I know this blog is usually about my Airstream travels. I rarely travel without it, but I’m going to a place tomorrow where I cannot tow it.
I’m heading to Shenzhen China to perform a concert, and am reminded of my last attempted trip China in June of 1989. The massacre at Tiananmen Square had just occurred. Even as a 17-year-old, learning about China that year to prep for the trip, I could see the people’s desire for democratic reforms greatly outstripped its government’s desire to change. It was a terrible blow to the strides China had been making, and chilling to see China fire on, and kill, so may of its own people.
We could no longer visit Shanghai and Beijing, so the last stop on the tour (Hong Kong) became the first, and we continued on to Malaysia, Singapore, and Kuala Lumpur.
Hong Kong seemed very modern in 1989, compared to China. And as I remember it, the old airport was so near the surrounding mountains that landings were pretty steep, and close to the buildings.
I brought my parent’s 35mm camera with me to document the trip.
In Hong Kong (still under British Rule), tanks roamed the streets, and there were “Goddess of Liberty” statues – like the one destroyed in the massacre. I believe I took the photo below in Kowloon, on the northern edge of Hong Kong.
We were just a few miles from the border of mainland China, yet we could not visit.
29 years later, I can.
Wednesday, I leave for ShenZhen, in GuangDong Province, China – just a few miles from the photo I took of the “Goddess of Liberty”. In 1989, Shenzhen was just 9 years into its progress as the first Special Economic Zone, growing from rice fields into the tech center it is today.
Yet even today, the search term “Tiananmen Square” is censored. Authorities have even gone as far as blocking combinations of the numbers 6, 4, 1989, referencing the date of the protest, June 4, 1989. For many members of the world’s largest online population, the facts about the bloody crackdown have been erased.
I’m looking forward to experiencing the progress made since 1989, especially in this musical cultural exchange visit. But I worry that it may be only skin-deep – even 29 years later.
(I’ll be using a VPN in China, so I might get a blog post out when I’m there.)