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Remembering Tiananmen


By Ann Lau
Chair, Visual Artists Guild

It was Saturday morning. As usual, I was driving my children to Chinatown for them to attend Chinese language school. The ABC radio station cut through programming to report live from Beijing. The reporter was in Tiananmen Square and the loudspeaker was on. Suddenly he said the lights in the Square was turned off and tracer bullets shot across the Square. People were running and there were the sounds of gunfire; he had to get out but then the radio station didn't hear his voice any more but just sounds of people coming through.

Tears streamed down my face. Surely I should have expected that the pro-democracy movement would end with repression but with weeks of my following the news from China, I willed myself to believe that finally China would change.

My ten year old elder daughter asked, "Mama, what is happening?" I answered weakly, "They are getting rid of the students." I feared the worst. After Chinese school, we went to the Chinese Consulate. There were some Chinese students from Hong Kong with their microphone and many others from the community. Older Chinese-Americans brought water and paper cups. We exchanged phone numbers. A reporter was talking to my elder daughter. That evening, the local news showed the reporter asking my daughter if she knew what was going on. Her answer, "The people in China want freedom".

A week later, on a Monday morning, the radio station reported about a replica of the goddess of democracy statue that was crushed in Tiananmen Square appeared in front of Los Angeles City Hall on a pedestrian bridge. Tom VanSant and members of Visual Artists Guild had built the 23 ft replica of the statue. As Tom VanSant attended the City Hall meeting that morning to gain approval for the statue, a 4.5 earthquake happened. The statue did not tumble down and the City subsequently allowed the statue to stay for a month.

30 years have now passed. My daughters have now grown and have families of their own.

Still we remember.

We remember those who perished; we remember those who disappeared; we remember those still imprisoned; we remember those who are forced to exile.

For a short shining moment in the spring of 1989, the people in China, inspired by the students, suddenly found themselves speaking the truth, expressing their own China dream.

It was then that they gave each other a precious gift, a gift of freedom, the freedom from fear.

May we continue to share that gift.


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