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Thursday, July 26, 2012

'Connected' youths key to China's future: activist


The climate faced by democracy activists in China has only gotten worse since 1989's bloody Tiananmen Square crackdown, according to dissident Wang Dan.

News photo
Activism: Wang Dan, a student leader during the 1989 Tiananmen Square incident, talks with Chinese students studying in Japan on July 6 in Meguro Ward, Tokyo. KYODO

Wang, however, believes the nation's younger generations can make a difference through their stronger connections to the outside world, which have been enhanced by the Internet and by studying abroad.

During his first visit to Japan earlier this month, Wang spent a week in Tokyo giving lectures and discussing China's future with university students — including many Chinese studying here.

"It was good being able to frankly exchange opinions with Chinese youths," said Wang, a student leader in the 1989 Tiananmen protests in Beijing. "I think this shows, more than anything, changes in Chinese society."

Following a lecture held at Tokyo Institute of Technology on July 6, some 30 Chinese students stayed behind to ask Wang more questions. Many of them were born in the 1980s, and would have been too young to remember the incident in 1989.

Among the questions were: Why did the demand for democratization turn into the Tiananmen incident? Who ordered the suppression by armed force? What is necessary to change China? What role can we play?

"I can't say specifically what should be done, but the future is in your hands," Wang responded. "What is important is to desire to make your country a better place and take action."

Referring to his own experiences, the 43-year-old activist continued, "The moment comes all of a sudden, as in my case. It might be tomorrow, or it could be next year. Nobody knows."

With more and more Chinese youths now studying abroad, Wang said he often faces such a barrage of questions wherever he goes.

"They are sincerely curious about what happened at Tiananmen," he said.

These days, China's youths are well connected to the Internet, such as through "weibo" microblogging services.

"As I continue the prodemocracy movement, I also hope to get the message across to them via the Internet and through teaching," said Wang, who teaches at a university in Taiwan.

Wang was arrested and jailed following the Tiananmen crackdown, having been charged with spreading counterrevolutionary propaganda.

He sought asylum in the United States in 1998 after being released on parole and currently lives there.

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