06/02/2009, 00.00
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Wei Jingsheng: Tiananmen, the power of freedom

by Wei Jingsheng
The days of Tiananmen in 1989 were important for the world and for China, and show that the desire for freedom and freedom of expression are the basis for all real change. A reflection written for AsiaNews by the “Father of democracy” in China, to an exile in the United States.

Washington (AsiaNews) –  Il massacro accaduto nel 1989 ha sconvolto il  mondo, ma lo ha anche cambiato in modo completo. Tutte le nazioni comuniste dell’Europa sono crollate, facendo nascere più di 12 nazioni democratiche. La Guerra fredda in Europa si è conclusa e ciò ha permesso ai popoli di investire più tempo, energia e denaro sulla salvaguardia sociale. In questo modo la società umana è entrata in un nuovo periodo di sviluppo.

That massacre that took place in 1989 shocked the world and changed the world completely.  All of the Communist countries in Europe collapsed, with the establishment of more than one dozen democratic countries.  The Cold War in Europe finished, enabling people to put more time, energy and money into social safeguards.  Thus, human society entered a new phase of development.

Not only has the political structure completely changed in Europe, but in the whole world as well.

This movement all started from China.  It because of the encouragement received from the heroism of the Chinese people that the people of these European countries smashed their dictatorial governments. 

What power encouraged the Chinese people to risk their lives to confront the dictatorial government that was armed with tanks and machine guns?  Freedom.  The yearning for freedom and that space for free speech that only lasted two months, resulted in the great courage of my people.

Under the authoritarian regime of the Communist rule, [and still today]many people have lost their lives for their beliefs.  So people have to be very careful in their dealings with each other, to avoid being exposed should they say anything that is not favored by the Communist Party.  This enormous caution has resulted in a great confusion for the majority people.  They think that beside themselves and very few friends, everyone supports the Communist Party.  If the entire society supports the Communist Party, then the people’s determination to resist would be much less, and people who dare to resist even fewer.  The rulers with their powerful machine of suppression would find it far easier to smother any kind of resistance.

In the spring of 1989, during their resistance on the streets, people started to communicate with each other freely.  All of them suddenly found out that everyone else’s thought were the same as their own, thus their confidence was significantly boosted and the number of people demonstrating on the streets increased; the slogans against Communism became more and more in open.  Afterwards the media also openly stood on people’s side, the democratic movement became a movement of all the people

The citizens and students of Beijing were willing to lay down their lives for freedom.  However, they wanted to know that [even]their deaths were worth something.  If this had been for the benefit of the very few, the sacrifice of their lives would have not had any worth.  The courage of the people was great because [they had understood]that it was for the benefit of many, and this majority understood the meaning of their sacrifice.  Freedom of speech created the conditions for freedom of dialogue and this in turn was the main reason why the people were so courageous.

Freedom gives people real power.  In the 1989 Chinese people’s movement against tyranny, we see the power of freedom.

* Chi è Wei Jingsheng

Wei's role in the struggle for human rights and democracy in China goes back a long way. On April 5, 1976, aged 26, Wei took part in the first anti-government action in Tiananmen Square. Two years later, the Wall of Democracy was set up near one of the main crossroads of the capital: a corner where democracy activists could post their dàzìbào for democracy. On December 5, 1978, Wei posted the text which would make him famous "the Fifth Modernisation" where he developed the idea that the country's economic progress (the "four modernisations" upheld by the Communist regime) must pass through democratisation; otherwise the people would not enjoy any benefits. Wei denounced detention for political reasons, the misery endured by segments of the population, the political roots of youth crime, the sale of children on the streets of Beijing. From 1979 to 1993, he was interned in prison on the orders of Deng Xiaoping. On December 13, 1995, a year and half after his re-arrest, Wei reappeared before the People's Court in Beijing, where he was condemned to 14 years in prison for "plotting against the government". On November 16, 1997, he was released by the Chinese authorities following very strong pressure from the international community. Wei was sent abroad for "treatment"; in reality he was condemned to exile. Currently, he lives in the United States and is the chairman of the “Overseas Joint Committee for China Democratic Movement".

 Photo: Wei (right) with Wang Dan, one of the leaders of Tiananmen movement.


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