In memory of Tiananmen 1989.
“Memory is dangerous in a country that was built to function on national amnesia. A single act of public remembrance might expose the frailty of the state’s carefully constructed edifice of accepted history, scaffolded into place over a generation and kept aloft by a brittle structure of strict censorship, blatant falsehood and wilful forgetting.”
– Louisa Lim, former BBC China correspondent
In the aftermath of the massacre, publishing houses all over the world became inundated with manuscripts from witnesses and attention seekers. 30 years on, only a handful have anything to say. The rest seemed to have “lost interest”. This is a powerful book whose author found all the right people to interview.
A former PLA soldier; a witness turned artist. He remembers being fed by the protesters when the rations didn’t arrive. He keeps painting images from 8964 in an attempt to make peace with his conscience. Because of the sensitive themes of his paintings, he was not allowed to hold any exhibitions in China. He remained under the radar for his feelings of guilt would not allow him to move on.
The mothers who had lost their children. Whenever they sought answers, they were threatened and accused of being manipulated. How can we expect them to forget their loss, even though they are living in the People’s Republic of Amnesia.
The most accurate figure has to be the one initially reported by the Chinese Red Cross. 2,600 dead. Another 100 died in hospital. They were later forced to retract their statement, lending great credence to it.
The stories from the stars of Tiananmen like Chai Ling and Wuerkaixi have been told and retold numerous times. Ironically, a more powerful and revealing story comes from the minor characters. In June 1989, after hearing about the Tiananmen Square protests, Liao composed a long poem entitled “Massacre.” Knowing that it would never be published, he made an audiotape and recited the poem by using Chinese ritualistic chanting and howling, invoking the spirits of the dead.
He was later arrested and sentenced to 4 years in prison. After his released, he began to envy the martyrs who had either died on the square or who were executed. They didn’t have to deal with the heartbreak of seeing his former comrades flaunt their newfound wealth, completely forgetting the democracy movement they had started just a few years before that.
This is really the People’s Republic of Amnesia.