On June 4th 1989, a massacre happened at Beijing's Tiananmen Square. Protesting students, as well as the ordinary Beijingers defending them, were shot down. Many ended up in prison. Decades on, the Chinese Communist Party still bans all discussion of what happened on 六四 or 6/4. Our in-depth discussion with Sinologist Jeffrey Wasserstrom about the Tiananmen Square massacre took place on its 25th anniversary.
Bullets and Opium by Liao Yiwu is a new book (May 2019) that has come out since the interview, and mentioned by Jeff (via Twitter) as a book he would have included if the interview were conducted now. Liao Yiwu is a poet and writer, one of whose books, The Corpse Walker: Real Life Stories, China from the Bottom Up, has already been recommended on Five Books. In 1990, he was arrested for his writing about the Tiananmen massacre, tortured and imprisoned.
Liao Yiwu spent ten years in jail, where he was put with the ordinary criminals, so he mixed with all kinds of people and interviewed them and recorded their life stories, and it’s an extraordinary testimony about how people live at the bottom of society. Through the story of their lives you have a record of recent Chinese history: a kind of mirror of the life that has been lived by individuals.