The New York Times has asked four writers to reflect back on the events of 1989. Yu Hua, author of the highly-acclaimed Brothers, writes, for his first time publicly, about his experiences that spring:
I realize now that the spring of 1989 was the only time I fully understood the words “the people.” Those words have little meaning in China today.
“The people,” or renmin, is one of the first phrases I learned to read and write. I knew our country was called “the People’s Republic of China.” Chairman Mao told us to “serve the people.” The most important paper was People’s Daily. “Since 1949, the people are the masters,” we learned to say.
[…] Today, few young Chinese know anything about what happened at Tiananmen Square, and those who do only say vaguely, “A lot of people in the streets then, that’s what I heard.”
The people. Still, it was not the rallies in Tiananmen Square that made me truly understand these words, but an episode one night in late May.