July 18, 2019

Event Coverage Highlight

Tiananmen Square Protesters Remembered Their Fallen, the Progress Made

Left to right: William J. Holstein, Wu’er Kaixi, Rose Tang and Zhou Fengsuo. Photo: Chad Bouchard

by Jonas Ekblom

The Overseas Press Club invited three survivors from the Tiananmen Square protests to speak about their experiences during and after the protests. The panel started with a showcase of archival footage featuring all three protestors present: Wu’er Kaixi during a hunger strike, Rose Tang at the front lines of the protests, and Zhou Fengsou at a hearing.

“I was honored being China’s most wanted person,” Wu’er Kaixi said and laughed when he told that his student activism and hunger strike around the Tiananmen protests put him at the very top of the Chinese government watchlist.

Rose Tang took the opportunity to reflect upon her fellow protesters that did not achieve fame or even died protesting: “There are so many nebulous people that died for nothing or were jailed for nothing,” she told the audience.

The threat of persecution is still very strong, and even outside of China, many Chinese are weary of talking about the Tiananmen Square events. Former UPI correspondent William J. Holstein, who moderated the panel discussion, asked the participants “Is there a global war between the government and survivors?” To which all three nodded in agreement.

“A lot of the survivors are today afraid to talk,” said Zhou Fengsuo, who himself has fallen victim to abuse from supporters of the Chinese regime “I was beaten a few times in San Francisco,” he said, and added: “This is the situation we are facing as survivors.”

Zhou Fengsuo also praised journalism and the journalists that covered the protests – and how important press freedom is: “The most important thing is press freedom,” he said.

When the panel shifted their focus to current-day affairs, Wu’er Kaixi expressed frustration over the non-confrontational attitude other countries have to China’s leadership: “Why are we so over-complimenting to the Communist regime?”

Rose Tang agreed, and begged the audience: “Let’s not overestimate the Communist party’s power. They are afraid of ordinary people.”

There was a worry among all three panelists that the current regime could once again tighten their grip, a grip that was once loosened after the Tiananmen protests: “Before Tiananmen Square the Communist party choked China to death, after, they decided to ease their grip a bit,” said Wu’er Kaixi.