UT professor hosts panel to remember Tiananmen Square protests 30 years later

Aria Jones

At the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989, UT history professor Madeline Hsu said nearly 1  million youth in China asserted their need for political reforms, political representation and greater self-determination. To commemorate the 30th anniversary of the protests, Hsu organized a panel in the Avaya Auditorium on Friday.

Chaohua Wang, a participant in the ’89 demonstrations, spoke about her experience protesting and being on a “most wanted” student list with the Chinese government. Alex Chow, former vice president of the Hong Kong University Students’ Union, spoke about the current pro-democracy youth protests in Hong Kong.

“(The protests) really clarified certain aspects about the Chinese government, in addition to people being very inspired by the idealism and bravery of students and being very upset by the military crackdown,” Hsu said.

Skepticism remains about the number of people killed, but the Chinese government estimates that over 200 were killed and 3,000 were injured, according an article on the U.S. Department of State’s website. Hsu said many feel the ‘89 conflict hasn’t been fully resolved, and there has not been reconciliation from the government.

“The Chinese government talks about it as being this sort of counter-revolutionary uprising that had to be suppressed, but many other people see it as legitimate political protest,” Hsu said.

Hsu said people in the U.S. do not always pay attention to conflicts around the world.

“We also don’t really think about, necessarily Asian people, as being very committed to these kinds of liberal, political ideals,” Hsu said. “Yet, we have all of these instances of all these people organizing on a tremendous scale.”

Hsu said people born in China after 1989 are not taught about the Tiananmen Square protests, so the history is often disputed.

Law student Eve Wang said she was born in China and enjoyed learning about the events at the panel.

“If we don’t talk about it, it’s not history anymore,” Wang said.

History senior Reid Woodall said before the talk, he only knew what he had learned about Tiananmen Square in elementary school, which was just that there was a protest.

“Having the people here who lived through historical events like this is a very interesting opportunity for us to engage with history,” Woodall said. “It makes it feel more real, more in depth, (to have) someone right in front of you who was there.”