The feeling of home leaves a sense of sentimentality lingering in one’s memory. This is how I felt when returning to my hometown in New York and completing my Tiananmen travels there.
There is also the added complexity of familial obligations which I have had to tend to during the few weeks here, while continuing to meet with exiles and photographing. Lest to say, I have not yet revealed to my parents the contents of this project. Somehow, I have rationalized my reservations towards disclosing this project to them. It is their trauma which they try to forget yet my curiosity which prompts me to investigate. As Chinese immigrants, any topic about their home country is naturally deeply personal to them (especially anything regarding the Chinese government), and so for the sake of keeping the family intact, I would rather not challenge any last sense of identity they have remaining. I have resorted to continuing my research with discreet measures.
Flushing for the past few decades has thrived as a cultural hub for East Asian immigrant families. It is also a spot my parents frequent in order to feel in touch with their Chinese roots. And so returning to Flushing with more politically-conscious intentions invoked an eerie, yet invigorating feeling. I was finally discovering the hidden histories of this city.
The most surprising discovery I found during my online research, was that there is no unified overseas Chinese Democracy Party (it has been illegalized in China since 1998). Instead, there are many organizations established, independent of each other, which seem to claim agency in America. While walking around Flushing, I found two locations (sourced online) which claim to be the Chinese Democracy Party Headquarters, only a couple blocks apart from each other.
Interviewing with Chen Pokong was a pleasure. He made very warming gestures to make me feel as comfortable as possible, despite the serious nature of our conversation, including treating me to lunch and helping me get in contact with several other exiles in New York. As a result, I was able to also interview Li Jinjin and schedule an upcoming one with Wang Youcai, former founder of the now purged China Democracy Party.
In America, any mention of exile or imprisonment would invoke turned heads and hushed whispers. Yet I was pleasantly surprised when upon meeting these exiles in person, they had no reservations towards speaking about their experiences in public. The trauma they bore 28 years ago only seemed to further empower their political efforts. I admire their bravery.