4th June, 2014
Who is a criminal in reality? A person who deserves to pay for his heinous sins; a person who was perplexed enough to commit to a life of perjury; or is it a person who raises his voice against tyrants? For twenty five years I have been pondering over this question and can't help but ask whether these statements define me? My name is Adam Chen and I am a criminal in the eyes of our government, a status that I have been rewarded for preaching the truth, a status that I will cradle to my grave. Today, after twenty five years, thousands like me still uphold this stature, as we are willing to fight for the truth and address it to the world. Today, after twenty five years, people are still willing to go to prison for what’s right. But most important of all, today after twenty five years, nothing has changed; therefore I am standing here in front of you, to reveal the horrors of our government and why the people of our country deserve the power to decide who our sovereign is.
It is time to reignite the embers in our hearts into an indomitable flame, to strengthen our movement for change, for peace. Using the might that our government does not see, we will bring democracy into the Great Walls of China.
Could you ever imagine a time when thousands of students were punished, were slaughtered like pigs and were treated like dirt? For what you may wonder? For campaigning, for freedom of speech? For giving our thoughts on corruption? For demanding democracy? These were the reasons with which many naive and innocent students, some like me from the Beijing Institute of Meteorology, ready to sacrifice our whole lives ahead of us, stood among the masses in Tiananmen Square. These were the reasons for which we were deemed nefarious and which forced many of us to enter into a life where we were more accustomed to prison bars than the doors of our houses. For this our lives took a detour, with some of us being the last to graduate in our classes, while others didn’t even get to see their classrooms again. This is the tale of a massacre, the June 4th incident; the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.
I remember that dreadful day like it was just yesterday. I was a dissident, standing alongside many of my companions including some of those you must have heard about like Chai Ling and Yang Jianli. We all shared a dream. A dream to bring change! A dream of a better China! Thousands of us had gathered with this dream ingrained in our minds and with a shining ray of optimism as our weapons. A wise man once said that “perpetual optimism is a force multiplier”. But then the tanks arrived….
The army conquered us with ease and astonishingly with no hesitation as they open fired on thousands of innocent students. Any iota of hope or tranquillity was squashed immediately by our rulers as they swatted us aside like the puny insects that we were, in front of their might. And as lifeless bodies toppled over like a pack of dominoes, any sunshine of happiness vanished with the cold feeling of death emerging in our hearts. The sound of gunfire was rampant but we could only hear screams. Screams of students who fell. Screams of the students who cried as the death knell tolled. Bang! Went the guns and Boom! Went the canons. But the most horrific thing was that we could only stare, immobilised in fear, as our world crumbled around us; with only one thought resonating within our minds: genocide.
The bloodbath that took place on that cursed day left a throbbing scar in my mind that refuses to fade away, even today. However, it gives us purpose to continue fighting, to make sure that their sacrifice was not done in vain. But can you imagine those hundreds of deaths not accounted for? Did you know that China’s official death toll of that cursed day is just two hundred forty six, whilst it was estimated to be up to two thousand four hundred lost lives? What’s even more bizarre is that in Beijing when Tiananmen Square is searched on the internet, delightful pictures of the once blood stained landmark appear on the screen, almost as if the government wants to mock the lives lost. Only one word sums up this insanity: a cover-up. What ludicrousness is this? Does this give justice to the numerous families who lost their loved ones? Or does this only convey the nebulous nature of our government, who lop of the meddlesome? This is the hideousness of communism and I strongly believe against it, a belief that will only work when it is shared by all of us.
Conveying a message was feared, almost despised, back in those days. Just a month after the incident I still remember the look in the eyes of an unwary veteran. How a glow of hope vanished as he was beaten by armed men for retailing the dread he had experienced in June. Unfortunately this was not where it ended. In 1992, the third anniversary of the massacre, I was part of a seminar with my friend, Hu Shingen, a seminar on the loathed event. Fifty people were arrested! Many like me were incarcerated for three years while Hu Shingen was sentenced for twenty! In prison we were made to sleep on concrete, forced to clean the filthy, stenchful toilets of the compound and often cuffed behind the back just for spite, under the impression of our so called ‘insubordination’.
What did we deserve this punishment for? Doesn’t it make each one of you truly wonder whether we have any rights at all? Are we just puppets under the arms of our so-called protectors with strings that will be cut when we ask for freedom? Or are we entitled to the power of speech? Can we be something more than a puppet, something more than a robot? I know we can. Now is the time to emerge from the shadows and fight for our rights. We are no pawns, but kings and queens of our lives, and if our government can’t see this then we must have some form of change. Communism is fading from the face of our planet, so why should we live in the past and not look to future? If we want our inner voices to be heard then our future lies in democracy. It’s high time we realized that.
Committing my whole life to this cause has kept my dedication for change burning within the centre of my heart. Although, publishing books on the massacre in 1997 or organising tax revolts in 1998, lead me to solitary confinement, I did so with a fire blazing inside, a fire I want you to recognize. Being detained or even knowing that most of your efforts went unnoticed is acceptable as long as we know we are making a difference to at least one person. However, if this thought is shared among all of us then the government will know that we are a force to be reckoned with. Change will come immediately. It is a clarion call!
Those memories will always instil fear within me as it portrays our government’s barbaric nature, their power, their might and to what extent they are willing to take a stride, just to remain superior. This is why we must still fight. Even after twenty five years, this is why we need to speak out, knowing fully well that we will face retribution. Getting beaten or spending a life in prison is worth it as long as you understand that the power is within you to bring a difference. The government is scared, but it thinks you do not know this. Exploit this fear and keep the fire burning within you. Feel its warmth envelop you with a power that communism does not understand. Keep these embers of autonomy glowing in your hearts and be the agent of change you hope to see, in order to transform China to a democracy, very much in our lifetime. Let the fire burn with all its might and never, even till your dying breath, let this fire be extinguished.