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Memorial honors Tiananmen victims

By Aileen Lee

"The smell of gunpowder has left from Tiananmen Square. The sun is shining, flowers still bloom; can it be that only one hundred days ago this was the site of blood-smeared paths, the place of a slaughter of thousands of unviolent youths? We cannot forget." These words introduced a memorial program held in Kresge Auditorium on Monday to mark the passing of one hundred days since the June 4 massacre in Beijing's Tiananmen Square. Sponsored by the Greater Boston Area Chinese Student and Scholar Solidarity Association, the evening paid tribute to those who died and urged the public to continue supporting the fight for democracy in China.

Jing Wang G, president of the MIT CSSSA, said in very solemn tones, "This evening is in memory of those who died at Tiananmen Square; and although they are no longer with us, they did not perish in vain. For if their deaths represent freedom for China, then they will never be forgotten by the world." He added, "We are here for a memorial, but it is also a time for us to reflect on what else can be done after June 4." Following Wang's speech a minute of silence was observed to remember those who died in the massacre.

The silence was broken by Xiaocong Peng G, who began a eulogy addressing those who "paid for the price of democracy. You [who have died] were the cream of the crop; the first who died in forty years, the first to scream out for us, for freedom, for human rights. You ... loved us so much to stand with bare fists for what you believed in. And indeed, you paid the price, and because of this Chinese hands will continue to fight for what they believe in. But why is it that [we are now grieving for] those who really loved China? Whose China is it?"

He continued, "In seventy years, the Chinese people are still struggling with the same things since the May 4th movement of 1919. The policies of China are still very much based on power and strife. In 5000 years and with 1.2 billion people, indeed we have done much in the past, but now it seems like we have lost hope. But the Chinese people want freedom ... and we will go back to Tiananmen square and build on the spilled blood ... to build China again."

Words were again absent as the organizers showed slides of the days leading to June 4 in Tiananmen Square. They depicted the thousands who had camped there for months, the building of the Goddess of Democracy statue, and the masses of gaunt and malnourished students huddled on the pavement of the square during a hunger strike. One slide showed a young protester with an outstretched hand gesturing toward a large group of soldiers guarding their tank, reminiscent of the picture many newspapers carried in June of the unknown man who stood adamantly in the face of an advancing line of tanks.

A highlight of the evening featured an extremely emotional speech given by Wu'er Kaixi, one of the most prominent leaders of the Chinese democracy movement. With deep, grieving tones he recalled the events of May and June: "If you ask me what period of time is most memorable to me, it is not when I met with [Chinese Premier] Li Peng or when I escaped. It is the time when I was fasting. The students -- all we had were our consciences and will power, that was all we had to fight with for our democracy in China. There were many in their teens, and all they had were their love and their lives to fight with. It was so important to them that they sacrificed for democracy what they really deserved -- freedom.

"Many ask me whether I ordered the students to retreat. I will tell you the truth. It was very difficult to tell others what to do in Tiananmen Square -- we are so young, and it was such an emotional time. But I do believe that those [who died] in Tiananmen Square decided that they should not retreat from the tanks. They realized that we might die; that we might never see our parents again. And yet we did not retreat.

"Many say that I was the leader in it, so they love me, they take pictures of me -- I'm not sure I should let them. If I do not let them they criticize me, but actually I am not much of a student leader. You have seen that there were many students, the best of China there -- they have paid for the movement with their lives. What I did was only a little.

"Now, I've come out; I've escaped. However, there are many students who are still in there who will never have the chance to come out. And at least for us sitting here, we do not have tanks in front of us; we can still do a lot. I am here, exhausted; I have not rested for months. Some people tell me that I no longer belong to myself, for everyday I breathe for the movement. I hope that I still have part of myself left, and yet how else can I respect those who died on June 4 when there is not yet democracy in China? There is so much we can do to honor them. Let us hope that their sacrifices and their deaths are not in vain, but are valuable to the cause of China."

Listed as one of the twenty most wanted "revolutionary trouble-makers" by the Chinese government, Wu'er escaped from Beijing through Paris this summer and will be attending Harvard University this fall.

Following Kaixi's dramatic statements, the program continued with a broadcasted telephone call from another student who had escaped from Beijing this summer, Xin Ku. He echoed Wu'er's sentiments, saying, "In Tiananmen Square the tanks ran over many of our classmates -- it is like the story of the sacrificed lamb. From their deaths, a new hope for China has already begun; we have passed the test with conviction and love for our country and will not forget. Do not lose hope; our enemies are looking for us to fall, but we cannot because we will never forget the deaths of our friends."

The evening concluded with poems and songs dedicated to the victims of the June 4 massacre and a speech by Xieliang Ding on the dilemma of the political development in China. Conducted for the most part in Mandarin, the program was translated by a member of the CSSSA for non-Chinese speaking members of the audience.

At the end of this month, supporters of China's democracy movement, including many from MIT, are expected to demonstrate in Washington, DC.