27 April 2009

The Tiananmen Square "solution"

Wroclaw, Poland: the memorial of 10th aniversary (1999) of Tian'anmen Sq. (Beijing, China) massacre, June 4th, 1989
The first version of this memorial was "erected" by Polish students a day after the massacre, June 5th 1989 - as a destroyed bicycle and a fragment of tank-track lying nearby.
The version in the photograph was erected ten years later, in 1999, and the symbolism is identical: bicycles against tanks...

I've spent some time this evening reading the Wikipedia article on the Tianenmen Square protests of 1989. It took me back to that Spring in Oxford when I was preparing my third year theology exams, worrying about how I was going to finance my year in East Germany if I got a visa, watching events in China and wondering whether events there would affect my travel to the Eastern Bloc.
I had forgotten how much what happened to the democratic protesters in China affected my mood as I set off for East Germany later in the year. As I read through parts of my diary I understand a little better the fear of violence and an authoritarian crack down that comes through in places. On the surface it may look as if life went on normally and peacefully but underneath there was real fear. The peaceful revolution might not have been so peaceful and earlier in 1989 the world had seen tanks vanquish peaceful protesters for democracy.
In late April 1989 there was still hope that things in China would develop peacefully. Remembering the brutal crushing of those protests makes me realise that those who went to pray in churches and lit candles in town squares in East Germany showed great civil courage.
To say nothing of the courage of the Polish students who in June 1989 set up the first version of the memorial depicted above.

Photo credits here
Posted by Rev J


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