As my time in DC comes to an end, I finally reach Boston. The days here feel a little lazier, since I wasn’t able to get in contact with any exiles (Chai Ling is the only one I know who lives in Boston, but she is rather emotional about Tiananmen and has since turned her focus towards religion), but with many international students turning to Boston for higher education, including many exiles from 1989, I found some potential for exploration.
Hidden in the back entrance of Chinatown Gateway Park, a park situated next to the grandiose gateway overlooking Chinatown, is a stone block which states the origins behind the space:
This park is dedicated in honor of the Democracy movement in China and in memory of those who died in the struggle for freedom in Tiananmen Square in June 1989
Raymond L Flymn, Mayor September 10, 1989
City of Boston
Separated into two opposing sides by a community mural, the side housing the memorial was rather largely neglected when I visited on a Tuesday morning. I stopped to take some photos on my film camera for my soon-to-be photo book and ignored a few confused glances from passersby. The opposing side was much more lively, as crowds of elderly Chinese men and women flocked to various tables to observe the several Chinese chess games going while chain-smoking and shouting in Canto.
Apparently, the Boston Redevelopment Authority attempted to close down this park under the black hand of the Chinese government back in 2010, but local Chinese citizens fought back to preserve this community space.
Some time later, I was digging through some Tiananmen Archives at the Harvard-Yenching Library and came across a small envelope full of photos documenting overseas protests going on in tandem. Droves of international Chinese students took the Boston streets in 1989 in support of the protests happening in their homeland. Looking at these photographs, I felt incredibly moved by their energy.
Every so often, during June 4 commemorations or memorials for the deceased, some number of people will gather at the stone block in remembrance, most recently one for Liu Xiaobo. Harvard some years ago even had a freshman Tiananmen 101 class taught by one of the protestors-turned-professor.
Evidently, I can’t help but wonder what role America had in the outcome of the protests. The memory is strong in Boston.