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 Genome Initiative Urgently Works to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Smithsonian senior research botanist Vicki Funk says ultimate goal is 'trying to get one-half of the diversity of plant life on Earth at the genus level in two years' More

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

Report from member of British think tank says Russian extradition requests keep targets from traveling More

US Lawmakers Weigh Turkish Anti-terror Moves

Turkey’s two-pronged campaign against Islamic State militants, Kurdish PKK forces provokes mixed reactions on Capitol Hill More

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.
Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponentsi
X
Henry Ridgwell
July 28, 2015 9:53 PM
A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video Special Olympics Athletes Meet International Friends

The Special Olympics are underway in Los Angeles, California, with athletes from 165 countries participating in an event that gives people with intellectual disabilities the chance to take part in an international competition. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that for athletes and their families, it's also an opportunity to make new friends in an international setting.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs