By Teng Biao, published: June 5, 2014
In 1989, I was a high school student in a small county in Northeastern China. Two years later, I was admitted into Peking University. If I had been born two years earlier, I could have been the one overrun by tanks and my mother could have been one of the mothers who have shed all her tears but have been forbidden to speak the truth or to simply commemorate.
Those who died on June 4th died for me, and died for each one of us the survivors. In other words, their death lives on in our life. Without realizing this, we will not be able to understand ourselves and the China we are living in today. Therefore we are obliged to remember that massacre, we are obliged to demand truth and justice, and we are obliged to carry the torches of those who have succumbed too soon.
This is why I am standing here tonight. For the first time, I have come to Victoria Park on the night of June 4th. Before I came, I was warned by the security police and my employer China University of Political Science and Law: You shall not participate in any Tiananmen movement commemoration events. But I must come, and I must tell friends in Hong Kong how much we thank you for keeping the memory of the Tian’anmen movement alive.
I must tell the whole world: Twenty-five years have passed, but the massacre did not stop at 1989. The killing, in the name of a political “campaign,” in the name of law, in the name of stability maintenance, in the name of state unification, has never stopped. The tank man Wang Weilin evaporated from the earth; more “Wang Weilins” have been put to death. From the execution of the so-called June 4th “hoodlums,” to petitioners and prisoners who died in prisons and in all manner of black jails, from Tibetans who braved snow-capped mountains to flee to Uighur women who protested peacefully; from Falungong practitioners to citizens rejecting forced demolitions; from street vendors to pregnant women rejecting forced abortions; from Sun Zhigang, Li Hong, Li Wangyang to Xia Junfeng, Cao Shunli and Goshul Lobsang. The list goes on.
The suppression has never stopped for the last 25 years. Miao Deshun is a June 4th-related political prisoner. He has been imprisoned for 25 years now, and is still serving time in Beijing’s Yanqing Prison where he was often subjected to beatings and solitary confinement. Our lives have the suffering of 1989 in them. Every day there are people who lose freedom for seeking freedom, from Wang Dan, Chen Ziming to Gao Zhisheng and Liu Xiaobo, from Qin Yongmin, Liu Xianbin, to Ilham Tohti and Xu Zhiyong. Since last March, over 300 human rights defenders have been arrested. The Chinese communist government has escalated its suppression of civil society from the stability-control model to the eradication model. They arrested journalists, then the journalists who spoke out for the arrested journalists, then the lawyers who defended the journalists, and then the defense lawyers who defended the lawyers who defended the journalists. But as the Hong Kongers have avowed: “You can’t kill us all!”
For 25 years, resistance against suppression has never stopped either. The citizens’ rights defense movement has developed in China despite ruthless crackdowns. Rights lawyers, citizen journalists, independent writers, and street activists, more and more people have stood up to fight, just as many of you tonight come from mainland China for the vigil and will go back afterward. I salute you!
For my efforts to promote the human rights movement in China, I have been in turn suspended from teaching, disbarred, placed under house arrest, kidnapped, disappeared, and detained over the last ten years. During my detention, secret police tortured me and humiliated me out of anger and frustration. But I do not regret what I have done, and I do not back down from it.
Because there is no place to back down.
Hong Kong has no place to back down either. Without democracy in mainland China, Hong Kongers will not have true universal suffrage, and its press freedom, freedom of association and demonstration and other freedoms will also be taken away eventually, inch by inch.
We must Occupy Central with Love and Peace!
We also look forward to occupying Tian’anmen Square with love and peace one day.
Just as we did in 1989!
That year two things happened – the peaceful democracy movement of ‘89 and the bloody massacre of June 4th.
Let’s have another 89, but not another June 4th!
That day will come, because we have been, and will be, fighting for it!
Watch Teng Biao’s speech here.
The Confessions of a Reactionary, by Teng Biao
China’s growing human rights movement can claim many accomplishments, (originally titled “From Gongmeng to the New Citizens Movement) by Teng Biao, Washington Post, April 18, 2014.
Chinese original. Translation based on an edited version from Dr. Teng Biao.