The Weeks before June 4, 1989

Wu Renhua (吴仁华) is a former China University of Political Science and Law professor with classical literature as a major. According to a VoA article of May 30, 2010, he belonged to one of the last groups who left Tian An Men Square, in 1989. He first went to Hong Kong during the 6-4 aftermath, and then into American exile. He is the author of two books on the Tian An Men crackdown. From April 15 to June 9, 2011, he kept kind of a “today-in-history” diary  on his Twitter microblog, recording once again the run-up to the massacre on June 4. Later, he turned the single posts into one document.

June 4 isn’t too much of a topic in Western media these days. Obviously, every year when the anniversary approaches, arrives, and passes, there will be some coverage on commemorative sessions planned in mainland China (usually, the state security and censorship make sure that they either don’t happen, or don’t become public), and on events like the annual candellight vigil in Hong Kong’s Victoria Park. But the stories told among Chinese people in their own language, among dissidents, relatives of those killed or injured on June 4, those who take a general interest in the past, and among Chinese people outside mainland China, go beyond Western news articles.

At the same time, the June-4 massacre as remembered on such occasions is only one narrative among many. If there is an official side of the story at all, i. e. one authored by the Chinese Communist Party, it is one mainly for foreigners’ consumption, published by state-controlled media like the English-language “Global Times” edition, or a narrative advocated by Chinese or non-Chinese people who view the massacre as an essential atrocity “to keep China stable”. As C. A. Yeung, a blogger and activist, put it in an interview in October last year:

[T]the so-called pro-democracy faction among overseas Chinese community worldwide has been more or less discredited. The world is now more eager to see a stable China than before the 2008 financial meltdown, to the extent that many world leaders are willing to overlook some rather obvious human rights violations that are happening in China.

Differences with other emerging schools don’t seem to have discouraged June-4 veterans like Wu. According to a Human Rights in China quote from him in 2009, June 4 wasn’t only a major event in Chinese history, but also caused the turn of events in the Soviet Union  and its satellite states, and in all of humankind’s 20th-century history.

If this holds water in a historian’s view isn’t for JR to decide. For sure, the June-4 1989 events preceded similar events in a number of Central and Eastern Europe, later that same year.

Diane Gatterdam has started a series of posts on Under the Jacaranda, about  the weeks leading up to June 4, in 1989. Her posts can be accessed in a row under this tag. I’ll keep reading there and posting here, in a complementary way, to quite an extent, but not necessarily exclusively, translating from Wu Renhua’s recollections.

The approach may not satisfy a historian’s standards, but I am no historian, and one has to start with something. The most important thing is that June 4 and those who hoped until that day, and lost during that night – their hopes, their health, or their lives – are remembered, until historians can freely get to work in China.

Continued here »



» Cultural Revolutions Great and Small, April 1, 2012


4 Responses to “The Weeks before June 4, 1989”

  1. Thanks JR, much appreciated. I’ve posted links at Twitter. And will do so at G+ as well.



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