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

    In Britain, The Sun Still Doesn’t Shine

    Invoking Spitfires and Merlin, Leave voters insist country can be great again, following surprising 'Brexit' vote last week

    Double Wave of Suicide Bombings Puts Lebanon, Refugees on Edge

    Following suicide bombings in Christian town of Al-Qaa, on Lebanon's northeast border with Syria, fears of further bombings have risen

    US Senators Warned on Zika After Failing to Pass Funding

    Zika threats and challenges, as well as issues of contraception and vaccines, spelled out as lawmakers point fingers

    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.
    Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeasti
    X
    June 29, 2016 6:15 PM
    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora