Little Bits of History

Chinese Democracy

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 30, 2013
Goddess of Democracy

Goddess of Democracy

May 30, 1989: A 33 foot tall statue called Goddess of Democracy is unveiled. The statue was built by students from the Central Academy of Fine Arts and took four days to produce. The statue was made of Styrofoam and papier-mâché over a metal framework. Its creators took inspiration from Vera Mukhinas’ Worker and Kolkhoz Woman. It was hoped the unveiling would bolster the enthusiasm of those demonstrating against an oppressive government.

The statue stood for only five days before it was destroyed. The most memorable vision from this confrontation between intellectuals seeking freedom and a government loathe to give up control would take place within days. Since 1989, several replicas of the statue have been erected in her honor. She has become an iconic figure of liberty, free speech, and democracy. None have had a more reverential following than this Goddess erected in Tiananmen Square in the face of the Communist Regime.

The Tiananmen Square protest began April 17 when tens of thousands of students spontaneously gathered there to mourn the death of General Secretary of the Communist Party, Hu Yoabang – a man felt to be incorruptible and pro reform. The crowds grew to more than 100,000 and on April 22 students petitioned to meet with Chinese Premiere Li Peng, to no avail. An April 26 editorial denouncing the students only set off more rioting. The imbroglio came to the world’s attention by early May.

As time marched on, students began going back to classes, disenchanted. On May 13, 160 students began a hunger strike hoping to catch Mikhail Gorbachev’s attention during a scheduled visit. Political repercussions ensued with Martial Law declared on May 19. The army was being sent to Tiananmen Square to restore order. The assault began on June 3 as troops converged on the square. Over the next two days hundreds, perhaps thousands, were killed and thousands more were injured. The vision that comes to mind when this struggle is mentioned is that of a lone man standing in the street, in front of a line a tanks, moving from side to side and blocking their way. Tank Man did not persuade them to stop and his identity has never been disclosed.

“At this grim moment, what we need most is to remain calm and united in a single purpose. We need a powerful cementing force to strengthen our resolve: That is the Goddess of Democracy.” – from the Declaration displayed with the Goddess of Democracy

“I myself envision a day when another replica, as large as the original and more permanent, stands in Tiananmen Square, with the name of those who died there written in gold on its base. It may well stand there after Chairman Mao’s Mausoleum has, in its turn, been pulled down.” – Tsao Tsing-yuan

“When we can make democracy work, we won’t have to force it down other people’s throats. If it really is such a good idea, and if they can see it working, they will steal it.” – Dick Gregory

“Man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary.” – Reinhold Niebuhr

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Chai Ling was born in China in 1966 and was a student participating in the Tiananmen Square movement. The number of students declined and Ling was disenchanted with the difficulties of keeping the Movement together, so she resigned. The square no longer was a meeting place for high minded people, but a squalid, sewer reeking stagnant area where the struggle for democracy was seemingly lost. The unveiling of the statue revitalized the Movement. Ling fled China in 1990 with help from Hong Kong. After hiding for ten months, she settled in France. She was given a scholarship to Princeton.  Today, Ling (who received her MLA from Princeton University and her MBA from Harvard) is the founder of All Girls Allowed, a humanitarian organization trying to restore value to females in China. She is also President and COO of Jenzabar, an Internet company she founded in 1998.

Also on this day Start Your Engines – In 1911 the first Indianapolis 500 is held.
Fan Club – In 1933, Sally Rand danced in Chicago.
Duel – In 1806, Charles Dickenson was killed in a duel.

One Response

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  1. Bobby Dias said, on May 30, 2013 at 8:26 pm

    The group spoke of in the story refuses to call anything democratic if the group does not have a say in what is said- even the United States is not considered as democratic by this group. Also, about: “The assault began on June 3 as troops converged on the square. Over the next two days hundreds, perhaps thousands, were killed.” The author does not say that it was the so-called protestors that did nearly all the killing. The tanks and the soldiers preventing the “protestors” from killing all of the 500,000 or so camping on the square on religious pilgrimage.

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