Open letter of Tiananmen survivors, participants, and supporters
To Carma Hinton, Richard Gordon
Director and Producer of the Gate of Heavenly Peace
May 30th, 2009
On the 20th anniversary of the 1989 Chinese Student Movement, we, the survivors of the massacre and the organizers, participants, researchers and supporters of the movement, are urging you again – as we did in 1995 – to correct the false reporting and editing in your film, The Gate of Heavenly Peace.
In your documentary, some selectively quoted statements and omissions of a few important historical facts created a false record of the history, particularly in relation to our fellow student leader Chai Ling. If you consider your production a documentary of the facts without any personal motives to intentionally discredit Chai Ling and the student organizers of the movement, we, many of whom were actually in Tiananmen Square, urge you to post this letter on your web site so that the public can consider both of our perspectives and judge for themselves.
In your documentary, you used selective quotes and interpretive and erroneous translation leaving viewers with an impression that Chai Ling had run away from the danger while sending her other students to die, or that she and all of us student leaders had provoked and hoped for the bloodshed. This impression was contradictory to the facts of what actually happened at Tiananmen.
Clearly, Chai Ling’s language "…qidai liuxue" was mistranslated by Carma Hinton, the producer, and taken out of context. "qidai" is properly translated as "hope for with anticipation or wait." Those of us who were there know that Chai Ling meant that we were anticipating a possible crackdown and hoping that the crackdown would happen in public, in front of the media, rather than being driven back to the darkness and disappearing from the world record, like so many other uprisings in China before and after 1989. It is important to note that we anticipated a crackdown, not a massacre. It also should have been noted that the student leaders made a major effort to make sure students who chose to stay at Tiananmen were volunteers who understood the risks of remaining in the square.
Above all, our fellow student Chai Ling’s language "…I want to live…" was also taken out of context, and gives a false impression that she ran away. In fact, she was there with her fellow student demonstrators until the last minute at Tiananmen, and led the last protestors on the Square retreating to campus in the morning of June 4th, 1989. It was with that false impression, Chan Yi'ngok, the recently impeached Chair of Hong Kong University Students' Union, had made an errant public speech and ruined his reputation.
Context helps provide truth, thus we are critical that you as filmmakers left out Chai Ling’s audio tape from June 8th, 1989, where she gave detailed accounts on what happened during the night of massacre, and of which the filmmakers must have been aware. Most of Chai Ling’s June 8th speech was intentionally omitted from the documentary, as it would have called into question the veracity of the translation and editing of her videotaped clip in the film quoted above—a clip that was used extensively to promote and draw attention to the film.
Chai Ling’s voice on May 28th, 1989, regarding her desire to live is a voice of all of us. There is no one, among the billions of Chinese people that does not have a strong desire to live. The truth is that when the massacre and imprisonment came, many of us and our colleagues made the difficult decision to sacrifice the desire to live in order fulfill our duty and honor. The fact is also that, during those long dark days, months, and years following Tiananmen of being underground and in hiding, imprisonment, or exile overseas, the very desire to live has gave us all the courage and strength to survive. As Chai Ling said during her Hunger Strike speech: "With the courage of facing death, we are fighting for the right to live".
Our goal was, and is, truth. Chai Ling and all of us accomplished the goal to some extent in that this is one event in China’s modern history that left extensive photos, reporting, books, and memoirs for the world to see and to tell the history and show the truth. This movement did not disappear into darkness as others did before, via the Chinese Government’s controlled media.
Many, many years ago, de Tocqueville visited America, observed and concluded, "America is great because she is good. Her people are good…Once it ceases its goodness, America will ceases its greatness". We are all fortunate today, to have this debate, because the American founding fathers have fought and left us an open system that encourages free speech and academic freedom. The very freedom that we all fought for, sacrificed for, and yet have not achieved inside China.
We value you and your colleagues’ stated interest to "reflect the complex motives and stories behind the events of 1989 in an accessible format, and to provide specialists and the public with an ongoing research resource." We, too, are continuing our effort to build a historical archive for public access via the web site: www.64memo.com. It should be our common interest to work together to preserve a true record of the history.
On the 20th anniversary remembering all of the Chinese students’ and citizens' sacrifices, it has been 14 years since we first raised our concerns with you, but we have seen no action taken to correct misrepresentations in The Gate of Heavenly Peace. Again, we who took the risk and live in exile today because of it, urge you to post on your website this brief response and defense of our attempt to bring freedom and democracy to China, and of those students and citizens who risked or sacrificed their life and future to cry for a better future of China.
Signatories ' Name, College in 1989, brief note
FANG Zheng, BeijingSportUniversity, Crushed by Tank in the morning of June 4, 1989
ZHANG Jian, BeijingSportUniversity, Shot in the early morning of June 4, 1989
XIONG Yan, PekingUniversity, on the 21 Most Wanted List, among the last protestors on Chang'An Avenue
ZHOU Fengsuo, TsinghuaUniversity, on the 21 Most Wanted List, among the last students on the Square
FENG Congde, PekingUniversity, on the 21 Most Wanted List, among the last students on the Square
CHANG Jing, PekingUniversity, on a Wanted List, organized the survey of deaths in hospitals
CHENG Zhen, BeijingNormalUniversity, among the last students on Tiananmen Square
PAN Qiang, Shandong University, among the last students retreating from Tiananmen Square
SHENG Xue, witness of Beijing Tiananmen massacre
ZHENG Yi, well-known writer, organizer of Beijing Intellectuals' demonstrations
WANG Rongfen, Junior researcher of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, witness of the massacre
YANG Jianli, U.C. Berkeley, witness of Beijing Tiananmen massacre
YANG Wei, activist in Shanghai, who was put in jail for 18 months after the massacre
ZHANG Jing, activist in Guizhou, who was in jail then
BI Runquan, social worker in Hong Kong, supporting all along the Tiananmen student movement
Signatories in Chinese: