Such a big great tree
Heads hold up the sky, feet press down the earth
Straight you are in the howling wind and rain
Erect still under the heavy snow and ice
“Come on” you say to the storm
Listen to the stories from my green leaves
Feel their elation and pain
This is a now obscure song written by an artist in honor of Hu Yaobang, ex-General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee, who passed away on April 15, 1989. His death marked the beginning of the student movement that led to the infamous June 4, 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre.
My eyes filled with tears when I thought of this song—not for Hu, but for my motherland, China.
Alas, China, where is your cherished ancient wisdom, beauty, and justice? Communist violence and corruption have ailed you for 70 years. Many brave youths have given their lives for your vitality, but the last century has not been kind to your sons and daughters. Now I am a proud citizen of the great United States, yet my heart still yearns for my motherland to return to her full glory.
It is with these thoughts in mind that I sit down to write about the Tiananmen Square Massacre as its 30th anniversary approaches.
The Party’s Biggest Deception
Chinese culture is magical, and its language holds secrets. If you know how to read traditional Chinese characters, the secrets of the world can reveal themselves to you.
For example, the character 黨 (political party) is composed of the characters 尚 (aspire to) and 黑 (blackness or darkness).But 國 (country) is composed of 囗 (walled enclosure), 戈 (weapon), 一 (one), and 口 (mouth, or person). This reveals that a political party has a tendency for dirty tricks, and that a country requires every person’s duty to protect it with weaponry.
Since the Chinese Communist Party took over China in 1949, the biggest trick it has played on the Chinese people (and the world) was to confuse the meanings of these two words. Every day the propaganda machine equates “children of China” to “children of the Party,” and instead of “Mother China” it says “Mother Party.” Instead of “sacrifice for the country,” it touts “sacrifice for the Party.”
Chinese people are a nationalistic people, and with the hijacking of the word “country” by the “Party,” the last few generations of Chinese have lived in a warped reality. As children, you are bound by duty to love, forgive, and protect your mother. It’s tragic if you believe that your “mother” is the Communist Party.
Despite all the wrongs committed by the Party—the wrongful deaths caused by the Anti-Rightist Movement, the mass famine of the Great Leap Forward, the bloodshed due to the Cultural Revolution, and so on—the sons and daughters forgave the Party. The logic of the Party claims that the Party is always “great, wise, and upright,” or when it isn’t, it will self-correct so that it is still “great, wise, and upright.”
Events Leading to Massacre
During the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976, the Party declared many walks of life “counterrevolutionary.” Intellectuals ranked ninth, so they were labelled the “Stinky Niners.”
In order to not generate any more Stinky Niners, college education came to a stop in the country. All students had to relocate to the countryside to receive reeducation from peasants. Students had to “glorify” themselves with cow dung on their feet and fleas on their bodies.
Political correctness had to be practiced daily by reciting Mao Zedong’s “Little Red Book.” Any desire beyond reading political newspapers or Party Central Committee directives would not likely see fulfillment.
With Mao’s passing in 1976, this tight grip of insanity lost its strongman. Even though the Party rulers had their own ensured supply of essentials, they could handle a little extra luxury. Deng Xiaoping came to the helm of the Party machine, and he declared the necessity of economic development.
In 1977, college resumed. The country was in dire need of Stinky Niners, at least in the areas of science and technology. The dominance of “Mother Party” wouldn’t amount to much on the world stage unless they got some intellectuals pronto.
Deng also realized the feebleness of the centrally planned economy, so he started to distribute farmland to individual peasants, and he privatized some state business. The privatization processes heavily favored Party cadres and their inner circles, and the seed of corruption was planted.
With a more open society, Chinese people started to learn a little bit of the truth about the world. Even some Party bosses were drawn to the Western-style democracy they glimpsed in the outside world. Hu Yaobang was the highest-ranking Party boss so affected.
By 1986, colleges and universities all around China had student elections. Democracy took a baby step when students were allowed to vote for their own presidents of student associations, instead of them being appointed by Party committee branches.
In Shanghai, students got a little greedy. They reasoned that the People’s Representatives (equivalent to U.S. Congress members) should be voted for by the people instead of being appointed by the local Communist Party branches.
There were small protests at first, then bigger protests, and then students from all over the country joined the protests. The Party bosses headed by Deng saw this as a warning sign that the Western democracy ideal was dangerous to the one-party rule. The propaganda machine worked overtime to squash the “capitalistic anarchism.”
Hu was forced to resign, and he admitted that he was too soft on capitalistic anarchism. The student movement was squashed in 27 days. Students went back to school, but they remembered Hu as their hero. Of the seven-person committee that forced Hu to resign, the only dissenting voice was that of Xi Zhongxun, father of current Party leader Xi Jinping.
Since the beginning of Deng’s economic reform in 1979, the country has run on two parallel tracks according to Deng’s two famous theories. One track is the economic soft grip: “Black cat or white cat, as long as it catches mice, it is a good cat.” The other track is the political tight grip: “Four fundamental principles: first, follow the path of socialism; second, insist on singular rule by the class of have-nots [later changed to ‘singular rule of people’s democracy’]; third, insist on the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party; fourth, insist on Marxism/Leninism and Maoism.”
The student movement was seen as a sinister Western influence campaign for a soft coup to usurp the Party’s rule of China. The Party machine thought it was onto the tricks of imperial America and the West in general. Indeed, you could say they were right about the West’s desire for a peaceful transformation of China into a true democracy. However, the Party considered this an undeclared war, and it often told this to the Chinese people.
The Party was wide awake to this “war,” but the “war” was waged without much notice by the Americans. Now an attempted “peaceful transformation” to socialism is being done right back to the United States. The Clinton-era World Trade Organization agreement gave the Chinese Communist Party an opening.
Hu suffered a heart attack and passed away on April 15, 1989. Students all over the country spontaneously went into the streets to mourn his passing. College students in the Beijing area congregated in Tiananmen Square.
This event became a lightning rod that sparked the pent-up dissatisfaction students felt about the state of the country: severe inflation, unemployment, and government corruption, as well as a lack of freedom of press, politics, and congregation.
They hoped that the “great, wise, and always upright” Party would see this as an act of patriotism. After all, these students had been told many times that they were the hope of the Party (and the country) and that they were the cream of the crop, considering only a very small percentage of high school graduates could make it to college at the time.
There was a faction in the Party, including then Premier Zhao Zhiyang, that was sympathetic to their cause. Unfortunately, Deng saw it very differently. He was convinced that this was the harbinger of a capitalist takeover. To him, the stability of Party rule was paramount, pacifism had no place, and dialogue must be firm.
One can imagine the students’ despair. They decided to go on a hunger strike and erected a replica of the Statue of Liberty at the Square. Students in 400 cities voiced their support.
Deng infamously said that there would be bloodshed if necessary in exchange for 20 more years of stability. The Party decided to disperse the protesters by military force. A curfew was ordered starting May 20, and by the evening of June 3 and the morning of June 4, the Liberation Army rolled into the square with tanks.
The Party officials refused to release data on the casualties. Many Chinese people only knew that the government had decisively expelled sinister rioters and students who had become the puppets of some anti-China forces. The student leaders of the movement were all labeled “anti-revolutionary rioters,” and warrants were issued for their arrest.
Later on, the government started large-scale arrests of “riot” participants, not only in Beijing, but also in other locales. Unofficial estimates of the number of casualties range from hundreds to tens of thousands. In this way, the budding democracy in China was squashed.
Since the Tiananmen Square Massacre, June 4 has been considered a “sensitive” date for the Party. There has been steady pressure on the Chinese regime to correct the label of “riot” that was given to the 1989 student movement.
Fang Zheng’s Story
On that fateful morning of June 4, Fang Zheng was one of the protesting students in Tiananmen Square. Fang was a graduating student from Beijing Athletics University and was almost 6 feet tall. A younger female schoolmate was with him.
When the curfew troops ordered the students to leave the square, they exited from the southeast corner of the square, walking down West Chang’an Street. All of a sudden, he saw tanks rolling quickly toward them from behind. In a moment of adrenaline, he pushed the female schoolmate over the side bike railing, but it was too late for him to escape the tank.
His last memory before he passed out was seeing the barrel of the tank through a sideways glance, and then seeing the white bones of his crushed legs. He woke up 24 hours later on a meeting room floor in JiShuiTan Hospital near the square, with a circle of people looming over him. He wondered then if they might be angels, because with his stature, he was not accustomed to being loomed over.
The hospital was overcrowded when he was rushed there. He stayed on the floor for many days before being transferred to a hospital room, and 20 days later he was released back to his university’s clinic.
The following 20 years of his life in China were sorrowful for him to recount. The university refused to issue him a diploma. They intentionally made him miss the graduation photo shoot with his classmates so as not to leave evidence in a historical record.
He was subjected to countless interrogations to coerce him into denying that he was run over by an army tank. They let his school ID expire without issuing him a new one. Fang worked at odd jobs to make a living until he finally managed to escape China in 2009.
Today he is the chairman of China Democracy Fund. He is devoting his life to eventual democracy in China. He is not hopeful in the short term, but he is sure democracy will be achieved in China in the long run.
Feng Congde’s Story
Feng Congde was the deputy chief commander of the student movement in Tiananmen Square. The student leadership placed high importance on the purity of the movement by refusing to let outsiders participate, probably believing the government would be more cooperative.
Feng escaped arrest and went into hiding in China for 10 months before fleeing abroad. He was a graduating student finishing his dissertation paper on artificial intelligence at the prestigious Beijing University. He was an idealistic pursuer of Western democracy, which was called the “Blue Civilization,” referring to the Western civilization beyond the ocean. In contrast, Chinese civilization was termed the “Yellow Civilization,” referring to the Yellow River culture.
At the time, he was a staunch atheist educated by the Party. However, while he was hiding out, he was given shelter by a group of strangers who practiced qigong, a type of spiritual practice. The group was taking an extremely high risk by hiding him. The group members believed that the right path for China was to follow the harmonious way of the Yellow Civilization, not Western democracy. However, they thought the government was wrong to persecute the students.
While Feng was in hiding with them, every siren on the street and every knock on the door caused him to shiver with fear. He prayed to Bodhisattva Guanyin, a deity the group worshipped, for protection. He thought this was superstition at the time and didn’t believe in it, but he felt obliged to be sincere for the sake of his rescuers. What happened to him afterwards made him reassess his atheism.
He was a prominent student movement leader, and an arrest warrant with his photo was posted all over the place. But somehow, on three occasions during his escape when he had near encounters with police officers or soldiers, they appeared to be blind to his presence. He felt that this was inexplicable.
The group members told him that it was Guanyin protecting him from being seen. He was intrigued and started practicing qigong with the group when he was holed up in a mountain hut for three months. His view about the Yellow Civilization completely changed.
Feng eventually escaped to France through Hong Kong. There, he switched his studies to religion. When asked about his thoughts 30 years after the Tiananmen Square Massacre, he said he has profoundly realized that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is not of the people, is not a republic, and is not even Chinese (in culture). The PRC’s communism comes from Marxism, which was imported from the West.
When the world shares the value of republicanism, he said, the world will enjoy splendid prosperity. The founding fathers of America established America as a republic. Feng believes republicanism is also the essence of the “Yellow Civilization.”
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.