on one’s mind. I have now seen the famous German Leader and also something of the great change he has effected. Whatever one may think of his methods – and they are certainly not those of a parliamentary country – there can be no doubt that he has achieved a marvellous transformation in the spirit of the people, in their attitude towards each other, and in their social and economic outlook. He rightly claimed at Nuremberg that in four years his movement has made a new Germany. It is not the Germany of the first decade that followed the war – broken, dejected, and bowed down with a sense of apprehension and importance. It is now full of hope and confidence, and of a renewed sense of determination to lead its own life without interference from any influence outside its own frontiers. There is for the first time since the war a general sense of security. The people are more cheerful. There is a greater sense of general gaiety of spirit throughout the land. It is a happier Germany. I saw it everywhere and Englishmen I met during my trip and who knew Germany well were very impressed with the change. One man has accomplished this miracle. He is a born leader of men. A magnetic, dynamic personality with a single-minded purpose, a resolute will and a dauntless heart. He is not merely in name but in fact the national Leader. He has made them safe against potential enemies by whom they were surrounded. He is also securing them against that constant dread of starvation, which is one of the poignant memories of the last years of the War and the first years of the Peace. Over 700,000 died of sheer hunger in those dark years. You can still see the effect in the physique of those who were born into that bleak world. The fact that Hitler has rescued his country from the fear of a repetition of that period of despair, penury and humiliation has given him unchallenged authority in modern Germany. As to his popularity, especially among the youth of Germany, there can be no manner of doubt. The old trust him; the young idolise him. It is not the admiration accorded to a popular Leader. It is the worship of a national hero who has saved his country from utter despondency and degradation. It is true that public criticism of the Government is forbidden in every form. That does not mean that criticism is absent. I have heard the speeches of prominent Nazi orators freely condemned. But not a word of criticism or of disapproval have I heard of Hitler. He is as immune from criticism as a king in a monarchical country. He is something more. He is the George Washington of Germany – the man who won for his country independence from all her oppressors. To those who have not actually seen and sensed the way Hitler reigns over the heart and mind of Germany this description may appear extravagant. All the same, it is the bare truth. This great people will work better, sacrifice more, and, if necessary, fight with greater resolution because Hitler asks them to do so. Those who do not comprehend this central fact cannot judge the present possibilities of modern Germany. On the other hand, those who imagine that Germany has swung back to its old Imperialist temper cannot have any understanding of the character of the change. The idea of a Germany intimidating Europe with a threat that its irresistible army might march across frontiers forms no part of the new vision. What Hitler said at Nuremberg is true. The Germans will resist to the death every invader at their own country, but they have no longer the desire themselves to invade any other land. The leaders of modern Germany know too well that Europe is too formidable a proposition to be overrun and trampled down by any single nation, however powerful may be its armaments. They have learned that lesson in the war. Hitler fought in the ranks throughout the war, and knows from personal experience what war means. He also knows too well that the odds are even heavier today against an aggressor than they were at that time. What was then Austria would now be in the main hostile to the ideals of 1914. The Germans are under no illusions about Italy. They also are aware that the Russian Army is in every respect far more efficient than it was in 1914. The establishment of a German hegemony in Europe which was the aim and dream of the old pre-war militarism, is not even on the horizon of Nazism. …

Not much has changed in the more than three-quarters of a century since then. Just consider the way the world looks at China, whose economy is commandeered by the Chinese Communist Party.

References:

  • J. Remak (ed.), The Nazi Years – A Documentary History (Prentice-Hall, 1969), pp.80-82.

August 18, 1991 (a Sunday)

Yeltsin stands on a military tank to defy the August Coup in 1991.

On this date, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev was placed under house arrest during an attempted coup d’état (known as the August Putsch or August Coup) by high-ranking members of his own government, military and police forces.

Since becoming secretary of the Communist Party in 1985 and president of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in 1988, Gorbachev had pursued comprehensive reforms of the Soviet system, greatly improving Soviet relations with Western democracies, particularly the United States. However, within the USSR, Gorbachev faced powerful critics. Conservative, hard-line politicians and military officials thought he was driving the Soviet Union toward its downfall and making it a second-rate power, while more radical reformers – particularly Boris Yeltsin, president of the most powerful socialist republic, Russia – complained that Gorbachev was just not working fast enough.

The August 1991 coup was carried out by the hard-line elements within Gorbachev’s own administration, as well as the heads of the Soviet army and the KGB, or secret police. Detained at his vacation villa in the Crimea, he was placed under house arrest and pressured to give his resignation, which he refused to do. Claiming Gorbachev was ill, the coup leaders, headed by former vice president Gennady Yanayev, declared a state of emergency and attempted to take control of the government.

Yeltsin and his backers from the Russian parliament then stepped in, calling on the Russian people to strike and protest the coup. When soldiers tried to arrest Yeltsin, they found the way to the parliamentary building blocked by armed and unarmed civilians. Yeltsin himself climbed aboard a tank and spoke through a megaphone, urging the troops not to turn against the people and condemning the coup as a “new reign of terror.” The soldiers backed off, some of them choosing to join the resistance. After thousands took the streets to demonstrate, the coup collapsed after only three days.

Gorbachev was released and flown to Moscow, but his regime had been dealt a deadly blow. Over the next few months, he dissolved the Communist Party, granted independence to the Baltic states, and proposed a looser, more economics-based federation among the remaining republics. In December 1991, Gorbachev resigned. Yeltsin capitalized on his defeat of the coup, emerging from the rubble of the former Soviet Union as the most powerful figure in Moscow and the leader of the newly formed Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

Surprisingly, no one predicted the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Chas Freeman, a former diplomat who served as Richard Nixon​’s interpreter during his visit to mainland China in 1972, once recalled conversations he had had when living in Taiwan in the 1970s, before Chiang Kai-Shek’s Kuomintang party had moved from quasi-military rule to open elections:

People would say they are corrupt, they have no vision, they have a ridiculous ideology we have to kowtow to, but that no one believes in practice.

And I would say, ‘If they’re so bad, why don’t you get rid of them?’ That would be greeted with absolute incredulity.

Taiwanese of that era would tell him that, corrupt or not, the party was steadily bringing prosperity. Or that there was no point in complaining, since the party would eliminate anyone who challenged its rule. A generation later, Taiwan had become democratized.

People predicted the fall of the Chinese Communist Party in 1989, but it didn’t happen. The point of this post is, as the Danish physicist Neils Bohr (1885 – 1962) once said, “Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.”

At the Intersection of Science and Human Rights

Inmates sew at a compulsory drug rehabilitation centre in Kunming.

A study by Xue et al, published in Science‘s 13 April 2012 issue, tested an experimental treatment for addiction on 66 former heroin users confined at two detention centers in Beijing.

According to Reuters:

Studies published by Science must have approval from an ethics board; the Chinese scientists say their study had such approval from Peking University.

BUT…

Again quoting Reuters:

Joseph Amon, director of the health and human rights division at Human Rights Watch, charged in [a] letter that in both [detention centers] addicts are ‘detained without due process’ and, he told Reuters, ‘held in a closed institution where monitoring of human rights abuses is not allowed.’ It is not clear from the study whether the addicts ‘were voluntary patients’ at the facilities or forcibly held, Amon said in his letter.

Mr. Amon, who is also an associate in the department of epidemiology at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University and a lecturer in public and international affairs at Princeton University, is correct. Arrest for illegal drug use in China can lead to compulsory treatment (for a minimum of 2 years) at detention centers that function as de facto penal colonies where inmates are fed substandard food and denied basic medical care. The detentions are enforced by police, where the drug user has no opportunity to have a trial, face a judge, or raise an appeal. When a drug user leaves detention, the problems do not end there: their having been arrested for drug use is noted on their national identification card, making future employment difficult and leaving them vulnerable to frequent and humiliating searches by police.

This is not a rare phenomenon: according to a May 2009 report by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), half a million people are confined in drug detention centers in China at any given time. Most reports indicate that “treatment” during detention looks like punishment, exploitation, or merely lame, consisting of unpaid labor in chicken farms or shoe factories, or in the form of untested “therapies” like sandbox play, art, or boxing.

The study by Xue et al was conducted at Beijing Ankang and Tiantanghe Drug Rehabilitation Centers, but these are two of the facilities that have raised concerns about human rights violations over the past years.

‘The journal is not an investigative body,’ a spokeswoman for Science told Reuters. ‘On the basis of the authors’ response as well as (the editors’) own internal review, which included a science ethicist, the concerns about human rights seem to have been addressed, and the paper remains in good standing at this time.’

Daniel Wikler, a bioethicist at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, publicly commented:

Human Rights Watch has published valuable reports on inhumane treatment of drug addicts in many lands, including both China and the United States…But why brand the experiment by Xue et al as unethical?… Mr. Amon’s objections to the Xue et al study do not amount to much. He seems to be using the publication of the study as a means of drawing attention to wrongs in China’s treatment of addicts… it would be a shame if Mr. Amon’s letter tarnished the reputation of Chinese and U.S. scientists who seem to have conducted an innocuous (but valuable) experiment… [emphasis added]

Wikler is a frequent lecturer on ethics and health in the PRC and Hong Kong and holds honorary appointments at two Beijing research institutions, but he is no expert on the Chinese government’s attitude toward human rights and the rule of law. It seems at least equally plausible that Mr. Amon is using the wrongs in China’s treatment of addicts as a means of drawing attention to the unethical nature of the Xue et al experiment.

Inmates take an oath to resist drugs at a mandatory rehab center in Wuhan, China. (Stringer Shanghai/Reuters).

The authors of the study included 11 scientists at Peking University, led by Yan-Xue Xue, and two scientists, David Epstein and Yavin Shaham, at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), which is part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health. The NIDA declined to allow the two U.S. scientists to speak about the study. And the two NIDA researchers did not sign the response, nor did three of the Beijing University scientists. So the response to Amon’s letter published by Science in their 3 August 2012 issue was actually signed by only eight authors, all from Peking University, out of the total of 13.

In the authors’ response, the scientists explain that their work used subjects who they say were “court mandated” — but as noted before, drug users are usually sent to detention centers without any formal trial, never seeing the inside of a courtroom, because drug abuse in China isn’t considered a criminal offense. They dismiss Amon’s charges by stating, “The human rights violations mentioned by Amon would have violated China’s new National Narcotics Control Law and Chinese law in general…Patients who work are always paid. This provision has been put into effect for many years, and recently has been written in the National Narcotics Control Law, which bans forced labor.” This sounds like something written by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Such naivete about China’s respect for fundamental freedoms and human rights is disturbing. Chinese laws hardly justify confidence in the humane treatment of their study subjects.

There is a well-known saying in China that makes despotic officials (such as those staffing detention centers) happy: “the heaven is high and the emperor, far away”; therefore even if the central government is good and has formulated good laws, regulations, rules, codes, policies, etc., a despotic official may still do whatever he wants. China is too large and the central government is too far away to be aware of their malpractices; while the God who always upholds justice, is too high away to meddle.

In institutional settings, where conformity and compliance are rewarded, people may not feel that they have a real choice. Prisoners are aware that behavior is continuously monitored and assessed, and that this can have very real consequences.

As a scientist, I am appalled at the glib way the AAAS addresses human rights concerns. With drug user detainees in such circumstances in China, is voluntary informed consent of participants really possible? Are researchers who conduct research in these facilities complicit in the ill-treatment of drug users at the hands of Chinese authorities? I believe so.

Although the NIDA didn’t provide direct funding for the study, it did contribute financial support for the paper by paying the salaries of Epstein and Shaham. In a statement released to the Associated Press on April 22, the NIDA explained that its scientists “advised on the experimental design of the preclinical studies, and were involved in the data analyses and in the preparation of the manuscript.” Science magazine’s guidelines, as well as the NIDA’s code of conduct and standard scientific protocol, state that all co-authors are responsible for the sum total of any article published in its pages. By allowing their names to be published on the study, Epstein and Shaham took responsibility for the entire contents of the report, including the ethics of the research. Since these two scientists were significant enough contributors to the research to warrant authorship, should the study have also been reviewed under the (rather stringent) U.S. regulations governing prisoner research? I believe so. If it had been, would it have passed muster? I believe not. For one thing, under American law, federally funded research on inmates must be approved by a panel that includes at least one prisoner who volunteers to serve (see Title 45 CFR Part 46.304(b)).

I strongly urge Science magazine to retract this study for not adhering to standards protective of human subjects; verification of compliance with human rights standards should be obtained from third-party sources, not affiliated in any way with the CCP (which includes Peking University), as a matter of policy whenever considering publication of such studies from China.

References:

August 3, 2007 (a Friday)

Ban the Chinese Government

On this date, in one of history’s more absurd acts of dictatorship and totalitarianism, China’s State Administration for Religious Affairs issued a decree (State Religious Affairs Bureau Order No. 5) that all reincarnations of tülkus of Tibetan Buddhism must get government approval, otherwise they are “illegal or invalid”. The Chinese word for tülku is huófó (活佛), which literally means “living Buddha” and is sometimes used to mean tülku, although this is rare outside of Chinese sources. However, according to the Dalai Lama, “this is wrong. Tibetan Buddhism recognizes no such thing.” Also, in interviews that he has given, the Dalai Lama has frequently dismissed the notion of “living Buddha”, referring to it as “nonsense”. In the context of Tibetan Buddhism, tülku is used to refer to the corporeal existence of enlightened Buddhist masters in general. 

The Chinese decree stated, “It is an important move to institutionalize management on reincarnation of living Buddhas. The selection of reincarnates must preserve national unity and solidarity of all ethnic groups and the selection process cannot be influenced by any group or individual from outside the country.” It also requires that temples which apply for reincarnation of a living Buddha must be “legally-registered venues for Tibetan Buddhism activities and are capable of fostering and offering proper means of support for the living Buddha.”

In other words, China banned reincarnation without government permission. Tibetan Buddhists believe lamas and other religious figures can consciously influence how they are reborn, and often are reborn many times so they can continue their religious pursuits. So, the Chinese government decree, which took effect September 1, 2007, requires that each of these people who plan to be reborn must complete an application and submit it to several Chinese government agencies for approval.

This is what the Chinese Communist Party bosses like to call “religious freedom”. But beyond the irony was China’s true motive: to cut off the influence of the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled spiritual and (at that time) political leader, and to quell the region’s Buddhist religious establishment more than 50 years after China invaded the small Himalayan country. By barring any Buddhist monk living outside China from seeking reincarnation, the law effectively gives Chinese authorities the power to choose the next Dalai Lama, who, by tradition, is reborn to continue the work of relieving suffering.

July 21, 1553

Warrior-Monks and Dwarf Pirates

Shaolin monk in contemplation.

On today’s date, 120 Buddhist temple monks met an approximately equal number of “Japanese pirates” in battle.

The so-called Japanese pirates, wakou or woku, were actually a confederation of Japanese, Chinese, and even some Portuguese citizens who banded together. (The pejorative term wakou literally means “dwarf pirates.”) They raided China during the Ming Dynasty for silks and metal goods, which could be sold in Japan for up to ten times their value in China.

By 1550, the Shaolin Temple had been in existence for approximately 1,000 years. The resident monks were famous throughout Ming China for their specialized and highly effective form of kung fu (gong fu).

Thus, when ordinary Chinese imperial army and navy troops proved unable to eliminate the pirate menace, Nanjing’s Vice-Commissioner-in-Chief, Wan Biao, decided to deploy monastic fighters. He called upon the warrior-monks of three temples: Wutaishan in Shanxi Province, Funiu in Henan Province, and Shaolin.

According to contemporary chronicler Zheng Ruoceng, some of the other monks challenged the leader of the Shaolin contingent, Tianyuan, who sought leadership of the entire monastic force. In a scene reminiscent of countless Hong Kong films, the eighteen challengers chose eight from among themselves to attack Tianyuan.

First, the eight men came at the Shaolin monk with bare hands, but he fended them all off. They then grabbed swords; Tianyuan responded by seizing the long iron bar that was used to lock the gate. Wielding the bar as a staff, he defeated all eight of the other monks simultaneously. They were forced to bow to Tianyuan, and acknowledge him as the proper leader of the monastic forces. Zheng narrates these events in his account (written around 1568):

Tianyuan said: “I am real Shaolin. Is there any martial art in which you are good enough to justify your claim for superiority over me?” The eighteen [Hangzhou] monks chose from amongst them eight men to challenge him. The eight immediately attacked Tianyuan using their hand combat techniques. Tianyuan was standing at that moment atop the open terrace in front of the hall. His eight assailants tried to climb the stairs leading to it from the courtyard underneath. However, he saw them coming, and struck with his fists, blocking them from climbing.

A Shaolin monk soars through the air in a kung fu stance.

The eight monks ran around to the hall’s back entrance. Then, armed with swords, they charged through the hall to the terrace in front. They slashed their weapons at Tianyuan who, hurriedly grabbing the long bar that fastened the hall’s gate, struck horizontally. Try as they did, they could not get into the terrace. They were, on the contrary, overcome by Tianyuan.Yuekong (the challengers’ leader) surrendered and begged forgiveness. Then, the eighteen monks prostrated themselves in front of Tianyuan, and offered their submission.

The monks fought the pirates in at least four battles. The second battle was the monks’ greatest victory: the Battle of Wengjiagang, fought in the Huangpu River delta in July, 1553. They chased the remnants of the pirate band twenty miles southward for ten days, killing every last pirate. Monastic forces suffered only four casualties in the fighting.

During the battle and mop-up operation, the Shaolin monks were noted for their ruthlessness. One monk used an iron staff to kill the wife of one of the pirates as she tried to escape the slaughter.

Although it seems quite odd that Buddhist monks from Shaolin and other temples would not only practice martial arts, but actually march into battle and kill people, perhaps they felt the need to maintain their fierce reputation.  After all, Shaolin was a very wealthy place. In the lawless atmosphere of late Ming China, it must have been very useful for the monks to be renowned as a deadly fighting force.

References:

  • Meir Shahar, The Shaolin Monastery: History, Religion, and the Chinese Martial Arts (Honolulu, HI: University of Hawaii Press, 2008) pp. 69-70.

July 21, 1645

The non-Chinese Manchurian queue.

The non-Chinese Manchurian queue.

On 7 June 1644, a day after entering Peking, the Manchu (Qing) prince Dorgon, regent for the Manchu child emperor Shunzhi, issued a decree stating that, henceforth, all Chinese (Han) men should shave their foreheads and have their hair braided in back in the Manchu-style queue.

A storm of protest forced Dorgon to cancel his decree, but the following June another order was issued that Chinese military men must adopt the queue; this was to make it easier for the Manchus to identify their enemies in battle, and assure them that those who had surrendered would remain loyal to them in the future. But senior advisers of Dorgon felt that this did not go far enough, and so on today’s date, Dorgon reissued the decree that every Chinese man must shave his forehead and begin to grow the queue within ten days or face execution. This order was popularly summarized as “Keep your hair and lose your head, or lose your hair and keep your head.”

For Han officials and literati, the new hairstyle was a humiliating act of degradation because it breached a common Confucian directive to preserve one’s body intact, whereas for common folk cutting their hair was tantamount to the loss of their manhood. Because it united Chinese of all social backgrounds into resistance against Qing rule, the haircutting command broke the momentum of the Qing conquest. The defiant population of Jiading and Songjiang was massacred by former Ming general Li Chengdong, respectively on August 24 and September 22. Jiangyin also held out against about 10,000 Qing troops for 83 days. When the city wall was finally breached on 9 October 1645, the Qing army led by Ming defector Liu Liangzuo, who had been ordered to “fill the city with corpses before you sheathe your swords,” massacred the entire population, killing between 74,000 and 100,000 people. Hundreds of thousands of people were killed before all of China was brought into compliance.

Almost 270 years later, after the Xinhai Revolution in 1911, Sun Yat-sen in the capacity of Provisional President of the newly founded Republic of China promulgated an order requiring all soldiers and civilian men to cut their queues. “Queue cutting rallies” were held where men had their hair cut together with thousands of compatriots. In the early Republican period, queue cutting became an expression of support for the revolution.

References:

  • Frederic Wakeman, “Localism and Loyalism During the Ch’ing Conquest of Kiangnan: The Tragedy of Chiang-yin”, in Frederic Wakeman, Jr., and Carolyn Grant (eds.), Conflict and Control in Late Imperial China (Berkeley: Center of Chinese Studies, University of California, Berkeley, 1975), pp. 43–85
  • Frederic Wakeman, The Great Enterprise: The Manchu Reconstruction of Imperial Order in Seventeenth-Century China (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press, 1985). In two volumes.

July 16, 1997 (a Wednesday)

Dharmsala, India.

On this date, Chen Kuiyuan, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Secretary of the Tibet Autonomous Region, gave a speech on “legitimate” art, “acceptable” tradition, and the role of Buddhism in Tibetan culture in which he said:

In inheriting traditional culture, we must distinguish the essence from the dross and continue to create something new.

(…)

Some people say that the Tibetan national culture is connected to religion in form and essence. Some others say that college teaching material will be void of substance if religion is not included and that in that case, colleges would not be real colleges. If what such people talked about were a Buddhist college, I would have no comment. But what they refer to is a Tibet University, so they have no reason whatsoever to make such an allegation. After all, is the Tibetan national culture equivalent to a Buddhist culture? If one should say that the Tibetan national culture came into being after Buddhist culture, one would have shorten the history of Tibetan civilization by more than 1,000 years. As is known to all, there was no Buddhism in Tibet over a long period of time. Buddhism came into being only a little over 2,500 years ago.

(…)

Is only Buddhism Tibetan culture? It is utterly absurd. Buddhism is a foreign culture. If it is said that the Tibetan nationality had no culture before the arrival of Buddhist culture, is it not said that the Tibetan people used to be a nationality without a culture? The view of equating Buddhist culture with Tibetan culture not only does not conform to reality but also belittles the ancestors of the Tibetan nationality and the Tibetan nationality itself. I just cannot understand that. Some people, claiming to be authorities, have made such shameless statements confusing truth and falsehood. Comrades who are engaged in research on Tibetan culture should be indignant at such statements. Making use of religion in the political field, separatists now go all out to put religion above the Tibetan culture and attempt to use the spoken language and culture to cause disputes and antagonism between nationalities, and this is the crux of the matter. [emphasis added]

Later, at a secret meeting held in December 1999 in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province, Chen Kuiyuan recommended to the Central Chinese Government that an all-out effort must be made to eradicate Tibetan Buddhism and culture from the face of the earth so that no memory of them will be left in the minds of coming generations of Tibetans – except as museum pieces. Chen Kuiyuan stated that the main cause of instability is the existence of the Dalai Lama and his Government-in-exile in Dharamsala and these must be “uprooted”. He recommended that Tibet, Tibetan people and Tibetan Buddhism – in other words the very name of Tibet – must be destroyed and the “Tibet Autonomous Region” be merged with provinces like Sichuan.

Chen’s statements, as arrogant and ignorant as they made him appear to be [which can be illustrated by paraphrasing Chen: Communism is a foreign government. If it is said that the Tibetan nationality had no government before the arrival of the Communist (Chinese) government, is it not said that the Tibetan people used to be a nationality without a government? The view of equating Communist (Chinese) government with Tibetan government not only does not conform to reality but also belittles the ancestors of the Tibetan nationality and the Tibetan nationality itself.], were hardly the isolated or extreme views of a minor CCP official. From July 20 to 23, 1994, Beijing had staged the Third Forum on Work in Tibet, which had expressed deep concern at the continued popularity of Tibetan Buddhism. The Party publicly ordered a halt to any further spread of Buddhist institutions or of the monastic population in Tibet:

There are too many places where monasteries have been opened without permission from the authorities, and having too much religious activity. Some districts have built monasteries without limits and without permission. The waste of manpower, materials and money was tremendous.

(…)

There are problems [p.that have?*] arisen from religion, i.e. sometimes interfering in administration, law, education, marriages, birth control planning, people’s productivity and their daily life…

However, what really had concerned the authorities was not monks wasting social resources but the perceived relationship between the clergy and the continuing activism of the pro-independence movement:

A number of religious institutions [p.trans: including places?*] have been used at times by a few people who harbor sinister motives to plot against us and have become counter -revolutionary bases.

(…)

The influence of our enemy in foreign countries, especially the Dalai clique, was slipping into the monasteries of our region more than ever. They assume that “to get hold of a monastery is the equivalent of [p.trans: getting hold of?*] a district of the Communist Party”, and they are putting great effort [p.hope?*] into achieving it.

Although most recent demonstrations calling for independence in Tibet had been initiated and carried out by members of the Tibetan clergy, few if any of these protests in Lhasa lasted more than a few minutes and none was known to have involved more than fifteen people. In other words, the protests carried out by the clergy were frequent but insignificant in size; the really large-scale demonstrations of this period were entirely lay affairs. The Third Forum’s identification of Tibetan monasteries with opposition to the state was grossly exaggerated. The result of the Third Forum’s policy on religion was to give approval at the highest level for stricter control over the monastic institutions of Tibet:

We must teach and guide Tibetan Buddhism to reform itself. All those religion laws and rituals must be reformed in order to fit in with the needs of development and stability in Tibet, and they should be reformed so that they become appropriate to a society under socialism.

Not surprisingly, then, on 5 April 1996, the Tibet Daily formally announced the ban on public display of Dalai Lama photographs:

The hanging of the Dalai’s portrait in temples should gradually be banned. We should convince and educate the large numbers of monks and ordinary religious believers that the Dalai is no longer a religious leader who can bring happiness to the masses, but a guilty person of the motherland and people.

Religious and cultural rights are internationally recognized human rights. The incorporation of these rights in international law is a recognition that the preservation of these values is of concern to the entire world community. The right to freedom of religion is enshrined in article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and thereby represents an international standard applicable to all nations. The inseparability of religion and culture in Tibetan society means that the Tibetan people’s freedom of religion is also protected under article 15 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (signed by the People’s Republic of China in October 1997), which recognizes the right of everyone “(t)o take part in cultural life”. China regularly claims that the Tibetan people’s human rights are being observed and that they enjoy full religious freedom, but this is an unequivocal lie.

References:

July 3, 1914 (a Friday)

This map shows the original political boundaries of Tibet. Historic Tibet embraced the entire Tibetan Plateau, an area the size of Western Europe with an average elevation of 15,000 feet above sea level. The three main provinces of Tibet were U – Tsang, comprising Central and Western Tibet; Kham in the east; and Amdo in the northeast. After China conquered Tibet in 1950, Amdo and eastern Kham were incorporated forcibly into China. Ambo became Qinghai province, while eastern Kham was made a part of Sichuan province. U – Tsang and western Kham were proclaimed the Tibet Autonomous Region in 1965.

On this date, Tibetan independence was confirmed in the Simla Accord, or the Convention Between Great Britain, China, and Tibet, in Simla. The British had convened a tripartite conference in Simla, India in 1913 where the representatives of the three nations met on equal terms. As the British delegate reminded his Chinese counterpart, Tibet entered into the conference as an “independent nation recognizing no allegiance to China.

The Accord provided that Tibet would be divided into “Outer Tibet” and “Inner Tibet”. Outer Tibet, which roughly corresponded to Ü-Tsang and western Kham would “remain in the hands of the Tibetan Government at Lhasa under Chinese suzerainty”, but China would not interfere in its administration. “Inner Tibet”, roughly equivalent to Amdo and eastern Kham, would be under the jurisdiction of the Chinese government. The Accord with its annexes also defined the boundary between Tibet and China proper and between Tibet and British India (the latter became known as the McMahon Line).

Representatives of Tibet, Great Britain, and China at Simla Accord 1914.  Front row, from left: an assistant to Ivan Chen; Sekyong Trulku, Prince of Sikkim; Ivan Chen, Chinese plenipotentiary; Sir Henry McMahon, British Plenipotentiary; Lonchen Shatra, Tibetan Plenipotentiary; Teji Trimon, assistant; Nedon Khanchung, Secretary.

Representatives of Tibet, Great Britain, and China at Simla Accord 1914. Front row, from left: an assistant to Ivan Chen; Sekyong Trulku, Prince of Sikkim; Ivan Chen, Chinese plenipotentiary; Sir Henry McMahon, British Plenipotentiary; Lonchen Shatra, Tibetan Plenipotentiary; Teji Trimon, assistant; Nedon Khanchung, Secretary.

However, China rejected the Accord and their plenipotentiary, Ivan Chen, withdrew on 3 July 1914. The British and Tibetan plenipotentiaries then attached a note denying China any privileges under the Accord and sealed it as a bilateral agreement the same day:

We, the Plenipotentiaries of Great Britain and Tibet, hereby record the following declaration to the effect that we acknowledge the annexed convention as initialed to be binding on the Governments of Great Britain and Tibet, and we agree that so long as the Government of China withholds signature to the aforesaid convention she will be debarred from the enjoyment of all privileges accruing therefrom.

Communist China has argued that because it did not sign the Simla Accord, it did not surrender its claim to Tibet. This argument misses the point. The results of the Simla Conference are not principally what demonstrates Tibet’s capacity to enter into international relations. Rather, it is the participation of Tibet as an equal party which demonstrates that capacity. Because Tibet participated as an equal with China and Great Britain, Tibet and Great Britain could only have entered a treaty if Tibet were an autonomous state, albeit one with links to China. A binding treaty could have resulted from the Simla Conference, had the negotiations gone well, because the parties had the capacity to form such a treaty.

McMahon’s work was initially rejected by the British government as incompatible with the 1907 Anglo-Russian Convention, but this convention was renounced in 1921. Consequently, the British began using the McMahon Line on Survey of India maps in 1937, and the Simla Accord was published officially in 1938. Prior to 1937, Burma was a province of British India. It is noteworthy that, when China and Burma settled their border in 1960, they defined it along the McMahon Line.

June 26, 1987 (a Friday)

From Article 5 of the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights

On this date, the United Nation’s Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment came into effect. Since 1998, each anniversary has been observed as International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. On this day, we pay deep respect and tribute to all those around the world who have suffered and endured the worst torture.

The Convention obliges States to make torture a crime and to prosecute and punish those guilty of it. It notes explicitly that neither higher orders nor exceptional circumstances can justify torture.

As of June 1998, the Convention had been ratified by 105 States. These States parties are required to report to the UN Committee against Torture, a human rights treaty body set up in 1987 to monitor compliance with the Convention and to assist States parties in implementing its provisions. The Committee is composed of 10 independent experts who serve in their personal capacity and are elected by States parties.

These 105 States parties to the Convention against Torture are: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belarus, Belize, Benin, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cote d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Guinea, Guyana, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malawi, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Morocco, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Seychelles, Slovakia, Slovenia, Somalia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States of America, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Yemen, and Yugoslavia.

Notice that China is a signatory to the Convention against Torture. Sixty years have passed since China invaded Tibet in 1949. From then until 1979, a total of  1.2 million Tibetans were brutally killed and more than six thousand monasteries razed to rubble according to a report by the Central Tibetan Administration. The situation over the years hasn’t changed as the Chinese government continues to subject Tibetan people to various forms of physical and mental tortures depriving them of human dignity and freedom, which all people are entitled to, irrespective of caste, color, creed and religion, by virtue of being a part of the same global family, that is, humanity.

The 2008 peaceful protests in Tibet against the Chinese government’s cruel policy resulted in hundreds of deaths, thousands of imprisonments, involuntary disappearances, and severe injuries to hundreds of Tibetans. The year 2010 saw immense political suppression on influential Tibetans after the post-2008 peaceful protests across the Tibetan region.

Freedom House published a special report dated 1 June 2011 entitled Worst of the Worst: The Worlds Most Repressive Societies that provided data on the countries that received the lowest combined ratings for political rights and civil liberties from the highly respected human rights organization. Hundreds of thousands of human beings in these countries languish every day in prisons or labor camps — generally in subhuman conditions and subject to physical or mental abuse — purely for their political or religious beliefs. In particular, the report is designed to direct the attention of the UN Human Rights Council to states and territories that deserve investigation and condemnation for their widespread violations. The report identified the territory of Tibet as one of the ten “Worst of the Worst” political entities in terms of human rights abuses.

The brutal clamping down on influential Tibetans by the Chinese government is a futile attempt to diminish or end the public influence on Tibetan civic and intellectual leaders, writers, and artists. Despite the recent incidents of harsh crackdown on Tibetans in Amdo Ngaba and Kardze by Chinese authorities, Tibetan people continue to carry out peaceful protests to demand freedom. Tibetans’ spirit for freedom and justice has never been bogged by tortures, brutalities, intimidation, or coercion.

Question:  In light of its persistent and pervasive violation of human rights, why does the United States government continue to give the People’s Republic of China “most favored nation” (MFN) trade status?

June 25, 1950 (a Sunday)

The War Without An End Begins:

North Korean Army tank regiment during the Korean War 1950-1953.

At 4:40 AM on this date, North Korean forces crossed the 38th Parallel and attacked South Korea. That same day, with the Soviet Union boycotting the proceedings over the representation of China by the Chiang Kai-shek government on Taiwan, the United Nations Security Council unanimously condemned the invasion with UN Security Council Resolution 82. By the next day, North Korean tanks reached the outskirts of Seoul.

Kim Il Sung, the North Korean leader, intended to bring all of Korea under communist rule. He nearly succeeded. South Korean forces offered little resistance to the invading North Korean army. This was because beginning in early 1949, the U.S. had begun to disengage from Korea in every way. On January 12, Undersecretary of State Dean Acheson, just 9 days before he would become Secretary of State, told the National Press Club that South Korea was not a vital part of the U.S. defense perimeter in Asia. The withdrawal was completed by the end of June 1949, with only about 400 advisers left behind to assist the South Korean government in the development of its military capabilities. As nationalists, Kim Il-Sung and Syngman Rhee (the South Korean leader) each was determined to unify the Korean peninsula under his own ideology. Congress became nervous that if too much aid were given to South Korea, Rhee would use it to invade the North, so they had sent light arms and armor, but withheld tanks and aircraft. In January 1950, the U.S. House defeated the Korean Aid Bill by a single vote, thereby cutting off all aid to South Korea.

Even so, the North Korean invasion came as an alarming surprise to American officials. And as far as they were concerned, this was not simply a border dispute between two unstable dictatorships on the other side of the globe. Instead, many feared it was the first step in a Communist campaign to take over the world. For this reason, nonintervention was not considered an option by many top decision makers. (In fact, in April 1950, a top-secret National Security Council report known as NSC-68 had recommended that the United States use military force to “contain” Communist expansionism anywhere it seemed to be occurring, “regardless of the intrinsic strategic or economic value of the lands in question.”)

As American troops pushed the North Koreans out of Seoul and back to their side of the 38th parallel, and headed north toward the Yalu River, the border between North Korea and Communist China, the Chinese started to worry about protecting themselves from what they called “armed aggression against Chinese territory.” Chinese leader Mao Zedong (1893-1976) sent troops to aid North Korea and warned the United States to keep away from the Yalu boundary unless it wanted full-scale war.

An armistice signed on 27 July 1953 between the adversaries allowed POWs to choose whether or not to be repatriated; drew a new boundary near the 38th parallel that gave South Korea an extra 1,500 square miles of territory; and created a 2-mile-wide “demilitarized zone” that still exists to this day.

But for sixty years, North Korea and its ally, Communist China, promoted the outrageous fiction that the U.S. and South Korea started the war. The Chinese people were educated to believe that the war was initiated by the United States and South Korea, and not by a fraternal communist state in the north. In Chinese propaganda, the Chinese war effort was portrayed and accepted as an example of China’s engaging the strongest power in the world with an under-equipped army, forcing it to retreat, and fighting it to a military stalemate. These successes were contrasted with China’s historical humiliations by Japan and by Western powers over the previous hundred years in order to promote the image of the People’s Liberation Army and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Apparently, in 2010, Communist China finally rewrote its history of how the conflict began to point the finger of responsibility at North Korea. As reported by The Daily Telegraph on 25 June 2010:

Until now, the Chinese have staunchly supported their North Korean allies, along whose side they fought in the war.

China previously insisted that the war was waged out of American aggression. The official title of the conflict on the mainland is “The War to Resist America and Aid Korea”.

Chinese history textbooks state that the Korean War began when “the United States assembled a United Nations army of 15 countries and defiantly marched across the border and invaded North Korea, spreading the flames of war to our Yalu river.”

The official Chinese media stated for the first time that it was North Korea that dealt the first blow. In a special report, Xinhua’s International Affairs journal said: “On June 25, 1950, the North Korean army marched over 38th Parallel and started the attack. Three days later, Seoul fell.”

At the time, The Global Times, a newspaper run by the CCP, said in an op-ed article [archived here]:

For a civil war that began in 1948 after two separate but hostile governments were established on the Korean Peninsula, and which escalated into an international war on June 25, 1950, who fired the first shot was not a decisive factor in determining the nature, process and outcome of the war. But in academic study, truth and facts should always be the key elements.

…It is high time to renew and strengthen efforts by Chinese scholars to discover the truth about the Korean War.

Significantly, the editors of the newspaper published an interview with Shen Zhihua [archived here], director of the Shanghai-based Center for Cold War International History Studies and a professor of history at East China Normal University, in which he stated:

In the past, the Soviets and North Korea blamed the “imperialist” US for launching the war. No one believes it now. South Korea, the US and some other countries, such as the UK and Australia, see the start of the war as North Korea’s moves against South Korea.

China doesn’t give a clear definition in textbooks, and just indicates that South Korea moved into North Korea in specific battles and supported the US army.

(…)

Kim Il-sung kept asking for Stalin and Mao Zedong’s approval to use force to take South Korea.

But at first both demurred Kim’s plan, as the Soviet Union didn’t want to aggravate tensions with the US, and China was concentrating on its own reunification. We can find evidence for this in the disclosed archive materials from former Soviet Union and China.

But in late January 1950, Stalin suddenly changed his mind and agreed to Kim’s plan to undertake military operations against South Korea.

He also called Kim to Moscow for secret talks. In the April talks, Stalin gave final approval to Kim’s plan to start the war.

Stalin agreed to Kim’s estimate that the US would decline to or not have enough time to intervene in the war.

But during the talks, Stalin repeatedly emphasized that Mao’s opinion on the plan must be solicited and the war could not be carried out without the [CCP]’s agreement…

…Mao had no choice but to agree to the common position of Moscow and Pyongyang, and said that if the US entered the war, China would send its own armies to assist North Korea…

Based on the above materials, the launching of the Korean War was originally Moscow’s and Pyongyang’s idea, but Stalin managed to foist responsibility on Mao.

Shen’s views essentially echo those of Western historians. [Although, despite the above developments, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China still maintains on their website, as of 25 June 2013, archived here, their bogus version of who started the Korean War.]

Meanwhile, North Korea continues promoting its own fictional view of the conflict. In two articles that appeared under the headline “U.S., Provoker of Korean War” [archived here and here], the country’s state news agency in 2010 accused Washington of starting the war with a surprise attack. “All the historical facts show that it is the US imperialists who unleashed the war in Korea and that the United States can never escape from the responsibility,” the Korean Central News Agency said.

References:

The Coup d’état of Zhao: June 24, 1989

On 19 May 1989, Chinese Communist Party Secretary General Zhao Ziyang picked up a bullhorn and urged student demonstrators to end their hunger strike against the Chinese government in the name of peace and national stability. This was his last public appearance.

On this date, a Saturday, Zhao Ziyang was formally ousted as General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party weeks after voicing sympathy for student demonstrators at Tiananmen Square. Jiang Zemin replaced him, and Zhao spent the rest of his life under house arrest. His removal from power was “effectively a coup,” according to American diplomatic officer Raymond Burghardt, who was chief political officer in Beijing at the time.

During his 16-year confinement, Zhao was able to clandestinely record his memoirs on 30 one-hour cassette tapes. Recorded over his children’s music and Peking Opera tapes, Zhao numbered each one with faint pencil before passing them to trusted friends to be smuggled out in separate batches under the nose of his captors. The full contents, including audio clips, were published in Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Zhao Ziyang on 19 May 2009, more than four years after his death.

Zhao, a reformist who pleaded with China’s paramount leader Deng Xiaoping to take a softer line with the protesting students, described the killings as a “tragedy”. Recalling the moment he finally knew his efforts to prevent bloodshed were in vain, Zhao wrote: “On the night of June 3, while sitting in the courtyard with my family, I heard intense gunfire. A tragedy to shock the world had not been averted, and was happening after all.”

Among the key passages of the book is Zhao’s account of the meeting on May 17 at the house of Deng Xiaoping at which it was decided – despite Zhao’s vigorous representations – to impose martial law and clear the square by force:

I had no other choice but to express my views to Deng personally, in a face-to-face meeting. Since I had asked for a personal meeting with Deng, only to have Deng call for a full Standing Committee meeting at his home, I realized that things had already taken a bad turn.

I expressed my views roughly as follows: “The situation with the student demonstrations has worsened, and has grown extremely grave. Students, teachers, journalists, scholars and even some government staff have taken to the streets in protest. Today there were approximately 300,000 to 400,000 people. Quite a large number of workers and peasants are also sympathetic. Besides the hot issues of corruption and government transparency, the main impetus for all these different social groups is that they want an explanation for how the Party and the government can be so coldhearted in the face of hunger-striking students, doing nothing to try to save them… If the hunger strike continues and some people die, it will be like gasoline poured over a flame. If we take a confrontational stance with the masses, a dangerous situation could ensue in which we lose complete control.”

While I was expressing my view, Deng appeared very impatient and displeased.

In the end, Deng Xiaoping made the final decision. He said: “Since there is no way to back down without the situation spiraling completely out of control, the decision is to move troops into Beijing and impose martial law”.

When the meeting adjourned, Zhao recalls that he left immediately, not pausing to talk further with his colleagues. “At that moment, I was extremely upset. I told myself that no matter what, I refused to become the General Secretary who mobilized the military to crack down on the students.” But Zhao accepted the likely consequences:

By insisting on my view of the student demonstrations and refusing to accept the decision to crack down with force, I knew what the consequences would be and what treatment I would receive. Mentally, I was fully prepared, I knew that if I persistently upheld my view, I would ultimately be compelled to step down. If I wanted to keep my position, or give up my post in some face-saving way, I would have to give up my viewpoint and conform. If I persisted, then I had to be prepared to step down.

Zhao died on 17 January 2005 in a Beijing hospital at 07:01 AM, at the age of 85.

June 15, 1989 (a Thursday)

‘Execution’ by Beijing artist Yue Minjun

On this date, a Chinese court in Shanghai accused three men of starting a riot in Shanghai and sentenced them to death, the first execution orders since Chinese troops opened fire on pro-democracy demonstrators in Beijing on June 3-4, crushing a 7-week-old reform movement. Television said the three men sentenced to death were charged with setting a train on fire and beating security officials who tried to extinguish the blaze.

The train incident occurred June 6 when six protesters were killed as they stood at a barricade on the tracks near the Shanghai train station and a train from Beijing did not stop in time. People in a large crowd set fire to the train and fought with firefighters and police who came to put it out, injuring 21. The three condemned men “frenziedly smashed the railway carriages and set fire to police motorcycles and the carriages” during the attack, the official New China News Agency reported. “They also prevented firefighters from extinguishing the fire and beat them cruelly.” They were given three days to appeal.

An article in the New York Times on 22 June 1989 reported, in part:

The Chinese authorities staged a public execution today of three young men who were accused of taking part in a violent political protest in Shanghai…

The three young men in Shanghai were presumably executed in the Chinese way, with a bullet fired in the back of the head at close range…

The three men in Shanghai – Xu Guoming, an employee of a Shanghai brewery; Bian Hanwu, who is unemployed, and Yan Xuerong, a worker at a radio factory – were sentenced to death last Thursday but had appealed.

They were accused of helping to set fire to a train on June 6 and then attacking firefighters who arrived to put out the fire. No one was killed, but some firefighters were beaten up and nine rail cars were burned, forcing the closing of the rail line for two days.

The Government has not mentioned the circumstances in which the crowd attacked the train. The crowd had gathered to block the rail line, in protest of the killings of hundreds of students and workers in Beijing two days earlier by the army. A train rammed its way through the human blockade, killing six people who lay on the track, and only then did the outraged crowd attack the train and set it afire.

It is not known what evidence existed against the three men, who appeared to be in their 20′s or perhaps early 30′s, or even exactly what role each was accused of having played in the incident. Nor have the authorities indicated how they caught the three, who were apparently arrested several days later rather than on the scene…

Soon after, people in Beijing, Shandong, Sichuan, Hebei, and Hubei were sentenced to death. Throughout the country, there were tens of thousands of detentions and arrests. Approximately one thousand people were executed, and many others were investigated and harassed. These people were additional victims of the June 4 Massacre.

References:

  • Jiang Qisheng (江棋生).  An Independent Report on the Situation of the June 4 Massacre Victims (1989年六四镇压受害者状况民间报告).   Released online by Human Rights in China (HRIC), 3 June 2010 and accessed at http://www.hrichina.org/content/406 on 20 June 2012.

The 21 “Most Wanted”: June 13, 1989 (a Tuesday)

A handcuffed man is led by Chinese soldiers on a street in Beijing on 14 June 1989 as the authorities looked to prosecute and punish anyone connected with the demonstrations.

On this date, the Beijing Public Security Bureau issued a list of 21 leaders of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests who were being sought for arrest, as reported by the New York Times on the following day:

The 21 students whose mug shots and biographical details were shown on television included the two most prominent leaders of the democracy movement, Wang Dan and Wuer Kaixi. Others shown on television were Chai Ling, the leader of the students occupying Tiananmen Square, and her husband, Feng Congde, and a 28-year-old graduate student, Liu Gang, who is said to have assisted the students from behind the scenes.

The television showed lengthy film clips of Mr. Wuer, apparently so that viewers could identify him and turn him in. The clips also showed the extent of Government surveillance of the student leaders; it seemed that three different video cameras were used to record one visit by Mr. Wuer on May 29 to a restaurant in a Beijing hotel. One camera was trained on him from above while he ate, another showed him leaving the restaurant, and a third caught him as he left the building.

From NYT’s description above, it is clear that Liu Gang’s significance in the movement was not understood by outsiders. Even most students were surprised seeing his name in the no. 3 slot, behind Wang Dan and Wuer Kaixi but ahead of Chai Ling.

This is the list of the 21 most wanted:

  1. Wang Dan (王丹) [3769 0030], male, 24 A native of Jilin. Student in the Department of History, Peking University. Approximately 1.73 metres tall. Has a pointed lower jaw, relatively thin hair, cavities on his front teeth, and relatively thin physical features. Wears glasses for myopia. Speaks with husky Peking accent.
  2. Wuer Kaixi (吾尔开希) [0702 1422 7030 1585], formerly known as Wuer Kaixi [0702 1422 0418 6007]. Male, born on 17th February 1968. Uygur nationality. A native of Yining County, Xinjiang Autonomous Region. Student of the 1988 class of the Education Department, Peking Normal University. Is 1.74 metres tall. Hair parted in the middle. Hair colour is yellowish. Has long face, big eyes, thick lips, relatively white skin, relatively rough voice. Speaks Putonghua. Regularly wears green military trousers.
  3. Liu Gang (刘刚) [0941 0474], male. A native of Liaoyuan city, Jilin. Former graduate student of the Department of Physics, Peking University, now unemployed. Approximately 1.65 meter’s tall. Has a square face, full beard, relatively long sideburns. Speaks with a north-eastern accent.
  4. Chai Ling (柴玲) [2693 3781], female. Born on 15th April 1966. Han nationality. A native of Rizhao city, Shandong. Graduate student of the 1986 class of the Department of Psychology, Peking Normal University. Is 1.56 meters tall. Has a round face, single-fold eyelids, high cheekbones, short hair and relatively white skin.
  5. Zhou Fengsuo (周锋锁) [0719 6912 6956], male. Born on 15th October 1967. Han nationality. A native of Changan county, Shaanxi Province. A student of the 1985 class of the Department of Physics, Qinghua University. Is 1.76 meters tall. Has a square face, pointed chin and quite heavy eyebrows.
  6. Zhai Weiming (翟伟民) [5049 0251 3046], originally called Zhai Weimin [5049 3634 3046]. Male, 21. A native of Xinan county, Henan Province. Student of Peking Economics College. Is 1.68 metres tall. Thin, has a long, oval face, crew cut, single-fold eyelids, relatively dark facial complexion. Speaks with quite a heavy Henan accent.
  7. Liang Qingtun (梁擎墩) [2733 2348 2557], alias Liang Zhaoren [2733 0340 0088], Male. Born on 11th May 1969. A native of Pengxi county, Sichuan Province. Student of the 1987 class of the Department of Psychology, Peking University. Is 1.71 metres tall. Has quite a thin physique and quite dark skin, a long squarish face, small eyes, high nose, quite thick lips. Can speak Putonghua.
  8. Wang Zhengyun (王正云) [3769 2973 0061], male, 21, of Kucong nationality. Address Lianfang village, Nanke town, Mengla district, Jinping county, Honghe prefecture, Yunnan Province. Student of the Central Institute for Nationalities. Height about 1.67 meters. Long, thin face, hair parted in the middle, dark brown complexion with freckles.
  9. Zheng Xuguang (郑旭光) [6774 2485 0342], male, 20. Native of Mixian county, Henan. Address 56 North Lane, Huancheng West Road, Xian city. Student of Peking Aeronautic and Astronautic University. Height 1.81 meters, weight 63 kg. Long, oval face, single-fold eyelids, a pointed chin, big ears.
  10. Ma Shaofang (馬少方) [7456 1421 2455], male, born in November, 1964. Native of Jiangdu city, Jiangsu Province. Student of the evening writing classes of Peking Film Academy. Height about 1.67 meters. On the thin side, long face, pointed chin, dark-skinned, wears glasses for myopia.
  11. Yang Tao (杨涛) [2799 3447], male, 19. Native of Fuzhou city, Fujian. History student of Peking University. Height about 1.70metres. On the thin side, high cheekbones, double-fold eyelids, wears glasses, speaks Putonghua.
  12. Wang Zhixin (王治新) [3769 3112 2450], male. Born in November 1967. Student of China University of Political Science and Law. Address Textile Industry School, Yuci City, Shanxi. Height 1.69 meters. Long hair, wears glasses.
  13. Feng Congde (封從德) [1409 1783 1795], male, 22. Native of Sichuan Province. Candidate of the Institute of Remote Sensing of Peking University. Height about 1.70 meters. On the thin side, dark-skinned.
  14. Wang Chaohua (王超华) [3769 6389 5478], female, 37. Graduate student of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Height about 1.63 meters. Rather thin, long face, dark brown complexion, triangular eyes, short hair.
  15. Wang Youcai (王有才) [3769 2589 2088], male. Born in June 1966. Native of Zhejiang Province. Graduate student of the Law Department of Peking University.
  16. Zhang Zhiqing (张志清) [1728 1807 3237], male. Born in June 1964. Native of Taiyuan city, Shangxi. Student of China Political Science and Law University.
  17. Zhang Boli (张伯笠) [1728 0130 4567], male, 26. Native of Wangkui county, Heilongjiang Province. Student of the writing class of Peking University. Height about 1.75 meters. A little overweight, round face, double-fold eyelid, upturned nose, thick lips. Speaks with a north-eastern accent.
  18. Li Lu (李禄) [2621 6922], male, about 20. Student of Nanjing University. Height about 1.74 meters. Middle type of figure, square chin, protruding lower teeth.
  19. Zhang Ming (张铭) [1728 6900], male. Born in April 1965. Native of Jilin city, Jilin Province. Student of the Automotive Engineering Department of Qinghua University.
  20. Xiong Wei (熊炜) [3574 3555], male. Born in July 1966. Native of Yingcheng county, Hubei Province. Student of the 1985 class of the Radio Engineering Department of Qinghua University. Address No 502, Unit 47, No 1 Mashengmiao, Haidian, Peking.
  21. Xiong Yan (熊焱) [3574 8746], male. Born in September 1964. Native of Shuangfeng county, Hunan Province. Graduate student of the Law Department of Peking University. Address Xingziceshui Hospital, Shuangfeng county, Hunan Province.

*The 21 Most Wanted*

As Liu Gang would later comment, almost all of the 21 had been, one way or another, involved with the Beijing Students Autonomous Federation he had founded.

June 11, 1989 (a Sunday)

The Chinese astrophysicist Fang Lizhi at home in Beijing, shortly before taking refuge at the US embassy during and after the Tiananmen Square crackdown, 1989.

On this day, in the wake of the June 4th crackdown on the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, China issued a warrant for a leading Chinese dissident who had taken refuge in the U.S. embassy in Beijing. The diplomatic standoff lasted for a year, and the refusal of the United States to hand the dissident over to Chinese officials was further evidence of American disapproval of China’s crackdown on political protesters.

The Chinese government used this brutal crackdown as a pretext for issuing an arrest warrant for Fang Lizhi, an internationally respected astrophysicist and leading Chinese dissident. Although Fang had not participated in the Tiananmen Square protests, he had been a consistent advocate of greater political democracy and a persistent critic of government policies.  On June 5, Fang and his wife, Li Shuxian, took refuge in the U.S. embassy.

In the June arrest warrant, Fang and his wife were charged with “committing crimes of counter-revolutionary propaganda and instigation.”  Chinese officials demanded that the American government hand over the pair, but the U.S. refused.  Fang and his wife remained in the U.S. embassy until June 25, 1990, when they were allowed by Chinese authorities to leave the embassy and board a U.S. Air Force C-135 transport plane to Britain.

During his time in the embassy, Fang wrote an essay entitled “The Chinese Amnesia”, criticizing the Chinese Communist Party’s repression of human rights and the outside world’s turning a blind eye to it. The entire essay (translated by Perry Link) was eventually published in The New York Review of Books on September 27, 1990. The following is a portion of it:

Excerpt from “The Chinese Amnesia” (1989)
By Fang Lizhi
(translated by Perry Link)

There seems to be no accurate count of all the books that have appeared about the Tiananmen events of the spring of 1989. But certainly they have been many. A friend at Columbia University recently wrote me that she and one of her Chinese colleagues, both of whom were eyewitnesses at Tiananmen, had originally planned to write a book about it. But publishers told them that so many Tiananmen books were already available that the market had become “saturated.” The two reluctantly dropped their plan. It seems that a new Tiananmen book, for now, can have only a modest circulation.

In my view, a large but “saturated” market is itself one of the most important consequences to emerge from the events at Tiananmen. It signals the failure of the “Technique of Forgetting History,” which has been an important device of rule by the Chinese Communists. I have lived under the Chinese Communist regime for four decades, and have had many opportunities to observe this technique at work. Its aim is to force the whole of society to forget its history, and especially the true history of the Chinese Communist party itself.

In 1957 Mao Zedong launched an “Anti-Rightist Movement” to purge intellectuals, and 500,000 people were persecuted. Some were killed, some killed themselves, and some were imprisoned or sent for “labor reform.” The lightest punishment was to be labeled a “Rightist.” This was called “wearing a cap” and meant that one had to bear a powerful stigma. I had just graduated from college that year, and also in that year was purged for the first time.

After the 1957 Anti-Rightist purge, what worried me most was not that I had been punished, or that free thought had been curtailed. At that time, I was still a believer, or semibeliever, in Marxism, and felt that the criticism of free thought, including my own free thought, was not entirely unreasonable. But what worried me, what I just couldn’t figure out, was why the Communist party in China would want to use such cruel methods against intellectuals who showed just a tiny bit (and some not even that) of independent thought. I had always assumed that the relationship between the Communist party and intellectuals, including intellectuals who had some independent views, was one of friendship–or at least not one of enmity.

Later I discovered that this worry of mine seemed ridiculous to teachers and friends who were ten or twenty years older than I. They laughed at my ignorance of history. They told me how, as early as 1942, before the Party had wrested control of the whole country, the same cruel methods against intellectuals were already being used at the Communist base in Yan’an. In college I had taken courses in Communist party history, and of course knew that in 1942 at Yan’an there had been a “rectification” movement aimed at “liberalism,” “individualism,” and other non-Marxist thought. But it was indeed true that I had had no idea that the methods of that “rectification” included “criticism and struggle”–which meant in practice forcing people to commit suicide, and even execution by beheading. People who had experienced the Yan’an “rectification” paled at the very mention of it. But fifteen years later my generation was completely ignorant of it. We deserved the ridicule we received.

After another thirteen years, in 1970, it became our turn to laugh at a younger generation. This was in the middle stage of the Cultural Revolution that took place between 1966 and 1976. In the early stage of the Cultural Revolution, Mao Zedong had used university students, many of whom supported him fanatically, to bring down his political opponents. But in the early 1970s these same students became the targets of attack. In 1970 all the students and teachers in the physics department of the Chinese University of Science and Technology were sent to a coal mine in Huainan, Anhui Province, for “re-education.” I was a lecturer in physics at the time. The movement to “criticize and struggle” against the students’ “counterrevolutionary words and deeds” reached its most intense point during the summer. Some students were “struggled”; others were locked up “for investigation”; a good number could not endure the torment of the vile political atmosphere and fell ill. One of my assignments was to pull a plank-cart (like a horse cart, but pulled by a human being) to transport the ill students. Of the group of forty-some students working in the same mine as I did, two were driven to suicide–one by jumping off a building, the other by lying in front of a train.

Most of these students, as innocent as I had been in 1957, never imagined that the Communist government could be so cruel in its treatment of students who had followed them so loyally. Later one of the students, who became my co-worker in astrophysical research (and who is now in the US), confided to me that he had had no knowledge whatever of the true history of the Anti-Rightist Movement. It was not until he was himself detained and interrogated that he slowly began to appreciate why some of the older people he knew lived in such fear of the phrase Anti-Rightist. The whole story of the main actors and issues had, for this generation, become a huge blank.

Fang’s assessment of the world’s indifference to the oppression of human rights in China was accurate, at least in the United States; the American media had rarely mentioned human rights violations in China since the Democracy Wall movement was crushed in 1979 and its leaders were thrown in jail. As reported in an article entitled “China News Blackout” (Summer, 1989), written by Martin A. Lee and published by FAIR, the national media watch group:

“Look at Wei Jingshen,” Deng Xiaoping said of a prominent Democracy Wall dissident (Progressive, 3/87). “We put him behind bars and the democracy movement died. We haven’t released him, but that did not raise much of an international uproar.”

Shortly after the suppression of the Democracy Wall movement, Deng introduced economic and legal reforms. “A wave of euphoria swept through U.S. government and press circles,” recalled Roberta Cohen, who served as deputy assistant secretary of state for human rights under Carter. “The enthusiasm for free-market initiatives and other reforms became the new rationale for turning a blind eye to the continuing repression in China.”

According to the State Department’s 1987 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, between 2 million and 5 million people languished in Chinese labor camps and prisons. New York Times correspondent Fox Butterfield reported on the existence of Chinese gulags when he was based in China in the early 1980s, but there wasn’t much follow-up in the U.S. press.

U.S. media remained tight-lipped when President Ronald Reagan approved sales of police equipment to China’s internal security force, expanded military ties and encouraged loans and investment despite serious human rights abuses by the Chinese government. The brutalization of Tibet and the relentless suppression of dissent in China were off the press agenda until late in Reagan’s second term. Meanwhile, according to Amnesty International, thousands of Chinese prisoners were being tortured, while others faced illegal arrests, unwarranted search and seizure, and other forms of harassment.

Journalists were outraged when Deng and company imposed harsh press restrictions during the Tiananmen crackdown in 1989, but U.S. reporters appear to have practiced a form of self-censorship with respect to Chinese human rights violations for nearly a decade. “American administrations yawned at reports of repression of basic freedoms in China…. So, much too often, did American journalism,” A.M. Rosenthal wrote in the New York Times (6/13/89) shortly after the massacre at Tiananmen Square.

Rosenthal’s complaint rings hollow, for it was during his tenure as New York Times executive editor that reporting on Chinese abuses virtually ceased. No news stories on China and human rights are listed in the Times index from 1984 through 1986. Ditto for Time magazine, which selected Deng Xiaoping as “Man of the Year” in 1985. Newsweek managed only one story on the subject for these three years.

The media silence was all the more deafening in light of what transpired in China during this period. Vice President George Bush visited the People’s Republic in 1985, but this provoked none of the concern for political prisoners that journalists displayed when U.S. officials met with Soviet leaders. And another round of student protests was put down in December 1986 by Deng Xiaoping, who stated at the time (Progressive, 3/87):”When necessary one must deal severely with those who defy orders. We can afford to shed some blood.” This is the man Bush hailed as a “forward-looking” leader.

In February 1989, more than one hundred Chinese security personnel had forcibly prevented Fang Lizhi from attending a banquet with President George Bush (the First), even though he had received a highly publicized invitation. And yet, Bush subsequently failed to raise the human rights issue with Chinese officials. The best he could muster was a statement of regret channeled though his spokesperson Marlin Fitzwater. In a case of too little, too late, editorials in major dailies chided Bush for not taking a tougher stand in Beijing (Miami Herald, 2/28/89; New York Times, 3/1/89).

Nevertheless, the Fang Lizhi incident indicated that feelings about what had occurred in Tiananmen Square ran high, both in the United States and China; it seemed America had finally taken notice.

June 9, 1989 (a Friday)

The United States has blamed us for suppressing the students. But didn’t the U.S. itself call out police and troops to deal with student strikes and disturbances, and didn’t that lead to arrests and bloodshed? It suppressed the students and the people, while we put down a counter-revolutionary rebellion.  What right has it to criticize us?

— Deng Xiaoping, June 9, 1989, comment to officers of troops enforcing martial law in Beijing after the Tiananmen events on 4 June.

Zen stones

Tiananmen. Nothing happened, according to the Chinese Communist Party.

On this date, less than a week after the Tiananmen Square protests were crushed on 4 June, Deng Xiaoping, chairman of the Central Military Commission and China’s foremost leader, delivered an address in Beijing to military commanders. The address, which was first reported in Chinese newspapers in Hong Kong and the United States, emerged as a key document setting out the party line in the crackdown on the pro-democracy movement. He stated that the government had suppressed a “counterrevolutionary rebellion . . . determined by the international and domestic climate” where the “dregs of society” had sought to “establish a bourgeois republic entirely dependent on the West.”

Chinese senior leader Deng Xiaoping, left, shakes hands with officers of the People's Liberation Army in Beijing June 9, 1987 while former President Li Xiannian, left, looks on.

An official publication issued by the Chinese authorities in 1990 about the “riots,” The Truth About the Beijing Turmoil, claimed that 6,000 troops had been injured and “scores” had been killed. The book said that 3,000 civilians were wounded, and over 200, including 36 university students, had died. These casualties occurred when troops “counter-attacked,” it states, and “some rioters were killed, some onlookers were hit by stray bullets and some wounded or killed by armed ruffians.” How this could have happened when soldiers only “fired into the air” as it claims was left unexplained.

More recent commentators have made much of the fact that the party leadership generally now refers to the events of that year as a “political incident” rather than the more harsh-sounding “counterrevolutionary rebellion.” But the denial of extensive loss of life among ordinary people in the official version, dubbed “the big lie” by many observers, has not been revised, even to a small extent. The attempt to impose collective amnesia is encouraged by a deafening silence on the matter in the Chinese media.

June 5, 1989 (a Monday)

A Beijing demonstrator blocks the path of a tank convoy along the Avenue of Eternal Peace near Tiananmen Square.

On this date, one day after the 27th and 28th Armies of the People’s Liberation Army brutally crushed the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing, a single, unarmed young man stood his ground before a column of tanks on Chang’an Boulevard (Avenue of Eternal Peace) in front of the Beijing Hotel. Captured on film and video by Western journalists, this extraordinary confrontation became an icon of the struggle for freedom around the world.

Photo taken on June 5, 1989

About midday, as a column of tanks slowly moved east along Chang’an Boulevard toward Tiananmen Square, an unarmed young man carrying shopping bags stood defiantly in front of the approaching tanks. Instead of running over him, the first tank tried to go around, but the young man stepped in front of it again. They repeated this maneuver several more times before the tank stopped and turned off its motor. The young man climbed on top of the tank and spoke to the driver before jumping back down again. Soon, the young man was whisked to the side of the road by an unidentified group of people and disappeared into the crowd.
_________________________________________________________
_________________________________________________________

To this day, who he was and what became of him remains a mystery. He is known simply as the “Tank Man,” or the “Unknown Rebel.”

Yet, the struggle for freedom in the People’s Republic of China continues today.

June 4, 1989 (a Sunday)

A dissident student asks soldiers to go back home; photo taken on June 3, 1989.

On June 3, as word spread that hundreds of thousands of troops were approaching from all four corners of the city, citizens of Beijing, China, flooded the streets to block them, as they had done two weeks earlier. People set up barricades at every major intersection. At about 10:30 p.m., near the Muxidi apartment buildings — home to high-level Party officials and their families — the citizens became aggressive as the army tried to break through their barricades. They yelled at the soldiers and some threw rocks; someone set a bus on fire. The soldiers began firing on the unarmed civilians with AK-47s loaded with battlefield ammunition. Human rights observer Timothy Brook recalled:

Forget to forget today.

The first rounds of fire catch everybody by surprise. The people in the streets don’t expect this to happen. There are a couple of hospitals right near Muxidi, and the casualties start showing up within 10 or 15 minutes of the first round of gunfire. The casualties run very high because people didn’t expect to be shot at with live ammunition. When they start firing, people say, “Oh, it’s rubber bullets.” Even after it becomes clear, even after they realize that the army is going to go ahead at any cost, people still pour into the streets. This is the amazing thing: People were just so angry, so furious at what was happening in their city that they were not going to step back and let the army do what it was doing. This is why the casualties from Muxidi on east towards Tiananmen Square were so high. This is the major military confrontation of the evening.

__________________________________________________
__________________________________________________

The attack continued into the early morning hours of June 4. The wounded were taken to nearby hospitals on bicycles and pull-carts, but the hospital staff were unequipped to deal with the severe wounds. Muxidi saw the highest casualties of the night; an untold number of people were killed. Reporters and Western diplomats on the scene estimated that at least 300, and perhaps thousands, of the protesters had been killed and as many as 10,000 were arrested. You can see more historic photographs by clicking here and here.

Ten armed soldiers beating a student to death in Tiananmen Square during the massacre (6-4).

On the night of June 3, Liao Yiwu was home in the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan. The news of the brutal suppression of the students’ pro-democracy movement shocked him to the very core. Overnight, Liao composed a long poem, “Massacre,” which portrayed, with stark imagery, the killing of innocent students and residents as vividly as Picasso depicted the Nazi massacre in the town of Guernica.

Without any chance of having his poem published in China, Liao made an audiotape of himself reciting “Massacre,” using Chinese ritualistic chanting and howling to invoke the spirit of the dead. The tape recording was widely circulated via underground channels in China.

Excerpt from “Massacre
By Liao Yiwu
(translated by Wen Huang)

Dedicated to those who were killed on June 4, 1989

A massacre is happening
In this nation of Utopia
Where the Prime Minister catches a cold
The masses have to sneeze to follow
Martial law is declared and enforced
The aging toothless state machine is rolling over
Those who dare to resist and refuse to sneeze
Fallen by the thousands are the barehanded and unarmed
Armored assassins are swimming in blood
Setting fire to houses with windows and doors locked
Polish your military boots with the skirt of a slain girl
Boot owners don’t even tremble
Robots without hearts never tremble
Their brain is programmed with one process
A flawed command
Represent the nation to dismember the constitution
Represent the constitution to slaughter justice
Represent the mothers to suffocate the children
Represent children to sodomize the fathers
Represent the wives to murder the husbands
Represent the citizens to bomb the city
Open fire, open fire, open fire
Shoot women, students and children
Shoot workers, teachers and venders
Riddle them with bullets
Aiming at those angry faces, shocking faces, contorted faces, despondent faces and tranquil faces
Shoot with abandon
The fleeting beauty of those faces moving toward you like tidal waves
The eternal beauty of those faces heading toward heaven and hell
The beauty of turning humans into beasts
The beauty of seducing, raping and trampling on your fellow citizens
Eliminate beauty
Wipe out the flowers, forest, school campuses, love, and the pure air
Shoot, shoot and shoot…
I feel good and I feel high
Blow up that head
Burn up the hair and the skin
Let the brain erupt
Let the soul gush out
Splash on the bridge, the fence and the street
Splash toward the sky
Blood turned into stars and stars are running
Heaven and earth have turned upside down
Shiny helmets are like stars
Troops are running out of the moon
Shoot, Shoot, Shoot
Humans and stars are falling and running
Indistinguishable, which are humans and which are stars
Troops followed them into the cloud, into cracks on the ground …

We live under bright sunlight
But we have lost our eyesight
We find ourselves on a street, so wide
But no one can take a stride
We stand in a crowd, supposed to be loud
But people open their mouth without sound
We are tortured with thirst
But everyone refuses water.

This unprecedented massacre
Survivors are those bastards.

Map of Beijing showing where some of the victims died

Massacre Map Index

The savagery of the Chinese government’s attack shocked both its allies and Cold War enemies. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev declared that he was saddened by the events in China. He said he hoped that the government would adopt his own domestic reform program and begin to democratize the Chinese political system. In the United States, editorialists and members of Congress denounced the Tiananmen Square crackdown and pressed for President Bush the First to punish the Chinese government. A little more than three weeks later, the U.S. Congress voted to impose economic sanctions against the People’s Republic of China in response to the brutal violation of human rights.

4 am, 4 June 1989, Tiananmen Square. Soldiers rushed out of the Great Hall of the People, with guns pointed towards students under the Hero's Memorial. They fired as they pushed forward. In this picture the flash out of the muzzle of one soldier's weapon is clearly visible. Professor Ding Zilin collected two more names of students who perished that night in the Tiananmen Square.

Obstinately, the People’s Republic of China continues to deny the facts. “There were no deaths in the square,” according to a deceptive article that was published in the People’s Daily on September 19, 1989.

James Miles — who was the BBC’s Beijing correspondent at the time of the Tiananmen Square events — wrote an article dated 2 June 2009 entitled “Tiananmen killings: Were the media right?“, noting that:

We got the story generally right, but on one detail I and others conveyed the wrong impression. There was no massacre on Tiananmen Square.

(. . .)

Evidence of a massacre having occurred in Beijing was incontrovertible. Numerous foreign journalists saw it from widely scattered vantage points.

On the morning of 4 June, reporters in the Beijing Hotel close to the square saw troops open fire indiscriminately at unarmed citizens on Chang’an Boulevard who were too far away from the soldiers to pose any real threat. Thirty or 40 bodies lay, apparently lifeless, on the road afterwards. That scene outside the Beijing Hotel alone justified the use of the word massacre. But the students who had told me and other journalists of a bloodbath on the square proved mistaken.

Protesters who were still in the square when the army reached it were allowed to leave after negotiations with martial law troops (Only a handful of journalists were on hand to witness this moment – I, like most others at the time, had spent the night in various different parts of the city monitoring the army’s bloody advance). A few of the students were crushed by armoured vehicles some distance from the square after the retreat. There were credible reports of several citizens being shot dead during the night on the outer perimeter of the square, but in places which strictly speaking could be said to be outside the square itself. But we are far less certain of killings on Tiananmen proper. There were probably few, if any.

(. . .)

The Chinese government was quick to exploit the weaknesses in our reporting. By focusing on what happened in the square itself, it began sowing seeds of doubt about the general accuracy of Western reports among Chinese who did not witness what happened. At first this made little difference, since most Beijing residents at least had friends of friends who had seen for themselves that there had been a massacre, even if not in the square. But as the years passed, a new generation emerged with few eyewitness accounts to cling to.

(. . .)

[Today, it] is not uncommon to find Chinese who believe the Communist Party’s fiction that there was a riot in Beijing on 3 June that warranted intervention. Rioting did occur, but involving angry residents outraged by the army’s brutal entry into the city.

(. . .)

There was no Tiananmen Square massacre, but there was a Beijing massacre. [emphasis added]

___________________________________________________
Hu Ping explains the implications of June 4th, 1989 for the world:

___________________________________________________

Suggested reading:

  • Tiananmen Papers– Andrew Nathan and Perry Link
  • Mandate of Heaven– Orville Schell
  • Almost a Revolution– Shen Tong
  • Disco’s and Democracy– Orville Schell
  • Moving the Mountain– Li Lu
  • Black hands of Beijing– George Black Robin Munro
  • Children of the Dragon– Human Rights in China
  • Bring down the Great Wall – Fang Lizhi
  • The Power of Tiananmen– Dingxin Zhou
  • Beijing Spring– David and Peter Turnley
  • Prisoner of the State– Zhao Ziyang
  • Quelling the People– Timothy Brook
  • Escape from China– Zhang Boli
  • A glossy propaganda book published by the Chinese Government called The Truth about the Beijing Turmoil

Videos about Tiananmen Square:

  • The Gate of Heavenly Peace – documentary
  • Moving the Mountain– Movie
  • Tank Man– PBS documentary
  • Democracy Crushed, Tiananmen Square– The History Channel
  • Tiananmen Declassified– The History Channel

Reflections on Tiananmen Square, 20 years later

Dead civilian bodies in the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square Protests Massacre, 4 June 1989.

The following is from an article published on 30 May 2009 in the New York Times that was written about Tiananmen by Yu Hua, a Chinese author who was there in 1989:

This is the first time I am writing about Tiananmen Square. I am telling my story now because 20 years later — the anniversary is June 4 — two facts have become more apparent. The first is that the Tiananmen pro-democracy protests amounted to a one-time release of the Chinese people’s political passions, later replaced by a zeal for making money. The second is that after the summer of 1989 the incident vanished from the Chinese news media. As a result, few young Chinese know anything about it.

But most important of all, I realize now that the spring of 1989 was the only time I fully understood the words “the people.” Those words have little meaning in China today.

“The people,” or renmin, is one of the first phrases I learned to read and write. I knew our country was called “the People’s Republic of China.” Chairman Mao told us to “serve the people.” The most important paper was People’s Daily. “Since 1949, the people are the masters,” we learned to say.

A rickshaw driver ferries two dying students on the morning of June 4, 1989.

In China today, it seems only officials have “the people” on their lips. New vocabulary has sprouted up — netizens, stock traders, fund holders, celebrity fans, migrant laborers and so on — slicing into smaller pieces the already faded concept of “the people.”

But in 1989, my 30th year, those words were not just an empty phrase.

Protests were spreading across the country, and in Beijing, where I was studying, the police suddenly disappeared from the streets. You could take the subway or a bus without paying, and everyone was smiling at one another. Hard-nosed street vendors handed out free refreshments to protesters. Retirees donated their meager savings to the hunger strikers in the square. As a show of support for the students, pickpockets called a moratorium.

China is a nation where over a billion people don’t have basic political freedoms and human rights. This denial of basic rights was maintained by the murder of Chinese citizens by the Chinese government. These are the defining facts of modern China.

June 3, 1989 (a Saturday)

A dissident student asks soldiers to go back home; photo taken on June 3, 1989.

On June 3, as word spread that hundreds of thousands of troops were approaching from all four corners of the city, citizens of Beijing, China, flooded the streets to block them, as they had done two weeks earlier. People set up barricades at every major intersection. At about 10:30 p.m., near the Muxidi apartment buildings — home to high-level Party officials and their families — the citizens became aggressive as the army tried to break through their barricades. They yelled at the soldiers and some threw rocks; someone set a bus on fire. The soldiers began firing on the unarmed civilians with AK-47s loaded with battlefield ammunition. Human rights observer Timothy Brook recalled:

Forget to forget today.

The first rounds of fire catch everybody by surprise. The people in the streets don’t expect this to happen. There are a couple of hospitals right near Muxidi, and the casualties start showing up within 10 or 15 minutes of the first round of gunfire. The casualties run very high because people didn’t expect to be shot at with live ammunition. When they start firing, people say, “Oh, it’s rubber bullets.” Even after it becomes clear, even after they realize that the army is going to go ahead at any cost, people still pour into the streets. This is the amazing thing: People were just so angry, so furious at what was happening in their city that they were not going to step back and let the army do what it was doing. This is why the casualties from Muxidi on east towards Tiananmen Square were so high. This is the major military confrontation of the evening.

__________________________________________________
__________________________________________________

The attack continued into the early morning hours of June 4. The wounded were taken to nearby hospitals on bicycles and pull-carts, but the hospital staff were unequipped to deal with the severe wounds. Muxidi saw the highest casualties of the night; an untold number of people were killed. Reporters and Western diplomats on the scene estimated that at least 300, and perhaps thousands, of the protesters had been killed and as many as 10,000 were arrested. You can see more historic photographs by clicking here and here.

Ten armed soldiers beating a student to death in Tiananmen Square during the massacre (6-4).

On the night of June 3, Liao Yiwu was home in the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan. The news of the brutal suppression of the students’ pro-democracy movement shocked him to the very core. Overnight, Liao composed a long poem, “Massacre,” which portrayed, with stark imagery, the killing of innocent students and residents as vividly as Picasso depicted the Nazi massacre in the town of Guernica.

Without any chance of having his poem published in China, Liao made an audiotape of himself reciting “Massacre,” using Chinese ritualistic chanting and howling to invoke the spirit of the dead. The tape recording was widely circulated via underground channels in China.

Excerpt from “Massacre
By Liao Yiwu
(translated by Wen Huang)

Dedicated to those who were killed on June 4, 1989

A massacre is happening
In this nation of Utopia
Where the Prime Minister catches a cold
The masses have to sneeze to follow
Martial law is declared and enforced
The aging toothless state machine is rolling over
Those who dare to resist and refuse to sneeze
Fallen by the thousands are the barehanded and unarmed
Armored assassins are swimming in blood
Setting fire to houses with windows and doors locked
Polish your military boots with the skirt of a slain girl
Boot owners don’t even tremble
Robots without hearts never tremble
Their brain is programmed with one process
A flawed command
Represent the nation to dismember the constitution
Represent the constitution to slaughter justice
Represent the mothers to suffocate the children
Represent children to sodomize the fathers
Represent the wives to murder the husbands
Represent the citizens to bomb the city
Open fire, open fire, open fire
Shoot women, students and children
Shoot workers, teachers and venders
Riddle them with bullets
Aiming at those angry faces, shocking faces, contorted faces, despondent faces and tranquil faces
Shoot with abandon
The fleeting beauty of those faces moving toward you like tidal waves
The eternal beauty of those faces heading toward heaven and hell
The beauty of turning humans into beasts
The beauty of seducing, raping and trampling on your fellow citizens
Eliminate beauty
Wipe out the flowers, forest, school campuses, love, and the pure air
Shoot, shoot and shoot…
I feel good and I feel high
Blow up that head
Burn up the hair and the skin
Let the brain erupt
Let the soul gush out
Splash on the bridge, the fence and the street
Splash toward the sky
Blood turned into stars and stars are running
Heaven and earth have turned upside down
Shiny helmets are like stars
Troops are running out of the moon
Shoot, Shoot, Shoot
Humans and stars are falling and running
Indistinguishable, which are humans and which are stars
Troops followed them into the cloud, into cracks on the ground …

We live under bright sunlight
But we have lost our eyesight
We find ourselves on a street, so wide
But no one can take a stride
We stand in a crowd, supposed to be loud
But people open their mouth without sound
We are tortured with thirst
But everyone refuses water.

This unprecedented massacre
Survivors are those bastards.

Map of Beijing showing where some of the victims died

Massacre Map Index

The savagery of the Chinese government’s attack shocked both its allies and Cold War enemies. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev declared that he was saddened by the events in China. He said he hoped that the government would adopt his own domestic reform program and begin to democratize the Chinese political system. In the United States, editorialists and members of Congress denounced the Tiananmen Square crackdown and pressed for President Bush the First to punish the Chinese government. A little more than three weeks later, the U.S. Congress voted to impose economic sanctions against the People’s Republic of China in response to the brutal violation of human rights.

4 am, 4 June 1989, Tiananmen Square. Soldiers rushed out of the Great Hall of the People, with guns pointed towards students under the Hero's Memorial. They fired as they pushed forward. In this picture the flash out of the muzzle of one soldier's weapon is clearly visible. Professor Ding Zilin collected two more names of students who perished that night in the Tiananmen Square.

Obstinately, the  People’s Republic of China continues to deny the facts. “There were no deaths in the square,” according to a deceptive article that was published in the People’s Daily on September 19, 1989.

James Miles — who was the BBC’s Beijing correspondent at the time of the Tiananmen Square events — wrote an article dated 2 June 2009 entitled “Tiananmen killings: Were the media right?“, noting that:

We got the story generally right, but on one detail I and others conveyed the wrong impression. There was no massacre on Tiananmen Square.

(. . .)

Evidence of a massacre having occurred in Beijing was incontrovertible. Numerous foreign journalists saw it from widely scattered vantage points.

On the morning of 4 June, reporters in the Beijing Hotel close to the square saw troops open fire indiscriminately at unarmed citizens on Chang’an Boulevard who were too far away from the soldiers to pose any real threat. Thirty or 40 bodies lay, apparently lifeless, on the road afterwards. That scene outside the Beijing Hotel alone justified the use of the word massacre. But the students who had told me and other journalists of a bloodbath on the square proved mistaken.

Protesters who were still in the square when the army reached it were allowed to leave after negotiations with martial law troops (Only a handful of journalists were on hand to witness this moment – I, like most others at the time, had spent the night in various different parts of the city monitoring the army’s bloody advance). A few of the students were crushed by armoured vehicles some distance from the square after the retreat. There were credible reports of several citizens being shot dead during the night on the outer perimeter of the square, but in places which strictly speaking could be said to be outside the square itself. But we are far less certain of killings on Tiananmen proper. There were probably few, if any.

(. . .)

The Chinese government was quick to exploit the weaknesses in our reporting. By focusing on what happened in the square itself, it began sowing seeds of doubt about the general accuracy of Western reports among Chinese who did not witness what happened. At first this made little difference, since most Beijing residents at least had friends of friends who had seen for themselves that there had been a massacre, even if not in the square. But as the years passed, a new generation emerged with few eyewitness accounts to cling to.

(. . .)

[Today, it] is not uncommon to find Chinese who believe the Communist Party’s fiction that there was a riot in Beijing on 3 June that warranted intervention. Rioting did occur, but involving angry residents outraged by the army’s brutal entry into the city.

(. . .)

There was no Tiananmen Square massacre, but there was a Beijing massacre. [emphasis added]

___________________________________________________
Hu Ping explains the implications of June 4th, 1989 for the world:

___________________________________________________

Suggested reading:

  • Tiananmen Papers– Andrew Nathan and Perry Link
  • Mandate of Heaven– Orville Schell
  • Almost a Revolution– Shen Tong
  • Disco’s and Democracy– Orville Schell
  • Moving the Mountain– Li Lu
  • Black hands of Beijing– George Black Robin Munro
  • Children of the Dragon– Human Rights in China
  • Bring down the Great Wall – Fang Lizhi
  • The Power of Tiananmen– Dingxin Zhou
  • Beijing Spring– David and Peter Turnley
  • Prisoner of the State– Zhao Ziyang
  • Quelling the People– Timothy Brook
  • Escape from China– Zhang Boli
  • A glossy propaganda book published by the Chinese Government called The Truth about the Beijing Turmoil

Videos about Tiananmen Square:

  • The Gate of Heavenly Peace – documentary
  • Moving the Mountain– Movie
  • Tank Man– PBS documentary
  • Democracy Crushed, Tiananmen Square– The History Channel
  • Tiananmen Declassified– The History Channel