Essays

A Handbill of Tiananmen

Documents of atrocity, resurfacing after thirty years – by Roger Huang

“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”
– George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four

A few months ago at a book fair, I met a book dealer who specializes in antique Chinese and Asian books. The conversation flowed to a point where I talked to them about my personal connection with the Tiananmen massacre. In my childhood, I had a family friend in the US, Dr. Jiang Yanyong, who as chief surgeon on duty at the 301 Military Hospital on June 4th 1989 witnessed countless bodies pocked with live ammunition, killed and wounded in a crackdown the Chinese government would try to hide from history.

The book dealer told me that somebody had smuggled out of Beijing a cache of handbills and original documents written by students of Peking University who had participated in the Tiananmen protests – and that they were on the market now. A private owner, who didn't want their name associated with the documents, was trying to sell one of the largest caches of first-hand documentation about the Tiananmen massacre.