Liu Si: Part 1—Looking Backward

Today marks the nineteenth anniversary of the massacre in central Beijing of protesters (who had been calling for an end to official corruption and greater political openness) and onlookers (who had turned out to support the demonstrators or simply were in the wrong place at the wrong time)--liu si, literally "6/4," the Chinese shorthand for the Beijing Massacre of June 4, 1989 (we don't refer to as the "Tiananmen Massacre" for a reason, namely, because the main killing fields were near but not actually on the Square).

In honor of the occasion, China Beat will provide two different sorts of lists of five. The first, offered here, is made up of links that provide a window onto the past, offering perspectives on and information about what happened in and around Tiananmen Square in 1989 and in the scores of other cities where major protests by students and workers took place.

The second, to follow soon, will be comprised of links that offer illumination on contemporary commemorations of June 4th or on the current state of issues associated with Tiananmen, such as patterns of protest and how generations of youths are defined and see themselves.

We’d encourage anyone interested in either of these two lists to turn as well to the superb collection of links provided yesterday (when the anniversary had already arrived in China) by one of our favorite blogs.

Looking backward:

1. One of the best general online sources for information is a website created to accompany “The Gate of Heavenly of Peace,” Carma Hinton and Richard Gordon’s award-winning documentary on 1989. It includes a transcript of the film, some internal links to full-text background reading, and many other things.

2. There are several excellent document collections that provide translations of wall posters and manifestos from the time, but one of the very best and classroom-friendly is Cries for Democracy.

3. The book and film mentioned above focus on Beijing, like most works dealing with China’s 1989, but for important events that occurred in many other urban settings, one of the few major works in English is The Pro-Democracy Protests in China: Reports from the Provinces. And it does not ignore Beijing by any means, including as it does political scientist Tony Saich’s blow-by-blow account of developments in the capital as well as a lively and insightful first-person account of developments on the Square by recent China Beat guest-poster Geremie Barmé.

4. For those interested in social science approaches to collective action, Craig Calhoun’s Neither Gods nor Emperors is well worth checking out. It was written by a leading sociologist who, though not a China specialist, was on the scene and provides a thoughtful and sophisticated look at what transpired.

5. Finally, though there were important differences between what happened in China in 1989 and what happened in Central and Eastern Europe that year, there were also enough connections and similarities to make it worth including one link that deals with events such as the Fall of the Berlin Wall. A special tenth anniversary of 1989 issue of Index on Censorship, which includes a couple of pieces on China but mostly concentrates on Europe, is a good place to start.

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