Thirty-three years ago, I was one of the college students who were sitting in the gigantic Tiananmen Square day and night, demanding freedom and hoping China’s communist regime would change into a democratic system. Thirty-three years ago today was a hot day. At nightfall, military tanks started moving from the western suburb of Beijing to Tiananmen Square.
God saved me that day!
I firmly believe that God saved me that day. I left Tiananmen Square after sunset because I was hungry. My parents’ apartment was just several blocks away from Tiananmen, and I conveniently enjoyed dinner with my parents and a couple of my classmates. After having a delicious meal, we felt sleepy and decided to ride our bicycles back to our dorms to rest overnight and return to Tiananmen the next day.
Our university was located in the northwest suburb of the city, about 15 miles away from my parents’ place. On our way back to campus, the streets were full of people. We could hardly ride. Instead, we had to push our bikes carefully through the crowds. In the end, we could barely make any progress, as people were standing like a wall. There were voices describing what was happening several miles away, but we could not hear them clearly. Too tired and sleepy, we took a detour to the north, away from the tanks.
The next morning, before dawn, my father found me safe and sound in my dorm. He said that many people had been shot and carried to the hospital near my parents’ apartment building.
That night, the boyfriend of a girl in our dorm was crying out of her window. He described people with blood all over them falling in front of him. Years later, rumor had it that the girl and her boyfriend had come to the United States.
My brother’s high school buddy lived beside the community hospital. He said that he saw dead bodies stacked in the hospital morgue; so many that doctors could not even close the door of the mortuary room.
The apartment building where my parents lived had one side facing the main street where tanks and military vehicles rolled through to Tiananmen. It was riddled with bullet holes on windows and walls, everywhere.
The Tiananmen area became a “forbidden city”
The literal meaning of Tiananmen is Gate of Heavenly Peace. This fortress-like architecture was first built in the 1420s during the early Ming Dynasty, and used to defend the Forbidden City where the emperors and empresses lived. Originally, there was no Tiananmen Square. In the 17th and 18th century during the Qing Dynasty, the emperors built an open space in front of the Gate. In 1949, the Communist Party took over China and officially named it Tiananmen Square. Mao Zedong, the Communist dictator, used the site to announce the birth of the People’s Republic of China.
After June 4th, 1989, people were not allowed to be close to the Tiananmen area for months. Everyday, we saw tanks moving back and forth. We watched helicopters flying back and forth. “What are those helicopters transporting?” The more we were forbidden to see, the more curious we were to know. The government media started round-the-clock propaganda – “The student demonstrations were anti-revolution, anti-Chinese, anti-government movements;” “The protestors were mobs;” “No one died in this military action.”
After 33 years, my family and millions of Chinese still live in that “forbidden city”
I came to the United States in 2008, and even though I was in Tiananmen during those historic events, day, it was only here that I got to know about and see the Tank Man, a monumental photo and also a video clip that recorded a brave young man trying to block an advancing column of tanks. Thanks to America, I can freely watch documentaries about what happened that night on Tiananmen Square.
Yet, my parents, my relatives, and my friends have never had a chance to see the true images of what happened only several blocks away from their home. Sadly, they are still forbidden to talk about what happened that night.
The moms who lost their sons and daughters were arrested just because they wanted to hold a memorial service in public.
For decades, the people from Hong Kong had enjoyed freedom and hosted a candlelight vigil to remember China’s 1989 Tiananmen massacre. However, today, Hong Kong authorities have banned Tiananmen Square Vigil for the last three years.
Call for more people to remember June 3rd, 1989
Crowds standing in the middle of highways, machine gun fire and tanks carving a bloody path. That was the beginning of the Tiananmen Massacre in a Communist country that to this day keeps a quarter of the world’s population “jailed”.
“If I were to remain silent, I’d be guilty of complicity.” – Albert Einstein