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VIDEO: On 35th anniversary of the massacre, ‘Tiananmen is important because it’s hope’

Zhou Fengsuo, a Tiananmen student leader, tells FIRE why the 1989 protests, and free speech more broadly, still matter in China today.
Fengsuo Zhou Tiananmen Square

WATCH: From Tiananmen Square to China's Most Wanted

VIDEO: On 35th anniversary of the massacre, ‘Tiananmen is important because it’s hope’

What crosses your mind today, when you think about the Tiananmen Massacre on its 35th anniversary? Gunshots and violence? Courageous individuals willing to stand in front of oncoming tanks?

If the Chinese government had its way, you would not think about the massacre at all, and the date of the anniversary would fade into obscurity. It’s no longer even possible to freely discuss — or openly remember — in Hong Kong. 

But people like Zhou Fengsuo, a Tiananmen student leader in 1989, co-founder of Humanitarian China, and now Executive Director of Human Rights in China, want to ensure that this date is not forgotten.

In a new video commemorating the anniversary of the Tiananmen Massacre, Zhou tells FIRE about his experiences as a student leader at the protests and how his willingness to speak his mind earned him a spot on China’s most-wanted list — and a stint in prison. 

“I was surprised,” Zhou says of finding himself listed as the fifth-most wanted protest leader in China. “I was also proud, profoundly, at this, because I believe what I went through, what I did, was justified — was also what I’m willing to give up everything for.”

Zhou doesn’t just want the date to be remembered. He also wants the world to understand that Tiananmen represents more than the violence that occurred there. It’s also a symbol of optimism and the fight for freedom in China.

“Tiananmen is important because it’s hope,” Zhou says. “It was the moment that we realized, and the world witnessed that Chinese people love freedom and democracy, and they are so willing to sacrifice their life for it.”

FIRE thanks Zhou for sharing his story with us.

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