COVER

RAGE AND SORROW

CHINESE IN CANADA MOURN THE DEAD

MARY NEMETH June 19 1989
COVER

RAGE AND SORROW

CHINESE IN CANADA MOURN THE DEAD

MARY NEMETH June 19 1989

RAGE AND SORROW

COVER

CHINESE IN CANADA MOURN THE DEAD

Protesters—some with tears welling in their eyes and black bands girdling their arms—filed silently toward a makeshift shrine last week. They faced the large funeral wreath—decorated with banners that honored the spirits of those who died in the massacre on Tiananmen Square in the early morning of June 4—and bowed solemnly three times. Then they placed bouquets of flowers on the ground. The silence was broken only by a solitary Buddhist nun, draped in saffron robes, chanting and beating incessantly on a drum. The protesters were on a quiet residential street in central Toronto, in front of the Chinese consulate. They were among the thousands of ethnic Chinese and other Canadians—shocked by the television coverage of bloody violence in Beijing—who held protest marches, vigils and memorial ceremonies. “The Chinese government tried to burn the bodies of students and erase the evidence,” said a tearful Joyce Lee, 40, after placing a bouquet of forgetme-nots at the Toronto shrine. “But we will never forget them.”

Hungry: In Ottawa, the government responded to the tragedy by offering at least temporary refuge to Chinese expatriates in Canada. And External Affairs Minister Joe Clark said that the 4,500 Chinese students in Canada could stay longer than their visas otherwise allowed. At the same time, Clark said that he was considering recalling Canada’s ambassador from Beijing for consultation to show Ottawa’s displeasure with the government’s actions—although he added that no such move was imminent.

Many of the students, hungry for news of their family and friends, made frantic phone calls to China and anxiously followed the events there in the media. Said Zheng Xi Lin, 26, a Chinese graduate student of economics at Dalhousie University in Halifax: “I couldn’t believe it. There on TV was one of my former students, bleeding from a head wound.” Lin added defiantly: “I would have been in the front lines if I had been there. We have to save lives and we

have to save China.” Many Chinese students helped to organize demonstrations in at least 10 cities coast to coast, including a rally attended by more than 30,000 people in Toronto on June 4. Lin, who spoke at a Halifax rally at which 200 protesters burned pictures of Chinese leaders Li Peng and Deng Xiaoping, said, “The hard-liners are the enemies of the people.”

While some Chinese students openly denounced their government in the days follow-

ing the massacre, they were fearful for their families and friends back home—particularly after hearing reports that the hard-liners had consolidated power and were beginning to arrest students and protest leaders. Some spoke out but requested anonymity. They told of relatives who were among the crowds that tried to block troops from advancing on Tiananmen Square on the night before the massacre. “First the soldiers used clubs to beat off the students,” said one, his voice shaking. “Then they used bayonets.” He described how his relatives watched in horror as a young girl was shot in the neck. “Her head had broken away,”

he said. “Blood still stains the spot where the little girl died, and brain material is on the ground nearby.”

For some students, TV-watching was an agonizing ordeal. “I taped all the TV news,” said a Chinese student in Winnipeg. “Then I put it in slow motion and checked each frame and each dead body to see if any were familiar to me.” The student did not recognize anyone on television, but he said that he was deeply concerned. With telephone lines often jammed, he had not

been able to reach his parents, whose apartment is near Tiananmen Square, or his brother-in-law, who participated in the demonstrations. But he and his wife, who is also in Winnipeg, eventually reached their nine-yearold daughter, who is living temporarily with inlaws in Beijing. The student, who took part in demonstrations in Winnipeg, said that “protests and rallies let Canadians know what is happening in China. Then the Chinese people will be encouraged because they will know that the world supports them.”

Many of the Chinese students in Canada and the United States resorted to high-tech means

to get their message across. Using fax machines, they sent Chinese-language news articles and pictures of the bloody massacre in Tiananmen to their friends in China. Because fax messages do not require a telephone operator, it is difficult for Chinese authorities to monitor them. In some cases the Chinese students sent the messages to randomly selected fax numbers in China in the hope that a sympathetic receiver would retransmit them within the country.

Oust: Many students said that they feared returning to China. Si Zhe Zhong, 30, had finished his graduate studies in environmental science at Dalhousie and was planning to go back to China at the end of June. Last week, Si—who may take advantage of the Canadian government’s offer to extend visas—said that he hopes to wait “until the dust settles.”

Many of the protesters said that Canada should do even more to oppose China’s hard-line government. Richard Chan, 48, a spokesman for the Toronto Committee of Concerned Chinese Canadians Supporting the Democra-

cy Movement in China, urged Ottawa to recall its ambassador from Beijing, suspend economic and cultural ties with China and call an emergency debate on the situation at the UN. He said that would give the moderates—whom he maintained were still struggling for control of the Beijing government—ammunition against the hard-liners. Said Chan: “The moral standing of Canada among nations depends on what we do now.”

In Vancouver, almost 5,000 people packed an Anglican church on Granville Street on June 6, filling the pews and aisles and spilling out onto the lawn. At the back of the church, volunteers collected $16,000 for the Red Cross in China. And after the service, protest-

ers—singing the American civil rights anthem, We Shall Overcome —marched to the Chinese consulate. “People are brutalized, children are massacred,” said Rev. Set Wai Lo, who then began to weep uncontrollably. In Montreal, Raymond Choi, 22, a Hong Kong native who immigrated to Canada with his family two years ago, was among more than 1,200 people who demonstrated in front of the Chinese consulate on Sherbrooke Street. “Our

gestures are small compared to those who are giving up their lives in China,” Choi declared. “But we are trying to beam back some hope to the protesters. We want them to know they are not alone in the world.”

Choi, like many of the protesters who marched on Chinese consulates around the country last week, was born in Hong Kong and said that he feared for the future of his homeland after it reverts to Chinese rule in 1997. Declared Sue Ping Chan, 42, who immigrated to Canada nine years ago and protested last week in Toronto: “For Hong Kong, it looks really grim. Short of a miracle, it’s not going to go through an easy transition.” Bloodbath: Alfred Cho, 32, who immigrated to Canada from Hong Kong 14 years ago, echoed the frustration and impotence that many of the protesters in Canada felt as they watched the bloodbath in Beijing on television, g “Living in Canada and growï ing up in the colony, I’ve had I freedom,” said Cho as he stood vigil outside the Chinese consulate in Toronto last week. “I’ve never demonstrated for anything in my life. But when I heard about this massacre, I just burst into tears. What can I do? I just feel so little.” As the events unfolded last week, Canadians—and Chinese students in Canada—expressed their indignation and frustration, plainly hoping that, somehow, their voices would be heard—and heeded.

MARY NEMETH with bureau reports

MARY NEMETH