June 5, 1989 - Spring 2003
On June 5, an anonymous man stood in front of a line of tanks. He climbed onto the lead tank, then climbed back down and disappeared into the crowd. The stand off was captured by a Western reporter and the image was quickly broadcast around the world.
Three days later, the Chinese government announced that the military had the situation completely under control. It also released a list of the 21 most wanted student leaders; the list was headed by Wang Dan and Wu'er Kaixi. That day, Deng Xiaoping finally made a public appearance. He praised the PLA for handling the situation effectively.
With the end of the 1989 democracy movement, many of the dissidents fled China and most of them ended up in the US. Wang Dan, the most wanted man in China after leading the protest, was arrested in 1989, released in 1993, then rearrested in 1995; in total, he served 6 years of prison. On April 18, 1998, he was finally released from jail, with the help of Unites States president, Bill Clinton. Wang was exiled to the US and there he continues fighting for democracy in China, with the high hopes that he will be able to help China.
Chai Ling, the Commander in Chief of the Tian An Men Square Site Headquarter, was smuggled out of China by hiding in a crate for five nights. She escaped to Hong Kong and then flew to France and later settled in the United States. Chai Ling currently works as CEO of Jenzabar in Cambridge. She hopes that one day the the Chinese government will allow dissidents to return to China, so that she will be able to go back and help better the economy.
Li Lu, who guided Wuer Kaixi and Wang Dan and led several of the student demonstrations and a hunger strike, escaped to Hong Kong and then moved to the United States. In New York he started a fund to bring democracy to China. Both he and Chai Ling believe that being very active for pro-democracy in China will not be able to change China; after the crack down on June 4, they have tried to stay away from the spotlight.
Wuer Kaixi was one of the most prominent student leaders of the Tian An Men Square events. He was the second most wanted man in China and was able to flee from Hong Kong to France. There he established the Federation for a Democratic China (FDC) and then later he moved to the United States to study. He lives in Taiwan now and unlike Chai and Lu, he feels very guilty for those of who had died. They treated him as their hero and yet they lost such a big fight. However, Wuer Kaixi is optimistic in his belief that democracy will someday come to China.
In 1998, United States president, Bill Clinton planned a visit to China. Dissidents took advantage of this time and established a China Democracy Party. Wang Youcai, the founder, was arrested and when Clinton heard of this, he asked the Chinese government to release Wang or else he will cancel his trip to show his protests against this. Wang was eventually released and the party has been banned; those who have joined it were jailed. Their site, although it is no longer updated is still online.
China has changed in many ways - it is more open and less oppressive. The hardliner regime of Old Communist China is gone. Most have died. Deng's reign ended with his death on February 19, 1997. Li, the last of the conservative hardliners retired on March 11, 2003. The new CCP is younger and more moderate. Even capitalists are allowed to join the Party.
Recently, the US government released documents pertaining to US-China relations during the Tian An Men Square protests.
The commemoration of the Tian An Men Square event is held annually but with less and less people each year. Some think that this protest led to the stability and economic boom of China. The massacre in Tian An Men Square will never be forgotten. Too many people died and too many of their deaths remain undocumented. Too few changes have resulted from the tragedy that took place that day. There is still much to be done to put the spring of 1989 behind us. The families of the students who died in this cause continue to mourn. As Zhang Min, a former national radio reporter, said, Everyone has the responsibility to be a witness of the history and collectively piece together the true face of June 4, 1989.