Prologue Surviving 1989

  • Rowena Xiaoqing He
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Oral History book series (PSOH)


In the spring of 1989, millions of people filled the streets all over China demanding political reforms. The nationwide movement, highlighted by the university students’ hunger strike in Tiananmen Square in the center of Beijing, ended with the People’s Liberation Army opening fire on its own people before the gaze of the entire world. On the night of June 3, amid the approaching gunshots, the unarmed students in Tiananmen Square gathered near the Monument to the People’s Heroes and took their oath hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder:1

For the sake of advancing the democratization of our motherland, for the true prosperity of our nation, for our great motherland I pledge to use my own youthful life to protect Tiananmen and to defend the Republic…Heads may be cut off and blood may flow, but the people’s Square cannot be lost. We are willing to use our youthful lives to fight down to the last person.2


Cultural Revolution Oath Hand Female Doctor Hunger Strike Social Science Faculty Member 
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  1. 1.
    The oath was led by student leader Chai Ling. Students in the Square first took the same oath on May 24, led by Chai Ling. Eddie Cheng, Standoff at Tiananmen (Berkeley: Sensys Corp., 2009), pp. 217, 258.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Minzhu Han, ed., Cries for Democracy: Writings and Speeches from the 1989 Chinese Democracy Movement ( Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990 ), p. 362.Google Scholar
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    Wu Renhua, Liusi shijianzhong de jieyan budui [The Martial Law Troops during the June 4 Incident] (Alhambra, CA: Zhenxiang Publishers, 2009 ).Google Scholar
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    Timothy Brook, Quelling the People: The Military Suppression of the Beijing Democracy Movement ( Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1998 ), pp. 4–5.Google Scholar
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    John Schidlovsky, “Waiting for Their Turn to Die: The Battle for Tiananmen Square,” Toronto Star , June 5, 1989, p. A14.Google Scholar
  6. 9.
    Li Lanju, “Hafo guiyu: Zhongguo liuxuesheng ying Jiang naoju ” [Chinese Students Welcoming Jiang at Harvard], Jiushi niandai [The Nineties] (December 1997). Retrieved on January 3, 2014, from The Nineties was a Chinese-language monthly published in Hong Kong.Google Scholar
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    Milan Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting ( New York: Harper Perennial, 1978 ).Google Scholar

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© Rowena Xiaoqing He 2014

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  • Rowena Xiaoqing He

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