By Assunta Ng
“[The Chinese officials] have guns, but we have guts,” said the student leader who led the Seattle protest against the 1989 Chinese government crackdown on students in Tiananmen Square.
Though the protest was 23 years ago, I still remember that line. I remember those protesters, especially the student leader.
The protestors were students from China who were studying at the University of Washington.
At the protest, the male students expressed anger and a few female students even cried. It was probably the first time these students were able to practice what is forbidden in their homeland, democracy through protest.
Over the past two decades, there has been little remembrance of the Tiananmen Massacre in the International District until Seattle Federation for a Democratic China (FDC) and the Chinese Human Rights Coalition decided to organize an annual rally on June 3 at Hing Hay Park. I went to check out the gathering.
This year, there was a small crowd with more Taiwanese attendees and officials than Mainland Chinese. Also, more organizers than participants attended. That’s not a surprise given that China is now a world power. Many prefer to focus on the positive rather than the negative. Although unable to overlook the horrors of that day, they were reluctant to support the protest for fear that they might be blacklisted and prevented from visiting China.
One friend, who was originally from China, she had argued that the Tiananmen Square Massacre never happened. She had argued that she never read or heard anything about June 4 when she was in China.
“Well, just because you haven’t heard it, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Why would Chinese officials openly admit that they opened fire on unarmed students?” I thought.
The first Tiananmen Massacre protest organized in Chinatown took place about a week after the incident. There were close to 200 people.
That student leader who led the protest is now one of the most prominent attorneys representing clients in China and the United States. He is probably among those who chose to look past the tragedy as the years went on. Perhaps he also found the need to accept China’s restrictions in order to be successful. Despite their conflicting feelings toward their government’s actions, many Chinese find it hard to be cut off from one’s native land, where many of their loved ones still live. (end)