Free Access to Historical Truth is a Prerequisite for Political Civilization
Adela Lan (Xueli Wang)’s Remark on the 27th Anniversary of the Tiananmen Massacre
June 3, 2016, Washington D.C.
It was 27 years ago. I was in high school. But I was already active in the 1989 movement. One day, at a family gathering, I gave a “speech” about my exciting experiences and how hopeful China seemed to have become… Among the entire audience, my grandpa was the only one who did not applaud. He responded with an extremely heavy tone: “You have no idea how brutal the Chinese Communist Party can be”. This was the only time in my recollection that my grandpa, who had fallen silent in 1949, had ever commented on politics. Within weeks, the Massacre rolled across Tiananmen Square. I was shocked, as many of you were. We were shocked, because we never expected that the People’s Liberation Army would fire real bullets at us, “the People”. But why not? The PLA had actually done it hundreds of times before. It was just that some of us had forgotten. And some of us didn’t know. But my grandpa knew. He foresaw massacre, because he had already witnessed much worse. The Tiananmen Massacre was in fact not the cruellest of the CCP’s crimes. Even the Cultural Revolution was not its bloodiest crime. The Chinese Communist Party has committed so many misdeeds, so many far more evil deeds than this. It was only that we had forgotten or we didn’t know.
If we had known, would things have turned out different? In 1989, if we had had a clearer understanding of the dark history of the CCP, would we have designed a better strategy and better tactics? Would we have made better decisions?
We are not able to turn the past on its head, not able to turn the past around, not able to deny the past. But we can learn from it.
It was due to 1989 that I became interested in history, attracted to history. It was after this that I realized: Free Access to historical truth, to ANY historical truth at all, is a prerequisite for political civilization.
The truth of Tiananmen massacre is an indispensable prerequisite, a keystone for China’s political civilization. Yet 27 years has passed, and while time may have changed us all, the dark Year of 1989 remains as it was. It is a Forbidden Zone: NOT to be mentioned, NOT to be remembered. The youngest generation alive today know almost nothing about the Tiananmen Massacre, just as my own generation knew little of the CCP’s earlier massacres. This is because the CCP did everything they could to conceal all historical truths from us.
But we need the truth; we need closure; we need resolution. And yet who is to take the initiative? It is already crystal clear to us after the 1989 tragedy that the CCP will never take this step towards truth and resolution by itself. It is we who must take the initiative; it is we who must take the necessary action.
For this reason, we have planned this campaign “to inscribe the Tiananmen Massacre on the Memory of the World Register”. We must inscribe it indelibly. It might not be an easy task, and it might take us years. But we must persist, because our efforts will not be wasted. The establishment of the “Tiananmen Massacre Archive” is a valuable endeavour, and one which we should take upon ourselves, regardless whether it is with or without the UNESCO register. Meanwhile, through our continuous advocacy and lobbying, we shall persistently expose the truth to the Chinese people and keep the world on notice, keep the world on vigil against the CCP government. Finally, our effort will set an example for other dark memories that are threatened by burial — the memory of the Cultural Revolution, the memory of China’s Great Famine, the memory of the slaughters and uprisings when the Communists seized power in 1949. All these should indelibly enter the World Memory Register.
Our grandparents survived war, famine and persecution, and they preserved the truth of their era. It is now our job to defend truth and to deliver truth. Resolution of the Tiananmen Massacre, as well as resolutions of all other unresolved controversial issues, must start from free access to the truth, free access to historical truth. It must start from the spreading of historical truth. It must start from you. It must start from me. It must start right here. It must start right now!