Friday, May 13, 2011

Limited Freedoms in China Better Than None

It was May 22, 1989, on the campus of the Nanjing University, Nanjing, China. With some seminary students and friends we rode bicycles to the gathering of students. This was happening all over China. Students leading the way for more freedoms and respect from the paramount leader, primarily Deng Xiaoping.

Nanjing Theological Seminary students were in evidence with a Christian witness. They were sharing water with the students. An opening for Jesus' water of life. There was no violence. That came later on June 4 in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in front of the Forbidden Palace and the headquarters of the Chinese Communist Party and government. Chairman Deng had a difficult time finding army units that would disrupt the protesting students.

The students would march around that part of Beijing with signs and songs. The shoppers and shop keepers saw the brave young kids and cheered them on. Factory workers and others joined them at a distance. I saw a long red streamer several feet long hanging from a building proclaiming "Tong Xue Wan Sui" -- "Students Live Forever." Same as old streamers and slogans for Chairman Mao: "Mao Zhuxi Wan Sui"

I left Beijing the day martial law was installed. Week later Deng had found soldiers who would go into the square and attack the students and break up the peaceful demonstrations. Until then soldiers at the scene had not been swayed to be so cruel. Chinese of Hong Kong were sure that Chinese would not kill Chinese. They did.

Now, 22 years later, the students dreams have not been fully realized, but they made for better times. Today there is more freedom in job seeking, travel abroad, study and the churches are growing in numbers and strength as never before. Still there are problems and all freedoms are limited, but to my mind they are making more of their limited freedoms that most of we Americans are.

The last time I saw Beijing was in 1999 at a literary conference honoring Lao She on what would have been his 100th birthday. Writers, scholars and poets from around the world were there to honor a writer who helped bring Chinese fiction into the modern era. He had been a victim of the tragic Cultural Revolution of 1966-76. Now he is read and studied in China mainland and Taiwan and Singapore schools.

I gave my library of his works, art by his wife, Hu Jieqing, tributes by Dr. Chow Lien-Hwa, and related Chinese history books in Chinese and English to the library of Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas, USA. It forms the Towery-Lao She Collection there. It was dedicated by Lao She's son and daughter, Shu Yi and Shu Ji. It is the largest such collection of his work outside China and Japan.

I have dedicated a blog to Lao She's memory. Have a look.

And in the meantime, be thankful for limited freedoms --- they are far better than none!!!

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