June 4, 2009 is the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen
Massacre. For those of us who either witnessed it in person or through
television and news report, what happened have left an indelible memory.
When reporters went with President Nixon to China in 1972, they dutifully
reported on how the Chinese people celebrated the Chinese Communist Party as if
the Chinese were merely ants willingly give of themselves to the glorification
of the State. The pro-democracy movement in the spring of 1989 found the
Chinese people discovering their courage to tell the truth of how they really
felt about their government and shattered the myth so fervently believed by so
many westerners - that the utopia of communism can be found in the Chinese
people for these westerners wanted to believe that the Chinese are different
from you and I.
Perhaps no westerner
has been more influential in perpetuating such a myth than Edgar Snow, who
visited China during the height of the Great Famine and reported that there was
no famine. In fact, over 30 million people died during the famine of
1958-1962; it was the biggest man-made famine in the history of mankind.
Edgar Snow did not live to see the 1989 pro-democracy movement but his widow
did. When his widow tried to visit Ding Zilin, the founder of Tianamen
Mothers, in 2000, she was prevented from doing so. It was only when she
found herself being treated like a suspected dissident, that Mrs. Snow finally
stopped being a collaborator of the myth.
The blood of Tiananmen became a
salvation for the people in Eastern Europe. For on July 7, 1989, in the
Romanian capital Bucharest, Gorbachev signaled to the Eastern bloc leaders
that the Soviet Union would not use force to interfere with reform. Aware
of worldwide condemnation of the PRC, Gorbachev did not want another Tiananmen
Just as the Tiananmen
students began by asking for an end to corruption, the demonstrators in East
Germany asked for the freedom to travel. The Tiananmen students showed the
world the power of peaceful demonstration and the citizens of the Eastern bloc
took notice. By November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall fell.
We remember the dream, we remember the
hope, we remember that time in the Spring of 1989 when the Chinese people, led
by the students gave each other a gift, the gift of freedom, the freedom from
May the memories of Tiananmen
Spring live and will one day flourish.
Chair, Visual Artists Guild