News / Asia

    Q&A with Rowena He: Remembering the Tiananmen Crackdown

    FILE: Hundreds of thousands of people, seeking political and economic reforms, crowded Beijing’s central Tiananmen Square May 17, 1989, in the biggest popular upheaval in China since the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s.
    FILE: Hundreds of thousands of people, seeking political and economic reforms, crowded Beijing’s central Tiananmen Square May 17, 1989, in the biggest popular upheaval in China since the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s.
    Sarah Williams
    Among the new books concentrating on the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989 is Tiananmen Exiles: Voices of the Struggle for Democracy in China by Rowena He. She is now a lecturer at Harvard University, but was a high school student in Guangzhou in 1989. 
     
    He interviewed three leaders of the protest movement: Wang Dan, Shen Tong and Yi Danxuan who are now exiled from China. The interviews were the basis of her doctoral dissertation, but she expanded the book to include the remembrances of four others, including herself.  He spoke with VOA’s Sarah Williams about her own recollections of the tumultuous events.
     
    Q&A with Rowena He: Remembering the Tiananmen Crackdown
    Q&A with Rowena He: Remembering the Tiananmen Crackdowni
    || 0:00:00
    ...    
     
    X

    HE: When I say a witness, I was not in Tiananmen Square, that’s another point I try to make in the book. I think the whole world’s image about the Tiananmen movement was in Tiananmen Square, it sounds like that’s the case, but it’s a nationwide movement, it happened in all major cities across the country in 1989.
     
    And the second point I want to make is not just about the top, high profile leaders. There were many people who were affected by that event, not just a small potato like me. I was just a teenager, what do I know? But I think that those extraordinary days that happened in contemporary Chinese history as a watershed really changed the Chinese society and many people’s lives like mine.
     
    WILLIAMS: One of those people that you interviewed for this book, Wang Dan, was a top leader of this movement.
     
    HE: Exactly, he was number one on the 21 most wanted list. And if you have read my book, you noticed, I did not just interview him. I did not treat him as a high profile leader. I also just approached as a human being.
     
    I think in the past 25 years these so called leaders, these student leaders, disciples or whatever the government tried to name them. They’ve been viewed as heroes, as national traitors. But at the end of the day, I think my book tried to just approach them as ordinary human beings like any of us.  
     
    When I finished my book I asked myself, one thing that I should have done but did not do in my dissertation, so in the prologue I have four people who were not leaders in any sense. They were not even exiled by the government. But they were personally affected by 1989 and they chose to exile themselves, self-exile, including myself.
     
    So among these four people, for example, Liane Lee, she was a Hong Kong student who went to Beijing to support the student movement. And she was right outside of Tiananmen Square. She saw two young boys covered in blood and she fainted, and when she regained consciousness, people tried to push her into an ambulance. And then she struggled not to get in, she said “I’m not wounded. I don’t need an ambulance.” And then a second ambulance came and she struggled not to get in again. And she said, “I told you guys. I’m not wounded. I do not need to get into an ambulance.” It was at this point, a female doctor turned to her and held her hand and said to her in English and not in Mandarin, but broken English said, “Child, we know that you are not wounded but you are from Hong Kong you are the only person who can leave here now. We want you to leave alive and tell the world about what the government did to us tonight.”

    You May Like

    Video How Aleppo Rebels Plan to Withstand Assad's Siege

    Rebels in Aleppo are laying plans to withstand a siege by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in likelihood the regime cuts a final main supply line running west of city

    Scientists Detect Gravitational Waves in Landmark Discovery

    Researchers likened discovery to difference between looking at piece of music on paper and then hearing it in real life

    Prince Ali: FIFA Politics Affected International Fixtures

    Some countries faced unfavorable treatment for not toeing political line inside soccer world body, Jordanian candidate to head FIFA says

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Jonathan huang from: Canada
    June 07, 2014 10:02 AM
    Majority Chinese are enjoying the economy development in China! And we are smarter than those live in Egypt and Ukraine. We are not gonna do such a stupid thing as riot and destroy their own country!

    by: Xindu from: Chengdu China
    June 07, 2014 8:54 AM
    dear Sarah Williams
    Thank you for reminding us to recall that event although it happened about twenty years ago. China has already changed a lot. for example,people's living is better now.we have beautiful clothing,we have good housing.we can talk about anything we like, of course,we can critize our leader's behavior about policy. The government is doing its best to help poor people, to improve our environment ,to increase people's income, and give more freedom to us compare to twentyfive years ago. Perhaps you don't understand all of these. China is a big country and is a poor country, which has many many things to do and has many many difficulties. I'm really hoping all the countries in the world , include America to help us, for the world's wealth for the world's peace. God bless China, God bless America and God bless the whole world. thank you.

    by: Charles
    June 06, 2014 1:30 PM
    Voice of America is an anti-China mouthpiece. How can you expect anything about China coming out this organization is credible?

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    NATO to Target Migrant Smugglersi
    X
    Jeff Custer
    February 11, 2016 4:35 PM
    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Co-Ed Selective Service Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.