Tiananmen 20 Years Later
Twenty years ago tomorrow is the anniversary of the massacre of Tiananmen Square. A few years ago, I was able to interview some Americans who had been there during the time. They were language students at the Chinese universities and recall the confusion and mayhem surrounding the weeks of standoffs and killings. Students they knew went to Beijing and never returned. The universities offered no explanations to grieving parents who gave their lives that their one child could attend college and make a better life for themselves. My friends saw the dead body of a professor left as a warning on the university entrance. Eventually, they fled for safety for sometime, listening to Radio America for updates.
A generation of young people learned that their government was neither just nor good. No one really knows how many people were actually murdered. The numbers vary from hundreds to thousands. The country has become complicit in it’s cover up. Where are the new revolutionaries?
Standing on the Square, I remember thinking about the blood of these young people. Ignorance and innocence are gone. If Chinese students wondered what was happening outside their world, the Internet has brought the outside world to them. I remember Googling “Tiananmen Square” when I was in China just to see what I would get. It was the usual Wikipedia entries, NY Times, etc. (I understand that the NYTimes is now banned, according to columnist and former Asia correspondent Nicholas Kristof) Now they know. But what will they do?
This morning I heard a fascinating report on where the student leaders are today, 20 years later. One landed in my own backyard, Fairfax, VA. Zhang Boli had been #17 on China’s most wanted list when he fled the country and eventually landed in a Russian prison. (Click on name for awesome presentation on him by NPR.) It was there that he read the Bible for the first time. It was there, incarcerated and alone, that he says he became free. Now, he pastors a Chinese church in Fairfax, and he uses technology to send his sermons back into China, hoping to reach students who, like him, were searching for freedom. Unfortunately, during this anniversary season, China has blocked many of the online communities and message boards (see NYTimes article).
Will students even hear Pastor Boli’s messages?