High Peaks Pure Earth has translated a blogpost by Woeser originally written for Radio Free Asia and posted on her blog on June 5th 2009 on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the historic events on Tiananmen Square, June 4th 1989.
Amidst all the media attention surrounding the anniversary, Woeser’s reflections on What Being A Dissident Means, published on the blog pages of the New York Times on June 2nd 2009, were one of the few Tibetan voices on the topic.
“‘June 4th’: Facing the Mirror, Seeing Our Common Fate”
One of my friends, a Chinese musician born in the ’80s, sent me one of the songs he had just written. After listening to it only once, I could remember the lyrics. Tears quietly slid down my face because that penetrating sound of remembrance contained the following melancholic lyrics: “One day in June there were only young faces. Amid the spring breeze, they forgot time. One day in June there were only young faces. Under the sunlight, they were imagining the world. A gust of wind blew you away; a strong shower cleared up the sky. A gust of wind blew me far away; a strong shower erased footprints…”
I know whom this song is dedicated to. In the meantime, appearing before my eyes were not only Tiananmen twenty years ago, but also the three Tibetan regions of Kham, U-Tsang and Amdo last year; appearing before my eyes were not only the three Tibetan regions of Kham, U-Tsang and Amdo last year but also the streets of the Barkhor twenty years ago, or Norbulingka Palace fifty years ago. That time there were the faces of Tibetan people, but not only the faces of young people; there were also the faces of middle-aged people, and of old people, although the faces of young people were in the largest numbers. This allowed people to complain about the loss of beautiful lives, which solemnly disappeared like the sacrifice. Only yesterday, I was talking about “June 4th” with a Tibetan living overseas. We think that “June 4th” is not an accidental special event, and it is not the sort of event that only happens in China; if you compare it with what happened last year in Tibet, there are similarities in the nature of these events.
Chinese dissident writer Yu Jie described in his writings that after the “June 4th” massacre, His Holiness the Dalai Lama shed tears for the Chinese people who had been killed and said sadly: “How can they use such ruthless means to oppose students leading a peaceful demonstration? These fresh and lively lives are so precious!” His Holiness indicated that he would openly condemn the crackdown carried out by the Communist Party. However, at that time the contact between Tibet and China entered a key era, and if such a statement were to be announced, the mutual dialogue between them would probably be suspended one more time. Yet His Holiness used stronger terms and said: “In this moment of grief, we must stand together with the people who have been massacred, and we must pray for their souls.”
But before the events of “June 4th”, that same year in March in the old part of Lhasa, the exact same massacre was carried out against Tibetans. Except for the place and the time that were different, another difference lay in ethnic groups. However, the people who perpetrated the massacre were all the military forces under the command of the Communist Party. In Beijing, they call themselves “The People’s Army” whereas in Lhasa they call themselves “The Liberators of a Million Freed Serfs”. When the army crushed the protests by Tibetan people in the name of putting an end to the “unrest”, what most Chinese believed was the authorities’ excuse. When the army crushed the protests by the students and the common people in Tiananmen and in many other places throughout China in the name of putting an end to the “counterrevolutionary riot”, did most Chinese people still believe the authorities’ excuse? In fact, one of the lessons taught by “June 4th” is that we must have the world wake up to the reality: since this political regime can open fire without mercy on its children, on its people, therefore, there is nothing surprising in the fact that it opens fire against different ethnic groups (or ethnic minorities) that are governed under its rule. Thus it is an issue of the nature of the political power and not an issue originating in minorities.
In other words, in fact, “June 4th” is just like a mirror, which clearly and completely reflects the nature of the political regime. Inside the mirror of “June 4th”, we can see that Tiananmen Square has become the scene of a bloody massacre; we can also see that Lhasa in 1959, 1989 and 2008 has turned into a scene of a bloody massacre; but there is also Kashgar, the plains of Inner Mongolia…Han people, Tibetan people, Uighur people, Mongolian people etc. As long as this autocratic political regime exists for one more day, whichever minority, they all face the risk of being plunged into misery and suffering. Some people believe that “June 4th” was provoked by a mistake of the political power at one time but this is not the case. Therefore, when we recall “June 4th”, we also recall the events that happened in our Tibet in 1959, and we also recall the events that happened in our Tibet in 2008.
The tears of His Holiness the Dalai Lama were shed for each life that was taken away; the prayers of His Holiness the Dalai Lama were said for each person, for the fate of each person who has suffered. On the 20th anniversary of “June 4th”, His Holiness once again issued an open statement, appealing to the Chinese leaders while the Chinese economy has developed, “they should have the courage to accept the true principle of equality, and accommodate different views. A tolerant and normal new policy would lead the Chinese society towards genuine harmony, and could also increase the popularity of China within the international community”. If this happens, Han Chinese, Tibetans, Uighurs and Mongols would live in happiness, and everyone would live in happiness.