Mourning Hu Yaobang in Tiananmen

  • Post published:02/22/2024
  • Post comments:2 Comments
Students in Sorrow About Hu Yaobang’s Death

In 1989, thirty-five years ago,  I was working at Greenfield Community College. I was chatting with a friend in my office who said another friend was looking for someone who wanted to go to Beijing, but then said no. After conversations Henry and I thought a year of Bejing would be fascinating.  We finally got the go ahead. I resigned from my job and Henry took a leave of absence from UMass.

So, on April 16 morning my husband, Henry, and I drove off to get our airplane ride to Beijing. After 26 hours for refuling in California and Shanghai we arrived at 2 am and were met by my new friends – Zhao Hu, Chen Yen and Xiao Pan.  The hotel people went through the process but then started giggling and looking at us. We asked Zhao Hu why they were laughing at us. She had to laugh too. “They are laughing because your name is Patricia and it is the same as your apartment number, ba chi si yao 8741.

Students Continue to Gather at the Square

The joke was explained as we walked along to our Building 8. Then we stopped and asked about the strange sound we had been hearing. “Oh, that is the students chanting because of Hu Yaobang’s death.”  Hu was a reformer in the Chinese Communist party, and greatly loved by the students. This was the beginning of the Beijing Spring.

Greater crowds at the Square

We slowly settled in our apartment. We found the Hotel’s Foreign Experts Dining Room where we could enjoy good meals, and chat with my office companions and other interesting people. There was work to do, and they were helpful in teaching me how we worked together. Happily for me, we worked for WOMEN OF CHINA, a magazine that is available in many countries around the world – and I got to learn a lot.

Demonstrators in Tiananmen

Things were changing. People were talking about rumors, what does it mean? We asked more for clarity but all I  heard was “It’s very complicated.” When the army cracked down on the protestors on June 4, people from other countries were beginning to leave Beijing. We then decided to leave – for a while. We did want to visit and work in Beijing. We did not take everything with us, but we packed some clothes, our little computer, and hopes that there  could be a happy ending. Here’s what I wrote on the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown.

Many people were leaving and we got into a car with others and started off. The road was very crowded and we were riding right in back of a truck full of Chinese soldiers with rifles. A woman in the car took out her camera to take photos of the soldiers, but Perry Link, the man sitting next to her very quietly said “Please, put the camera away.” And she did. And we were all very quiet. Finally we arrived at the airport and got our plane to take us to Hong Kong.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Betsy

    I remember hearing about this and being worried about you! When you left Beijing (temporarily) you came to Kenya to visit me! Which was awesome.

  2. Pat

    Betsy – We were ready to give Beijing another try – and it did work out. We had a wonderful time – most of the time.

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