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  • Tiananmen and BeyondAfter the Massacre
  • Wuer Kaixi (bio)

Over the past few decades, and especially in the ten years since 1979, the Chinese people have been engaged in a continuous struggle for democracy and freedom. The case of Wei Jingsheng, who is still serving a 15-year sentence in solitary confinement for his activities during the Democracy Wall period, is well known. But there have also been many anonymous heroes who have made tremendous sacrifices, including the loss of their lives. It is their efforts that paved the way for the massive student demonstrations and the prodemocracy movement that erupted in 1989.

For a country like China, with a population of more than a billion people and a five-thousand-year history of feudalistic culture, it is a very difficult thing to attain democracy. But finally in 1989 we made a great step forward.

Many of you may wonder how I can say that this has been a great achievement, since the prodemocracy movement was suppressed and so [End Page 6] many people have died. But I would say that, yes, it has indeed been a great victory. For the first time in many thousands of years the Chinese people came forward and faced their government directly; they openly called for the resignation of government leaders, for an end to corruption, for the right to exercise all sorts of freedoms, and for the safeguarding of their constitution. This alone must be regarded as a great victory.

Of course, the price paid for this victory was also very great. In the course of the prodemocracy movement, many of my fellow students, friends and comrades, along with doctors, nurses, and men and women from all walks of life, were killed in Tiananmen Square and on Changan Avenue in Beijing. This came as a great shock to people all over the world, and they have risen with one voice to condemn the Chinese government. But it is even more important to understand what my countrymen died for, and to carry forward the tasks that they were unable to complete.

What were they demanding? It was very simple: freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. And a true republic. In name, China is called a "People's Republic," but even after the revolution initiated by Sun Yatsen we have continued to be governed by a series of dynasties. These feudal, imperial rulers have denied the Chinese people their natural and fundamental human rights and freedoms. So the attempt to establish a true and genuine republic is an important aspect of our struggle.

The political system in China has always been a one-party dictatorship or rule by a very small clique. Many people in Beijing openly said that what we have in China is total lawlessness—whatever Deng Xiaoping says is the law. This is a great insult to the people of China, to the Chinese constitution, and to the concepts of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. In fact, human rights and freedom have never been respected in China. The people have never been free to express their aspirations or to make any kind of political choice. But now, after the massacre, they don't even have the right to ask for these things.

So to achieve the goals that my compatriots and I are seeking will require a long period of time and great efforts. In this struggle we need the support of all the peoples of the world. Thus we are gratified that, in the wake of the massacre, countries like France, the United States, Canada, Australia, and others have extended tremendous moral and other support to the prodemocratic movement. They have also strongly condemned the Chinese government and imposed economic sanctions against it.

Nonetheless, the Chinese government not only has failed to put an end to its atrocities but has intensified its dictatorial rule. More than 120,000 people have already been either openly or secretly arrested, and at least one hundred have been executed. This represents an attempt to destroy, in one stroke, the human fabric of the prodemocracy movement in China. [End Page 7] Of the 120,000 arrested, most were intellectuals or...