Tiananmen activist fights China from within
June 3, 1997
Web posted at: 3:10 p.m. EDT (1910 GMT)
From Beijing Bureau Chief Andrea Koppel
BEIJING (CNN) -- Eight years ago Wednesday, the Chinese
government launched a bloody crackdown against students
demonstrating for democracy in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.
Many of the most prominent activists who led the 1989
protests are now living in exile. But self-described
journalist, author and editor Dai Qing has chosen to stay in
China despite the restrictions on her freedom.
Not one of China's best known critics, Dai criticizes her
homeland on a regular basis. What sets her apart from so many
others is the fact she does her finger pointing from within
"If the price for this were losing my head, maybe I'd think
twice," she says. "Maybe I'd have left, better just to keep
my head and say my piece some other day, but these sacrifices
now are ones that I can make."
Once considered China's best known woman journalist, Dai lost
her job as a local magazine reporter after June 4, 1989,
because she resigned in protest from the Communist party.
That she'd tried to get the students to end their hunger
strike and negotiate with the government made no difference.
Dai was still forced to spend the next 10 months in prison.
"It's like you grew up drinking the milk of the Communist
party and yet you turn around and criticize them, that's just
the kind of person they hate most," she says.
In the eight years since, a select group of Chinese activists
who left China have become synonymous with the 1989 student
democracy demonstrations. Dai has a few choice words for
those dissidents she believes have used their subsequent fame
to make money.
"I scorn them," she says. "'Enraged' can't even describe it.
It's China's tragedy that at a historical moment like this we
get a group of people like them, and that they're
international stars, and taken as representatives of China.
People think that they are China's most knowledgeable, moral,
progressive people, China's hope. That makes me sad."
But rather than allowing herself to be overwhelmed by anger
and frustration, Dai has focused her creative energy on her
work. One of her books attacks the government's decision to
build the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River. The book,
written in Beijing but published outside China, is one of
many examples of the gray area in which she chooses to live
"I move forward, getting the Chinese government to step back
one millimeter at a time," she says. "If you try to make them
step back a centimeter or a whole meter, they don't dare to
Dai says China's lack of free speech is the last iceberg.
Spring has come to China and that block of ice is starting to
melt, she says, but it's still a very large block. Dai is one
of those intent on chipping away at it -- in person.
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