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Irish Times
02-06-09, 21:01
Student leaders plagued by guilt and homesickness

Wed, Jun 03, 2009

Tiananmen’s pro-democracy exiles live in the shadow of the crackdown 20 years ago, writes CLIFFORD COONAN in Beijing

IN HONG Kong in 1989, shortly after the crackdown on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, I bought a T-shirt as a souvenir for my brother with the face of a student leader on it and a slogan calling for more democracy in China. That leader was Wu’er Kaixi, then a student at Beijing Normal University who became a poster-boy for the demonstrators, and is now a charismatic fund manager living in Taiwan. He has never been allowed back to China.

After the crackdown, Wu’er escaped to the US, where he studied at Harvard. He now lives a normal life – he has been a talkshow host and restaurateur during a varied career – but his life has been defined by the events of two decades ago.

“Every day for the last 20 years, I have to deal with several kinds of emotions. Guilt is definitely one very important sensation that I have to deal with every day, survivor’s guilt, the sinking boat captain’s guilt, and then, of course, anger, homesickness . . . And I guess, the guilt part is going to last as long as I live,” he said in an interview in a Taipei hotel.

In late May, two weeks before the tanks rolled in and broke up the demonstrations, while on hunger strike and wearing a hospital gown, Wu’er engaged with Li Peng – the premier who later ordered the tanks into Tiananmen Square – in a live TV interview, during which he rebuked Li Peng in a remarkable sign of defiance.

“Li Peng sat down and gave us an endless monologue, he was saying sorry for being 20 minutes late, but the traffic was bad because the city was in chaos, implying that we should be responsible for the situation. So I interrupted him and said: ‘No, no, you weren’t 20 minutes late, you were a month late. We asked you to come on April 19th.’

“I didn’t really feel I had a choice other than to talk to Li Peng in that fashion because I was the representative of a very strong voice, my job was to interrupt him,” he said.

Sitting in a cafe in Taipei, Wu’er retains a mischievous gleam in his eye, even while telling of his difficulty with exile. He hasn’t seen his parents for 20 years, and because he is an Uighur, the Muslim ethnic group in restive Xinjiang province, his parents are not allowed to leave either. He is clearly saddened by this, and he talks with longing of the food of Beijing and Urumqi. In recent months, his father has mastered the videophone function on Skype, so he has at least seen his picture. A pale substitute.

He recalls the events of the day with vivid detail, of bullets flying past his head, but for him the shocking legacy is how the West quickly moved to embrace the Chinese government after the crackdown.

“In 1989 we were at no point trying to overthrow the Communist Party. The 1989 student movement was not an attempt to overthrow the government, and the mass was very restrained, very rational, very well organised,” he said.

“There are criticisms the students pushed the government too far, which led to the massacre. I strongly protest against that. Blaming the students for pushing the government into a corner is like blaming the victim who is being shot for not dodging the bullets fast enough . . .

“I wish for China to have a peaceful evolution into democracy. And seeing Taiwan as having such a peaceful evolution, I should say, it is a possibility. But realistically speaking, the chance that China will have a more bumpy road is more likely,” he said.

Wu’er was second on Beijing’s most-wanted list after the crackdown – top of the list was Wang Dan, with whom Wu’er Kaixi stood side-by-side during the demonstrations. Wang was arrested in 1989, received a four-year prison sentence in 1991, was released in 1993 when China was bidding to host the Olympics, then was rearrested in 1995 for “subversion” and sentenced to an 11-year prison term in 1996.

He was sent to the US in 1998 on medical parole and has been barred from returning.

For many years, Wang Dan was an enduring symbol of hope for the pro-democracy movement, because even though he was still in jail in China, he was still in the country. Since being sent into exile, his influence has waned as he is forced, like the other democracy activists, to act from outside – there is no democracy movement operating in China and dissent is tightly controlled.

“Of course I couldn’t shut up. So many people died and the dream we had was still a dream, I thought it was still my responsibility to fight again. I didn’t want to betray my ideals. And that’s my belief, to push China in the direction of democracy and human rights,” said Wang.

Wang wasn’t on the square on the night of June 3rd – he was at Beijing University.

“I didn’t witness what took place. The next day, June 4th, some people told me what happened and with some other people we escaped to southern China . . . I stayed in southern China for about one month, hiding in my friend’s apartment, but then I thought that if I keep on hiding, it’s no different from jail. So I went back to Beijing and I was arrested the very next day, July 2nd,” he said.

“Of course, no one wanted to be arrested, we still wanted to push the movement. So we escaped to watch what would happen. We still had some hope.

“Maybe there’s some positive change, like the political struggle, maybe the leaders will go in the other direction, but we were wrong. I was very young.”

Asked how he thinks other countries should change in their contact with China, Wang stresses the importance of dealing with both government and civil society.

“You have to try to have more connection with the leading forces of civil society, those bloggers, those lawyers, those journalists – try to look at what they are thinking,” he said.

Ultimately it will not be western governments that bring about democratic change in China, he said. “That’s why I don’t actually care whether there is pressure or not . . . I don’t think that’s the key to changing China. Because China changes according to the ways of its own people.

“We have become a superpower but not through a glorious way. We have become a superpower just because we have money. I am proud of my country because we have 5,000 years of history, we have cultural achievements, we’re very good people, we’re not a country that only has money,” he said.

© 2009 The Irish Times

http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/world/2009/0603/1224247947747.html

Unregistered
02-06-09, 21:40
Student leaders plagued by guilt and homesickness

Wed, Jun 03, 2009

Tiananmen’s pro-democracy exiles live in the shadow of the crackdown 20 years ago, writes CLIFFORD COONAN in Beijing

IN HONG Kong in 1989, shortly after the crackdown on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, I bought a T-shirt as a souvenir for my brother with the face of a student leader on it and a slogan calling for more democracy in China. That leader was Wu’er Kaixi, then a student at Beijing Normal University who became a poster-boy for the demonstrators, and is now a charismatic fund manager living in Taiwan. He has never been allowed back to China.

After the crackdown, Wu’er escaped to the US, where he studied at Harvard. He now lives a normal life – he has been a talkshow host and restaurateur during a varied career – but his life has been defined by the events of two decades ago.

“Every day for the last 20 years, I have to deal with several kinds of emotions. Guilt is definitely one very important sensation that I have to deal with every day, survivor’s guilt, the sinking boat captain’s guilt, and then, of course, anger, homesickness . . . And I guess, the guilt part is going to last as long as I live,” he said in an interview in a Taipei hotel.

In late May, two weeks before the tanks rolled in and broke up the demonstrations, while on hunger strike and wearing a hospital gown, Wu’er engaged with Li Peng – the premier who later ordered the tanks into Tiananmen Square – in a live TV interview, during which he rebuked Li Peng in a remarkable sign of defiance.

“Li Peng sat down and gave us an endless monologue, he was saying sorry for being 20 minutes late, but the traffic was bad because the city was in chaos, implying that we should be responsible for the situation. So I interrupted him and said: ‘No, no, you weren’t 20 minutes late, you were a month late. We asked you to come on April 19th.’

“I didn’t really feel I had a choice other than to talk to Li Peng in that fashion because I was the representative of a very strong voice, my job was to interrupt him,” he said.

Sitting in a cafe in Taipei, Wu’er retains a mischievous gleam in his eye, even while telling of his difficulty with exile. He hasn’t seen his parents for 20 years, and because he is an Uighur, the Muslim ethnic group in restive Xinjiang province, his parents are not allowed to leave either. He is clearly saddened by this, and he talks with longing of the food of Beijing and Urumqi. In recent months, his father has mastered the videophone function on Skype, so he has at least seen his picture. A pale substitute.

He recalls the events of the day with vivid detail, of bullets flying past his head, but for him the shocking legacy is how the West quickly moved to embrace the Chinese government after the crackdown.

“In 1989 we were at no point trying to overthrow the Communist Party. The 1989 student movement was not an attempt to overthrow the government, and the mass was very restrained, very rational, very well organised,” he said.

“There are criticisms the students pushed the government too far, which led to the massacre. I strongly protest against that. Blaming the students for pushing the government into a corner is like blaming the victim who is being shot for not dodging the bullets fast enough . . .

“I wish for China to have a peaceful evolution into democracy. And seeing Taiwan as having such a peaceful evolution, I should say, it is a possibility. But realistically speaking, the chance that China will have a more bumpy road is more likely,” he said.

Wu’er was second on Beijing’s most-wanted list after the crackdown – top of the list was Wang Dan, with whom Wu’er Kaixi stood side-by-side during the demonstrations. Wang was arrested in 1989, received a four-year prison sentence in 1991, was released in 1993 when China was bidding to host the Olympics, then was rearrested in 1995 for “subversion” and sentenced to an 11-year prison term in 1996.

He was sent to the US in 1998 on medical parole and has been barred from returning.

For many years, Wang Dan was an enduring symbol of hope for the pro-democracy movement, because even though he was still in jail in China, he was still in the country. Since being sent into exile, his influence has waned as he is forced, like the other democracy activists, to act from outside – there is no democracy movement operating in China and dissent is tightly controlled.

“Of course I couldn’t shut up. So many people died and the dream we had was still a dream, I thought it was still my responsibility to fight again. I didn’t want to betray my ideals. And that’s my belief, to push China in the direction of democracy and human rights,” said Wang.

Wang wasn’t on the square on the night of June 3rd – he was at Beijing University.

“I didn’t witness what took place. The next day, June 4th, some people told me what happened and with some other people we escaped to southern China . . . I stayed in southern China for about one month, hiding in my friend’s apartment, but then I thought that if I keep on hiding, it’s no different from jail. So I went back to Beijing and I was arrested the very next day, July 2nd,” he said.

“Of course, no one wanted to be arrested, we still wanted to push the movement. So we escaped to watch what would happen. We still had some hope.

“Maybe there’s some positive change, like the political struggle, maybe the leaders will go in the other direction, but we were wrong. I was very young.”

Asked how he thinks other countries should change in their contact with China, Wang stresses the importance of dealing with both government and civil society.

“You have to try to have more connection with the leading forces of civil society, those bloggers, those lawyers, those journalists – try to look at what they are thinking,” he said.

Ultimately it will not be western governments that bring about democratic change in China, he said. “That’s why I don’t actually care whether there is pressure or not . . . I don’t think that’s the key to changing China. Because China changes according to the ways of its own people.

“We have become a superpower but not through a glorious way. We have become a superpower just because we have money. I am proud of my country because we have 5,000 years of history, we have cultural achievements, we’re very good people, we’re not a country that only has money,” he said.

© 2009 The Irish Times

http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/world/2009/0603/1224247947747.html
Yea, I feel for you. You missed your people and streets of Beijing.

My country? Orkash, please change your name to Chinese name and never call yourself Uyghur, please! China is your country? and chinese are your people? We've got that. It is 100% understood. What are you doing on this website?.
Please remember this fact! We are Uygurs and our country has been taken over by Chinese! Our people are getting slaughtered by them.
Hopefully, you come to your senses one day.

Unregistered
03-06-09, 10:08
Wu'erkaixi will never wake up. He will die as "Wu'erkaixi" although we call him Orkash.