Oral history of the monthlong student protest in Tiananmen Square and similar demonstrations throughout the country, based on interviews with three leaders of the movement brutally shut down by the Chinese government.
He (Government/Harvard Univ.) offers the trio’s reflections on the events of 1989, when the authorities forcibly dispersed students who had been conducting a hunger strike to dramatize their demand for democratic reforms. She also recounts the trio’s current lives in exile, “banned from returning to China because of their role in the uprising” and vilified as traitors. Yi Danxuan was imprisoned for nearly four years before being permitted to leave the country; he has devoted his life to opposing the regime from exile. Shen Tong managed to escape to America, where he has become a citizen and a successful software entrepreneur. In 1989, he was in a minority of the leadership who opposed a hunger strike as too provocative; he has changed his mind and now believes that they should have advocated regime change rather than reform. Wang Dan was imprisoned for 11 years and only released on the eve of President Bill Clinton's attendance at a summit in China; he received a master’s degree at Harvard and currently teaches in Taiwan. In 1989, the author was a high school student in Beijing, a supporter of, but not a direct participant in, the protests; after graduation, she left China to pursue her education at the University of Toronto. The author joins with her subjects in charging the Chinese government with an ongoing attempt to justify its brutality by rewriting history. “The unfolding stories of the post-Tiananmen era are, in many ways, a continuing tragedy,” she writes, “because the victims are no long considered victims and the perpetrators no longer perpetrators. Rather, the latter have become the winners in the context of a ‘rising China.’ ”
A compelling account of idealism and the price it exacts.