Thursday, June 04, 2009

May 35, 1989

I remember an early-morning summer flight into Honolulu Airport. On sabbatical from Microsoft, I was en route to studying Khmer at SEASSI at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa.

The last news about the protests in China that I had heard when I left the mainland was that a brave young man had faced down the tanks at Tienanmen Square (photograph below by Jeff Widener), and there was some optimism that the situation could be resolved peacefully.

The headlines at the airport the next morning told a different story. The government cracked down on the protests, and an unknowable number of people were killed or injured. The young man in the photo was probably executed, although that too cannot be known with certainty.

It was a shock to see the headlines in the airport that morning. Now it has been 20 years, and the Chinese government is trying to bury history by suppressing all references to "June 4" on computers it can control, leading to the euphemism "May 35" to mark that day.

I remember.

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