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Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

Asiaweek Time Asia Now Asiaweek story


Lulu Fang was there and wished she wasn't

A NEW UPHEAVAL?: Despite growing tensions, changes since 1989 have diminished the chances of another mass uprising

THE JUNE 4 EFFECT: It has changed Beijing's approach to economic, political and social policy

WHERE ARE THE RADICALS?: Not at Peking University, that's for certain

OF HEROES AND VILLAINS: Three student leaders and three officials who played key roles at Tiananmen

IT BEGAN WITH CURIOSITY. I was a first-year student at the Beijing Second Foreign Languages Institute when Communist Party chief Hu Yaobang died - and my life changed forever. Days later, thousands of students marched to Tiananmen to pay their respects. I followed my roommates to the square after a shopping excursion nearby. I'd never seen so many police. The crowd shouted: "Li Peng, come out! Li Peng, come out!" I didn't understand their demands and didn't want to know. I was never interested in politics. Dad had always told me: "Stay away from politics, it's very dangerous."

At the square the word "democracy" was on most banners and in nearly every slogan. "What the hell is democracy?" I wanted to know, but no one could tell me. Demonstrations escalated into hunger strikes, but the government was silent. Everyone around me was shouting slogans, many of my friends hunger-striking. I could wait no longer. No hunger strikes for me, though - I loved eating too much. Every day, more and more people came to the square. Food and drinks were free. It was like a giant party. During the day, it was slogan-shouting and marching; at night dancing by campfire. It was so much fun!

Martial law was declared on May 20. A dozen students from my university were carried back to campus that afternoon - they had been brutally beaten by the cops. We couldn't believe it. Outraged, I went to Zhongnanhai, the leadership compound. After hours of shouting "Li Peng come out!" student leaders lost their voices. I had been the loudest in the crowd so I was asked to lead the chants. I felt like a revolutionary hero. I delivered speeches about democracy and corruption, though I still knew nothing about either. Still, the crowd followed my instructions like robots.

Not every day was so exciting. The hunger strike was going nowhere. The square was littered with evil-smelling rubbish. I heard student leaders were fighting. I was bored. I returned to campus and wrote a big-character poster urging a rewrite of the Constitution. I put it up and realized I had never read the Constitution. Days later, the campus filled with the racket of military trucks and tanks on route to the square. It was June 3, a sunny afternoon; we were playing tennis.

Students ran past the sports ground, yelling: "They're smashing the tanks!" I rushed to the scene. But to my disappointment, the smashing was done. Instead I released air from truck tires. I had always wanted to be in a war or revolution. The sun was setting. "Something big will happen tonight," I told myself. I put on a black jacket and black jeans for camouflage. I wrote my last wishes in a letter and asked a roommate to pass it to my boyfriend if I didn't return. With a Uighur dagger in my pocket, I hopped on my red Flying Deer bicycle. It was time to become a real revolutionary hero.

At the square I couldn't believe my eyes. It was so peaceful! People were strolling around waving paper fans like it was any summer evening in Beijing. But the quiet was deceptive. After midnight, a tank roared into the square, chased by rock-throwing crowds. By then, some student leaders were urging us to leave. Firecrackers exploded in the distance. But they weren't really firecrackers. Bullets whizzed over our heads. We cheered because we thought they were rubber. We realized they were real when we saw the sparks.

Soldiers were holed up near Mao's mausoleum. "Gee, we're going to be ambushed," we joked. Then all the lights in the square went on and tanks were roaring toward us from three directions. A group of soldiers pointed their guns at us. A chill went down my spine when I saw the light bouncing off their bayonets. Reluctantly we started to walk between the tanks toward a corner of the square. A girl started to sob; I told her to shut up. Then the soldiers began bludgeoning students and everyone panicked. I was squeezed from all sides. My feet lifted from the ground. I couldn't breathe. My glasses smashed against my face. "I don't want to die. Please, God, I beg you! Mommy, where are you?" I screamed. Suddenly I regretted coming to the square.

Ten years on I am back in Beijing. Students are protesting again, this time against NATO. Iam curious to see what they think about June 4 today. I want to see if they are like we were. "Maybe people were killed 10 years ago," says one protester. "But that was Chinese killing Chinese, it's within the family."

I know now that the government has won. The memories have been erased, the younger generation has been brainwashed. History is all about selected memories. Mao knew about that. As his portrait gazes benignly from the Gate of Heavenly Peace, the incident known as Tiananmen is being reconstructed.


Yeltsin to hold summit with leaders of China, Central Asia

Taiwan domestic airliner jet catches fire, 28 injured

Jakarta loyalists warn of new Timor war

Missing American tourist found alive in Australian desert

Sonia Gandhi's son joins his mother's campaign

Tanks, missiles, roll through Beijing in display of might

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