Twenty years since Tiananmen

The Tiananmen Square Massacre -- in which pro-democracy dissidents were forcibly removed from a public square in Beijing after several weeks of peaceful protest -- took place on June 4, 1989. A number of websites are commemorating the anniversary.

Three Percent has posted part of the prison memoir of Liao Yiwu, who composed a famous poem, “Massacre,” condemning the government’s actions. (Translated excerpts of the poem are included in this piece by Bill Marx, written for PRI's “The World.”) He distributed the poem underground and was arrested.

Liao’s memoir was translated by Wen Huang (the recipient of a grant from the PEN Translation Fund), who also translated Liao's amazing, Studs Terkel-inspired book, The Corpse Walker: Real Life Stories of China from the Bottom Up, which has recently come out in paperback. Portions of The Corpse Walker appeared in The Paris Review, which has also posted the speech Liao planned to deliver at a gathering in 2007 of the Independent Chinese PEN Center, accepting their Freedom to Write Award. He was detained en route; another award recipient and one of the event's organizers were placed under house arrest. The event was canceled.

Wen Huang has also translated Liao’s interview with Wu Wenjian -- a painter who, as a nineteen-year-old, denounced the violence of June 4, and then served seven years in prison -- and an excerpt from the prison memoir of Wang Dan, another student protester arrested once after the Tiananmen Square protests and again in 1995 for “conspiring to overthrow the Communist Party.” Those translations are both available at Words Without Borders.

Wang Dan is quoted in this report from The New York Times about the surrender yesterday of Wu’er Kaixi, a leader of the Tiananmen Square protests, after two decades in exile. “His action is kind of an expression of anger and protest,” Wang Dan says. “Maybe this is his only way to return to China. For all of us, this is the only way.”

The New Republic has collected some of their reporting both from 1989 and from the lead-up to the Summer Olympics in Beijing, when they compiled profiles of Chinese dissidents. That was also when PEN launched its China Campaign, which is ongoing, and which you can read about here. You can sign the petition to free Liu Xiaobo, co-author of a manifesto calling for greater freedoms and democracy in China, here.

And you can see some amazing photos from the gathering in Tiananmen here.

Update: Hua Hsu, blogging for The Atlantic Monthly, notes the closing of blogs and the disbarring of lawyers just in time for the anniversary -- and also links to this alternate history in which the democracy movement of 1989 prevails.


King Wenclas said...

Events have shown the established literary world in the U.S. to be as closed as the one in China.
How long can the hyypocrisy go on?

King Wenclas said...

An excerpt from my main blog,

We've seen how the people at PEN American Center handle dissidence in the U.S. They don't! They turn their backs on it.

Which is what makes PEN's recent award to Chinese dissident writer Liu Xiaobo so hypocritical. If PEN staff and officers were in China, they'd be members of the one-viewpoint literary system there. They would be part of the bureaucratic monolith treating him like a pariah for speaking uncomfortable truths. Can there be any doubt of this? (The writer-bureaucrats might even refer to him in a derogatory way as "a smelly bum.")

If none of them will speak up for a milder dissident here, and risk possible smudge on their career, in a less authoritarian system, why would anyone believe these conformists would speak up about ANYTHING if they were approved writers in China? The idea is absurd.

Anonymous said...

tanks your info

mentor said...

I wonder if this story has been included as best in world literature