[FOUNTAIN]A Beijing memorial that may one day beBeijing bates its breath in June, because of the unhealed wound of the Tiananmen Square massacre of June 4, 1989. No one knows for sure how many hundreds or thousands fell dead there.
“Debasement is the password of cowards,
“Nobility is the epitaph of the nobleman...
“Let me tell you, the world,
“I ― do ― not ― believe!
“If a thousand challengers lie under your feet,
“Count me as the thousand and first challenger.”
This is from the poem “The Answer,” which the protesters read in Tiananmen Square. Its origins date to April 5, 1976, when people mourning the death of Zhou Enlai gathered in the same square. Poems censuring the “Gang of Four” proliferated. “The Answer” was central to the “April Fifth Movement,” also called the “Spring of Beijing.”
Thirteen years later, on April 15, 1989, when Hu Yaobang died, the poem was revived. Young people in Tiananmen Square sang “The Answer” and shouted for democratization. We know the results.
Earlier this month in Korea, on June 4, the author of “The Answer,” Bei Dao, addressed a meeting in a lecture hall commemorating the 16th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. In 16 years of exile, wandering through seven different countries, the poet called himself “a person fired from his country.” His pen name, Bei Dao comes from the words meaning “a silent island in the northern sea,” but he now says it means “drifting island.”
The poet, an elite student in middle school who became a member of the Red Guards and later worked in an iron factory, continuously wrote revolutionary poems, earning the title “China’s Solzhenitsyn. Since 1993, he has been discussed for the Nobel Prize. He recently visited the May 18 Cemetery in Korea and said, “I hope a June 4 monument will be established in Tiananmen Square.”
That hope seems too far away to become real. Beijing defines the Tiananmen massacre as “political troubles.” It is regulating the press and activists, and arrests foreign journalists as spies. Officials are continuously being exiled. But Bei Dao’s resistance will not end easily either.
by You Sang-cheol
The writer is a deputy international news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.