I cried at Tiananmen Square when I visited China two years ago.
Here are my thoughts which I wrote to a friend on the spot, early in the morning. Presented to you today on the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre of 1989, lest we forget:
I’m standing in Tiananmen Square for the first time.
A moment ago I suddenly visualized what it would have been like were I standing here in 1989 with the people of China, just as I marched with the people in Leipzig East Germany in November 1989 as they too marched for freedom. I’m crying at their bravery–and for those whose dreams were crushed along with their lives on June 4, 1989.
Around me even at this early hour are thousands of Chinese students and tourists. They smile and pose for selfies and happy pictures, completely oblivious to the sacrifices made by their own fellow citizens, who stood together on the very ground I am standing to try to bring freedom to everyone in China.
Chinese citizens today are taught lies about their own heritage–imagine if the same had happened with our civil rights movement, and nobody was taught the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. had even existed. If Selma was a banned name. If you were taught Rosa Parks was a criminal.
To even hint at the truth is a “sensitive subject” here. China is not free in spite of superficial and materialistic appearances. I feel it and see it here.
Yet I have hopes one day again the people will win: that once again, and this time for keeps, the voices of freedom will again rise, and the people of China will finally enjoy true freedom. Human rights, free elections and free speech, and even the right to read these words.
The regime cleaned up the shed blood afterwards, and killed and sent to concentration camps vast numbers of participants from around the country, but nobody could erase the truth or the innate and God given desire for freedom.
Its weird standing here in the square. I can visualize being among the huge crowd then, cheering and hopeful while they built the Goddess of Democracy statue. Dreaming of a free China. And then… the tanks advancing. Tank man, briefly holding them at bay.
Then the final assault. That’s why I am crying.
Standing here where it all happened is completely different from seeing photos or videos, or the news I saw at the time. A very sad emotional feeling is hitting me as I look around here and think of the people who were killed, and the crushed dreams of freedom. The square and buildings I see look the same as what they saw on that day in June, 1989. So different from the victorious jubilation as the Berlin Wall opened forever a few months later.
Indeed, I was at the Berlin Wall when it opened. I stood on the bloody steps in Timisoara Romania just months after Ceausescu’s last stand. I walked past sandbags and memorials to those murdered by Gorbachev’s thugs into the embattled Parliament in Vilnius Lithuania. I walked around the Soviet tanks trying to occupy Riga Latvia in 1991. Now I’m standing in the footsteps of those Chinese who stood for freedom, yet were betrayed and slaughtered by the regime.
I’ve had the honor of knowing many who came from behind iron curtain; those who escaped tyranny for the basic freedoms we enjoy and often take for granted. Freedom is a life crusade for me. I’m sad to see how it failed here, sad to see how U.S. and world leaders betrayed the people in Tiananmen in 1989 with tepid or no support, in Tehran in 2009, and so many other places.
I’m crying here at Tiananmen Square. May God and the people of China one day help bring freedom here in Tiananmen Square and all across China.
Art Harman, August 2014
Please view these three evocative photos that I took at Tiananmen Square in 2014.
This is my picture to represent China’s tyranny in the proverbial thousand words. It’s the image of the very real police state which enforces Mao’s genocidal regime to this day should anyone stray from the approved materialistic existence and to dream, even for a moment, of what China would be like if on that day in June 1989, the people had won and the country today was free.
The next photo represents those who were taught lies about the Massacre. Those who were falsely told it was students who rioted and attacked police, not the reality that millions of Chinese people rose up peacefully to demand freedom, and were attacked and slaughtered by the army. Those who are blocked by the “Great Firewall” from reading the truth on foreign websites. I don’t blame them: they just don’t know the truth, or they accept that its a “sensitive issue” and don’t dare inquire further.
What’s the final photo? “No Mao.” It’s my picture to represent China without the tyranny in the proverbial thousand words. It’s imagining Tiananmen Square without the very real police state which enforced Mao’s genocidal regime; a China where the people win and are at last truly free.
Photos credit: Art Harman
For Chinese readers: 六四屠杀 May 35, VIIV, Eight Squared, 82, 64, 六四, 天安门大屠杀
Art Harman is the President of the Coalition to Save Manned Space Exploration, a space advocacy organization supporting the return to the moon by 2024. He was the Legislative Director and foreign policy advisor for Rep. Stockman (R-Texas) in the 113th Congress, and is a veteran policy analyst and grass-roots political expert. His expertise includes foreign relations, border security/amnesty, national security, transportation, foreign broadcasting and NASA/space policy.
He has travelled the world and been behind the Iron Curtain during the Soviet era, witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall, was arrested by the KGB, dodged Soviet tanks in Riga Latvia, and stood in the footprints of those who sacrificed everything for freedom at Tiananmen Square.
Mr. Harman developed the strategy to kill the 2013 Senate “gang of eight” amnesty bill as violating the Constitution’s Origination Clause–and was dubbed “The Bill Killer” by Roll Call for his work. He provided policy advice to the Trump campaign, transition and the White House. He wrote what became the ‘bible’ for post-Brexit trade relations which was introduced in 2016 by Sen. Mike Lee as S. 3123, the United Kingdom Trade Continuity Act, and he advised the Trump administration to return Americans to the Moon by 2024–now official policy. Harman is a frequent guest expert on radio shows on key policy issues, a filmmaker, and is an award-winning fine-arts photographer.