the June Fourth Incident

It is approaching this time of the year again. On 4 June 1989, I was almost 5 years old and living in Shanghai, totally oblivious to what was happening in Beijing at the time. I would remain oblivious for another 15 years. It was not until I moved to Australia that this important chapter of history was told to me by some stranger on the street. As it turned out, all my parents’ generation knew about it, but nobody ever mentioned a word during my upbringing. This fact alone fascinates me.

So what happened? If you don’t yet know about the June Fourth Incident, I highly recommended this website built by SBS to tell both sides of the story. As a Chinese Australian who have spent more years in Australia than in China, and as a tourist who have been to many parts of China including Tibet, my views are influenced by both Chinese and western media. I support independence of Tibet. I support truth and justice. I support democracy.

My father recently moved to Australia. When I talked to him about the June Fourth Incident, he was eager to learn as much as he could. He told me that there was very limited information available to citizens at the time, and with hindsight he could see that they were censored and biased information. I asked him why it was not covered in my history classes, but he couldn’t give an answer. I later learned that many Chinese temporary migrants were granted permanent residency to Australia following the incident, including my mother. So in a way, the June Fourth Incident had a profound impact on my life too.

I often feel extremely lucky to live in Australia, where freedom of speech and human rights are respected, and democracy is seen as a fundamental human right. My father’s generation argue that democracy would not work in a large country like China. Look what happened in India, they would say. I agree to some degree that having only one party has helped China to prosper economically, but I don’t see it as a long term solution. People will rise, and people will always win.

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