Tiananmen Exiles: Voices of the Struggle for Democracy in China

Overview

In the spring of 1989, millions of citizens across China took to the streets in a nationwide uprising against government corruption and authoritarian rule. What began with widespread hope for political reform ended with the People's Liberation Army firing on unarmed citizens in the capital city of Beijing, and those leaders who survived the crackdown became wanted criminals overnight. Among the witnesses to this unprecedented popular movement was Rowena Xiaoqing He, who would later join former student leaders and...

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Tiananmen Exiles: Voices of the Struggle for Democracy in China

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Overview

In the spring of 1989, millions of citizens across China took to the streets in a nationwide uprising against government corruption and authoritarian rule. What began with widespread hope for political reform ended with the People's Liberation Army firing on unarmed citizens in the capital city of Beijing, and those leaders who survived the crackdown became wanted criminals overnight. Among the witnesses to this unprecedented popular movement was Rowena Xiaoqing He, who would later join former student leaders and other exiles in North America, where she has worked tirelessly for over a decade to keep the memory of the Tiananmen Movement alive.

This moving oral history interweaves He's own experiences with the accounts of three student leaders exiled from China. Here, in their own words, they describe their childhoods during Mao's Cultural Revolution, their political activism, the bitter disappointments of 1989, and the profound contradictions and challenges they face as exiles. Variously labeled as heroes, victims, and traitors in the years after Tiananmen, these individuals tell difficult stories of thwarted ideals and disconnection that nonetheless embody the hope for a freer China and a more just world.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Rowena He...courageously battles state-imposed amnesia, forcing us to remember the human cost of China's 1989" - The Daily Telegraph

'Tiananmen Exiles is a brave book…written eloquently, with controlled passion…[it is] a masterly narrative and analysis…[He's] often profound book is an unmistakable sign of her devotion to the cause' - The Spectator

'A moving and very personal account of life as a political emigrant…convincing and powerful' - New York Review of Books

"Bold attempt to reclaim Chinese history from the state" - Independent

"With 'Tiananmen Exiles,' Ms. He seeks to preserve those memories and share them with readers who may not have even been born yet by 1989. Her work has come at a cost: Chinese online commentators disparage Ms. He as 'anti-China' and accuse her of accepting a false story that foreign enemies of China dreamed up" - The Wall Street Journal

"A compelling account of idealism and the price it exacts."
- Kirkus

"Though China's democracy movement was crushed in the Tiananmen Massacre 25 years ago, the ideas that animated it are eternal. Rowena Xiaoqing He, one of the most courageous academics in the U.S., has written a powerful book that tracks the poignant journeys of three exiled activists and honors the sacrifices so many Chinese had to make in 1989 and after."
- Adi Ignatius, Wall Street Journal Beijing Bureau Chief in 1989 and co-editor of Prison of the State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang


"This new book revives as well as preserves the memory of the 1989 Tiananmen Movement in a quintessential way. Combining autobiographical and biographical approaches with psycho-cultural analysis, Rowena Xiaoqing He has ingeniously reconstructed the entire movement in historical perspective not only to unlock the past and explain the present but also to peer into the future of China's sustained struggle against totalitarian tyranny. This is also a deeply touching narrative that the reader will find difficult to lay down until reaching the last sentence."
- Ying-shih Yu, Emeritus Professor of East Asian Studies and History, Princeton University, and winner of the John W. Kluge Prize for the Study of Humanity

"Tiananmen Exiles rekindles our painful memories of those who paid dearly for their ideals. In this oral history project, Rowena Xiaoqing He captures the indomitable spirit of three student leaders forced into exile after the Tiananmen crackdown a quarter century ago. Their stories are powerful, moving, and inspirational."
- Minxin Pei, Director, Keck Center for International and Strategic Studies at Claremont McKenna College and author of China's Trapped Transition: The Limits of Developmental Autocracy

Kirkus Reviews
2014-03-31
Oral history of the monthlong student protest in Tiananmen Square and similar demonstrations throughout the country, based on interviews with three leaders of the movement brutally shut down by the Chinese government. He (Government/Harvard Univ.) offers the trio's reflections on the events of 1989, when the authorities forcibly dispersed students who had been conducting a hunger strike to dramatize their demand for democratic reforms. She also recounts the trio's current lives in exile, "banned from returning to China because of their role in the uprising" and vilified as traitors. Yi Danxuan was imprisoned for nearly four years before being permitted to leave the country; he has devoted his life to opposing the regime from exile. Shen Tong managed to escape to America, where he has become a citizen and a successful software entrepreneur. In 1989, he was in a minority of the leadership who opposed a hunger strike as too provocative; he has changed his mind and now believes that they should have advocated regime change rather than reform. Wang Dan was imprisoned for 11 years and only released on the eve of President Bill Clinton's attendance at a summit in China; he received a master's degree at Harvard and currently teaches in Taiwan. In 1989, the author was a high school student in Beijing, a supporter of, but not a direct participant in, the protests; after graduation, she left China to pursue her education at the University of Toronto. The author joins with her subjects in charging the Chinese government with an ongoing attempt to justify its brutality by rewriting history. "The unfolding stories of the post-Tiananmen era are, in many ways, a continuing tragedy," she writes, "because the victims are no long considered victims and the perpetrators no longer perpetrators. Rather, the latter have become the winners in the context of a ‘rising China.' "A compelling account of idealism and the price it exacts.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781137438317
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
  • Publication date: 4/9/2014
  • Series: Palgrave Studies in Oral History Series
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 336,979
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Born and raised in China as a member of the "Tiananmen generation," Rowena Xiaoqing He moved to Canada in 1998, where she received her Ph.D. from the University of Toronto. Today she teaches at Harvard University, where her seminars on the Tiananmen uprising have earned her a Certificate of Teaching Excellence for three consecutive years. Her writing has appeared in The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post and she has been interviewed by The Boston Globe, NBC, the CBC, the BBC, and various other international media.

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Table of Contents

Table of Content
Dedication
Acknowledgments
Chronology

Section One: Introduction
Prologue: Surviving 1989
Chapter One: June 4: History and Memory in Exile
Chapter Two: Seeds of Fire

Section Two: Triumph and Trauma
Chapter Three: On the Road: Yi Danxuan
Chapter Four: No Direction Home: Shen Tong
Chapter Five: Living Somewhere Else: Wang Dan
Chapter Six: Romance and Revolution: Group Discussions
Section Three: Conclusion
Chapter Seven: Citizenship in Exile
Epilogue: Beginning of an End
Bibliography

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