By tuck 04 Jun 2002
i remember my parents explaining to me what happened on June 4th in Tiananmen Square after the american media began its typical frenzy of spitting emotional content directly onto our tv room carpets. students were murdered for protesting the same government which murdered them. some foreign reporters at the time said hundreds of people died. but of course, they were mostly running away from bullets, so couldnt really see. i remember my history teacher in high school, Ms. Vadebonceur (we got extra points on tests if we could spell her name correctly) a product of Colby College (a liberal arts school very similar to Bates, and also in Maine) spending an entire eerie class discussing Chinese lunacy. she had the Tiananmen Square death toll at a couple thousand at least. the following year when i was in India, my roommate, Lima, who was from a small northeastern state called Nagaland, was terrified of the chinese (for reasons which would take too long to explain here) and explained how in India, the Tiananmen Square body count was said to be as high as 10,000. i was also told in history class there (this was 1996, during the first real China-Taiwan showdown, so we were covering China pretty well) that pro-democracy advocates all over the country were killed that day, not just in Beijing. The official Chinese report on the matter was that there was only a small handful of casualties.
<p>its hard to know what to think, or, as the chinese government would prefer, whether to think about it at all. china has made so much progress since then; people can now wear shoulder-exposing shirts, they can joke about politicians without getting thrown in jail (usually, anyway). but a few months ago something happened that really bothered me: i was reminded that according to the chinese govt, Tiananmen never happened. a chinese highschool student friend of mine doesnt know anything about June 4, 1989. he asked: was there an accident or something? somethings wrong there; the unacknowledged massacre haunts my optimism. it was only 13 years ago, yet it seems completely forgotten. is the Party actually capable of erasing history? as i sit here typing, on this 13th anniversary of the murders, the entire country is watching their team play Costa Rica in the world cup of soccer. the only massacre on their minds is one of sports victory. maybe they have the right idea: just move on. maybe theyre now conditioned to feel like being heard is hopeless, and that no amount of speaking out and the resulting jailings will change the iron fist rule of this still corrupt and oppressive and usually ridiculous government. by thinking back to 6-4-89 im cursed with brain-numbing frustration. the fact that the government still lies about the reality of what happened, that it tried to kill off anyone who saw anything, including bystanders and people watching from high-rise windows, that it even had police guards at the graves of the victims each june 4th for years after to prevent anyone from mourning them, that it boarded up the Square on the 10 year anniversary of the murders claiming it was under construction (police guards quickly informed anders and i that taking pictures or even peeking at the merely under construction site was illegal, for some reason)… it all makes me remember that even though the country is seeing some money, looking a bit better, and filled with more smiles, i must never mistake this new atmosphere for political freedom. this country is still an iron-fisted authoritarian regime, and the authority of the Communist Party is not to be questioned in any way, ever. unless, of course, you want to spend 8 years in reform camp or be shot in the back of the head.</p> <p>move on, or remember? moving on is easy when you see the progress which has been made, but hard when you remember that those killed were students like us, asking to be heard. theyre still dead of course, mostly unremembered, many with bullet holes in their backs from running away, terrified and shocked that the long trusted <span class="caps">PLA</span> would actually shoot them, their own people, for trying to initiate positive change.</p>