China Stories Pt 28: Waldo Zai Nar?*
Song Shui! Dui Hua!
Protestors confronted a cordon of People's Armed Police around the Great Hall of the People, and got very close, but never caused a confrontation. The PAP were severely outnumbered and there were no barriers - beyond the PAP, one had only to bound up the step and be inside the Great Hall. As a result, the PAP were VERY tense. But the students were very disciplined - remarkably so for such a large, uncoordinated group. In fact, at several points when it appeared that a confrontation was imminent, the students policed themselves, booting any troublemakers to the rear.
I remember two chants from these confrontations (though they may have taken place at different times):
"Song shui!" Bring us water. I think this started off as a literal request. The square was hot during the day, and the students were there for days on end, so it was no surprise that they wanted water. But it was most certainly symbolic as well. The students were asking the government to show more compassion and concern for their plight. This appeal was probably instrumental in eliciting the sympathy of the general public.
"Dui hua!" Dialogue. As the students were emboldened, they asked for a dialogue. And to a degree that was all they wanted. They never asked for democratic reforms as we might think of them - one man, one vote. Rather they wanted greater transparency and accountability. They wanted transparency in government dealings, and accountability. And they wanted to be able to express their opinions about it, but not necessarily to vote.
Waldo Zai Nar?
One day I was out with Brad and John, shooting video on and around the square. We'd started early in the morning and by mid-afternoon we were hungry, but we weren't ready to pack it in yet, so they sent me to get food. As luck would have it, there was a Kentucky Fried Chicken not far from the southwest corner of Tiananmen Square. I came back with Original Recipe, mashed potatoes, cole slaw, and sporks.
So there I was, wading through Tiananmen Square with my chicken (and sides!). I weaved my way through tens if not hundreds of thousands of Chinese students demonstrating in the name of democracy.
Stand back, protesters! Coming through! I've got lunch.
Since I was carrying a big box with red and white stripes on it, I thought the scene must have looked like some sort of "Where's
Waldo?," cultural hegemony edition.
*Yes, that would be "Where's Waldo?" in Mandarin.