2009, Fri, Feb 20

China: The Unfinished Journey - From Tiananmen Square to Exile

Themed Days

Wang Dan, student leader in 1989 and poet (London), and the documentary film maker Ai Xiaoming (Guangdong/China) in conversation with the poet Yang Lian (London).

Moderation: Tilman Spengler, write

r and sinologist

1989 stands for the transition to a democratic system for people in many countries around the world. In China, however, the Tiananmen Square massacre, which took place that year, signalled the end of the movement for democracy. From the early 1990s on, Deng Xiaoping pushed ahead with a programme of radical economic reforms. Nowadays, nobody can ignore China, the global player. Yet the country's political system has barely changed. Chinese lyricist Yang Lian talks with dissidents and authors such as Wang Dan, one of the initiators of the student protests at the time. How have the events of 1989 left their mark on modern Chinese society?

See also:

The Gate of Heavenly Peace (Film), Fri 20.2., 22:00 h and Sat 28.2., 20:00 h More...

The participants

Ai Xiaoming, Professor of Chinese Language and Literature, Guangzhou. Apart from teaching at Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, China, Ai is Director of the Sex/Gender Education Forum founded in 2003, Deputy Director of the Women's Study Center, and a translator, director and filmmaker. In her documentary films, she explores human rights and the legal system in China. "Paradise Garden" (2003), "Tai Shi Village" (2006) and "Care and Love" (2007) are among her best known documentaries.

Tilman Spengler, Author, Berlin, studied Sinology, Political Science and Modern History in Heidelberg, Munich and Taipei. After his doctorate, he was a research associate at the Max Plank Institute for Social Sciences in Starnberg. From the early 1980s, his research and teaching took him to the Academy of Sciences in Beijing and Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin. During this time, he became co-editor of the Kursbuch. Aside from his academic activities, he writes for Die Zeit, Der Spiegel, GEO and Die Woche. He is also a screenwriter and documentary filmmaker ("Bitter Balkans", 1999) and an author. His works include, "Lenin's Brain" (1991), "The Painter of Beijing" (1996), "Forehead, Eyes, Mouth" (1996) and "My Society" (2001). In 2003, he received the Ernst Hoferichter Award for his work.

Bastian Trost, Actor, Berlin, studied at the Westphalian Drama School in Bochum. By the age of 16, he acted in plays such as "Medea" and "King Lear" at the Düsseldorf Schauspielhaus. He also acted in "Romeo and Juliet" (1991, Kolb Hall Cologne); "The Good Thief" (1998, Deutsches Theater Baracke); and "The Beach" (2001, Volksbühne Berlin). Since 2002, he has been a member of the artist group Gob Squad.

Wang Dan, Civil Rights Activist, USA, studied East Asian history and in 1989, organized the student protests at Beijing University. As one of the leaders of the bloody demonstrations on the Tianan’men Square in 1989, he was arrested and accused of “counter-revolutionary political agitation," and sentenced to three and a half years in prison. In 1993, he was again taken into police custody and was sentenced in 1996 to eleven years in prison for "conspiracy to overthrow the government.” In April 1998, two months prior to U.S. President Bill Clinton’s official visit, the Chinese government deported the dissident, who became seriously ill due to prison-related circumstances, to the USA, where he resumed his studies. He is currently Chairman of the Chinese Constitutional Reform Association.

Yang Lian, Poet, London, was born 1955 in Bern/Switzerland, as the child of Chinese diplomats and raised in Beijing. From 1977, he was a program director and producer for the Beijing State Radio. From 1978 to 1983, Lian Yang traveled extensively in search of Chinese history. During this period, he created his first poetic works, including the poem "Nuorilang”, which was sharply criticized by the Chinese government in 1983 as part of the campaign against “spiritual pollution.” After his protests against the massacre in the Tianan’men Square in 1989, his work in China was forbidden and his citizenship revoked. In 1997, Yang Lian participated in the documenta X; and in 1999, he was awarded the Flaiano International Prize for Poetry. His publications include: "Where the Sea Stands Still" (1995), "Note of a Blissful Ghost" (2002), “Unreal City” (2006). A new collection of poems will be published by the German Suhrkamp Verlag in 2009.