Monday, April 5, 2010

Let Freedom Ring

Posted by He Said

This post has been removed.  While I was passionate about writing it, my concerns for myself and my family while I am overseas outweigh the need to express myself. 

This post will be revisited when I return home.

Updated 6-27-10

I originally wrote this while in China after visiting Tiananmen Square in Beijing.  After posting it I became concerned for many reasons,valid or not.  I have reposted it here from American soil.

The Original Post:

Today we visited Tiananmen Square (pronounced here Tee-awn AWN en). If you have been living under a rock, or are under the age of 30 you may not even understand the significance of Tiananmen Square to those of us who come from a free country. In fact, although it is on the top 10 travel checklist for Beijing on every travel site we have visited and all hosts have recommended it, I think that it has tourist value for very different reasons.

Here Tiananmen Square (which was first built in 1651, although the Tiananmen Gate was built in 1417) is important for its place in Chinese culture for the proclamation of the People's Republic of China by Mao Zedong on October 1, 1949 as well as the burial place of Mao himself. As important as his resting place is historically, it was not on our list of “let’s stand in line for HOURS ON END with two children” to see a dead guy who started this country down the path of communism. It is not referred to here in this light. It seems like most people discuss this here (in my experience) with reverence and pride. Of course, they live here so they know where the big man keeps the hidden cameras and microphones.


Mao Zedong Mausoleum

I wanted to see it for a different reason. Tiananmen Square stands out in my mind as a place where people stood in protest for their freedoms against great adversity. Many lost their lives for their opinions and beliefs. This is why I wanted to see Tiananmen Square. Ironically enough if I try to visit the Wikipedia page linked from the top of theTiananmen Square Wikipedia page, “For the 1989 protests, see Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.” this is what I see.

Fullscreen capture 452010 114114 PM.bmp

This is no surprise to me. Although it is quite easy for all of you living in free countries, or those without internet restrictions to see THIS page, the very page you are reading right now, I cannot even POST it without extreme technical challenges because the majority of public blogging sites are blocked. Nor can I or any citizen of China read a page about the historical facts about the government actions against its own people in 1989 on the very grounds from which this countries People’s Republic was declared 40 years earlier. This was what drew me toTiananmen Square.

We headed off this morning with no real plan, only get on the subway line 10, switch to Line 1 and get off atTiananmen East, and thanks to my 99 cent iPhone app we got there (even without wifi and 3G thank you very much) safely. We have become subway pros here.  When we got out of the subway at Tiananmen East we had no idea what to expect.  I knew that this area was significant, large and used for government events (it had been closed to the public just weeks before for that purpose).  All I knew was that Tiananmen Square was on the left and Forbidden City was on the right, and we needed to head east.

So east we went. Following the crowds of local Chinese we moved in the direction of the square.  The street here is huge.  Twelve lanes in fact. So large there are no crosswalks, no bridges, but only underpass walkways to take you across.  I don’t think this photo begins to convey the size of this road.  I guess it needs to be large to accommodate the tanks.


April 5th is a national Chinese holiday (Qingming Festival or Tomb-Sweeping Day) so the crowds of people in the square were quite large.  We are not talking shoulder to shoulder, but crowded nonetheless.

There were security checkpoints to enter the square.  Now realize that the square is just that.  A large tiled area with a monument in the middle and Mao’s tomb at one end.  But we had to enter a tent, have our bags x-rayed and some people were even scanned with metal detector wands.

As we entered the security checkpoint area I leaned into Susanne and whispered in my most serious voice “You don’t have any Freedom in the backpack do you?”

Inside the square Braedyn asked “why are we here?” referring to the square.  I knelt down beside him and began to try to explain to a 6 year old about student protests in 1989 and how the Chinese government used tanks to stop the people from protesting.  I explained that people died.  They died for doing things that we at home can do, like expressing our opinions. I tried to explain to a 6 year old boy, standing on the same ground that tanks once rolled against protesters that they do not enjoy the same freedoms here that we do at home.

I was almost brought to tears trying to explain it to him. He may not have understood completely. But I did, and it moved me.


Tiananmen Square as viewed looking across to Mao Zedong Mausoleum at the far side. 
Original image can be found here
Licensed under the GFDL by the author. 
Released under the GNU Free Documentation License.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, man, you are going to blog yourself right into jail, I just know it. I can't imagine standing on that ground. You are all living an adventure I can't begin to picture.