Tuesday, November 07, 2006

China Stories Pt. 34: "The People Love the Army!"

So. My parents continued on with their tour, I continued to work at CBS, and the demonstrations continued as well.

As the days passed in the middle of May, a confrontation became increasingly likely. The People's Liberation Army was moving into Beijing, numbering in the tens of thousands.

But as the Army tried to enter the city, an amazing thing happened: people - regular people from every walk of life - blocked them from entering. They created barricades of cars and buses, and even laid themselves down in front of trucks, slowing the PLA's progress. They showed the recruits - young, very apprehensive. They were mostly rural boys with very little education, who barely spoke Mandarin. People would speak to them, try to start a dialogue with them. They'd say, "the people love the People's Liberation Army! And the Army loves the people!"

These poor kids were in a very tough position. Imagine if a bunch of 20 year olds from rural Kentucky, or Alabama, or Idaho, were asked to occupy Times Square. Or Union Square in SF. (I wish that sounded more absurd than it does.)

Somewhere in the midst of all this a couple of things happened that stick in my mind.

One day, Wu'er Kaixi came to the CBS offices to be interviewed. He was the student leader from Beijing Normal University. A native Beijinger of Uyghur descent, he had Matinee Idol good looks and loads of charisma. In the televised meeting with the Country's senior leaders, Wu'Er Kaixi made strident remarks, still dressed in a hospital gown (I can't remember, but I think he'd been hunger striking). He dramatically fainted at the end of his speech.

I remember that we sent a car to get him and that he brought along his girlfriend. Then I also remember him sitting around at CBS for half a day, drinking beer. This somewhat tarnished my view of him as a leader.

Then, for some other story, I was called into do a voiceover of the English translation of someone speaking in Mandarin. It was for either the CBS Evening News, or a piece for 60 Minutes. Anyway, my voice was on the broadcast, so I called my grandparents to let them know so they could listen for it. So that was kind of cool.


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