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Release: May 27, 1999


UI professors, student available to comment on 10th anniversary of Tiannamen Square

IOWA CITY — June 4, 1999 will mark the 10th anniversary of the Tiannamen Square massacre, which according to Amnesty International, left more than 1,000 Chinese dead after they had publicly protested China’s authoritarian government.

The several weeks of protests ended after the Chinese government authorized its military to forcefully suppress the protestors’ calls for reforms. Freedom of expression among Chinese and a complete democratic change still remain unrealized in China.

"One could say at one level that nothing has changed. The Communist Party is still in control, and the Chinese don’t enjoy political freedom. At the same time, China has tried to introduce a Chinese-style market economy, says Jae-on Kim, UI sociology professor and director of the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies. "In the long run the Communist Party will not be able to contain the energy and dynamism created by the introduction of the market economy," says Kim, who also serves as a mentor for Chinese students at the UI.

The UI Registrars Office reports that during fall 1998, some 385 students from the Peoples Republic of China attended the UI, of which 349 were enrolled in a graduate program.

Yanfei Fong, a UI graduate student, says it’s important for people of all ethnic groups to talk about what happened in Beijing and to remember those who called for an open government. Fong was a student at Beijing University during the protests, and she says the Chinese government compelled her and many others to complete one year’s military training after the protests were quelled.

"Because of the training, my friends and I had a special opportunity to learn about the Tiannamen movement," says Fong, a member of the Friendship Association of Chinese Students and Scholars, a group of scholars from mainland China.

But many Chinese still are averse to discussing with the media the events in Beijing in 1989. Even with China’s gradual move toward the Western democratic model, Kim says, many Chinese students are afraid and won’t speak out against their government.

Contact these sources for further information: Jae-on Kim can be reached at (319) 335-1304; Yanfei Fong at 354-7673; Judy Polumbaum, UI journalism professor who has studied cross-cultural freedom of expression issues and East Asian media systems at 335-4034. (Polumbaum served as a consultant to the Xinhua News Agency, and consultant and writer for "China Daily," both in Beijing.); and Lois Gray, media relations and publications assistant director, International Programs office at 335-2026.