Tiananmen at 25: Symposium Features Leading Experts on China Protests

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

PHILADELPHIA (March 26, 2014) — Twenty-five years ago in May, close to one million Chinese citizens, mostly students, began gathering in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square to call for the democratic changes that they hoped would address human rights concerns in China. The peaceful protests lasted until June 4, 1989, when authorities began the brutal crackdown and suppression that led to the clearing of the square. Saint Joseph’s University’s Asian studies program will present the symposium Tiananmen at 25 on April 23 and 24, to consider the meaning and legacy of the Tiananmen Movement. The symposium also features a special session for high school and college educators that will focus on strategies to teach the Tiananmen Square events. The symposium is free and open to the public; guests are requested to register online.

“For an entire generation of China scholars, 1989 was a defining event: Many people thought China would be fundamentally changed by what happened that spring,” says James Carter, Ph.D., a Saint Joseph’s professor of history, an expert in 20th century China, and the symposium organizer. “Now, 25 years later, we can put those events in context to understand the role they played in shaping China. It’s vital that we keep the memory and lessons of those weeks alive, partly to understand China more fully, but also to prevent the people who died standing up for their beliefs from being erased from history.”

Part of the ongoing SJU series titled Protest: Continuity and Change, Tiananmen at 25 brings together several of the world’s leading experts on the events of 1989. Award-winning journalist Louisa Lim, who has been based in China for the past decade, most recently as NPR's Beijing bureau chief, will offer the keynote on Wednesday, April 23, at 4 p.m., followed at 6 p.m. by a screening of “The Gate of Heavenly Peace,” an award-winning feature-length documentary. Filmmaker Carma Hinton, Ph.D., of George Mason University, and others involved with the documentary, will participate in a brief question and answer session after the screening.

Symposium events and featured participants are listed below. Tiananmen at 25 will be held in Mandeville Hall’s (building #1 on the map) Wolfington Teletorium.

Wednesday, April 23:

4 p.m. – Keynote address by Louisa Lim, “The People's Republic of Amnesia: Tiananmen Revisited.”

5 p.m. – Opening reception in Mandeville Hall foyer.

6 p.m. – Screening of “Gate of Heavenly Peace,” followed by a Q&A with co-director Carma  Hinton, Ph.D., of George Mason University; Jeffrey Wasserstrom, Ph.D., of the               University of California-Irvine, a consultant on the film; and  Wu Guoguang, Ph.D., of the          University of Victoria, who is featured in the film.

Thursday, April 24:

8 a.m. – Breakfast reception in Mandeville Hall foyer.

9-11 a.m. – Telling the Story of the Tiananmen Movement

  • 9 a.m. – Surviving 1989: Tiananmen in History and Memory, Rowena Xiaoqing He, Ph.D., of Harvard University.
  • 10 a.m.  – Telling the Story to the World, featuring Carma Hinton, Ph.D., and Louisa Lim.

11 a.m. – The Road to Tiananmen: From Democracy Wall to River Elegy 

Moderator James Carter, Ph.D., professor of history at Saint Joseph’s University, will lead a roundtable discussion with an audience Q&A, featuring all participants.

1:30-3:30 p.m. – Aftermath: China Since 1989: Digital Media and Dissent Since 1989.

J. Michael Lyons, Ph.D., assistant professor of communication studies at Saint Joseph's University, will moderate a panel featuring Guobin Yang, Ph.D., of the University of Pennsylvania; Maura Elizabeth Cunningham ’04, Ph.D. candidate at the University of California-Irvine; and Wu Guoguang, Ph.D., of the University of Victoria.

3:30-4:30 p.m. – Coffee Breakout Sessions.

SJU faculty and featured participants will be matched with student groups for conversation related to expertise and topical interest, e.g., political science, activism, history, filmmaking, etc.

5-7 p.m. – Curriculum in Exile: Teaching Tiananmen

  • 5 p.m. – Teaching Tiananmen: The Basics This session will focus on how teachers with limited resources can convey what’s important about 1989 and Tiananmen Square to a variety of classes.
  • 5:30 p.m. – Teaching Tiananmen at Harvard, featuring Rowena Xiaoqing He, Ph.D.     
  • 6 p.m. – Working with Primary Sources, featuring Rowena Xiaoqing He, Ph.D., Carma Hinton, Ph.D., and Jeffrey Wasserstrom, Ph.D.

Symposium Participants:

James Carter, Ph.D., is a professor of history at Saint Joseph’s University and organizer of the “Tiananmen at 25” symposium. He is a Public Intellectuals Program Fellow at the National Committee on U.S,-China Relations and is the author of several books on modern Chinese history, including (co-edited with Cynthia Paces) 1989: End of the 20th Century (Norton, 2010).

Maura Elizabeth Cunningham ’04 is a Ph.D. candidate in modern Chinese history at the University of California-Irvine, and a freelance writer based in Shanghai. Her research has been supported by grants from the UC Pacific Rim Research Program, the Association for Asian Studies and the Children's Literature Association. Her writing has appeared in The TLS, Time Asia, World History Connected, and the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Louisa Lim is an award-winning journalist who has been based in China for the past decade, most recently as NPR's Beijing bureau chief. Previously, she was the BBC's Beijing correspondent. She has been on NPR teams that won a Peabody, two Edward R. Murrow awards and an Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University Award.  

Rowena Xiaoqing He, Ph.D., is a lecturer in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University. She spent eight years working with political prisoners and student leaders of the 1989 Tiananmen Movement. Palgrave MacMillan will publish her book, Tiananmen Exiles, in April. Her seminars on the 1989 Tiananmen Movement and its aftermath have earned He the Harvard University Certificate of Teaching Excellence for three consecutive years.

Carma Hinton, Ph.D., is the Robinson Professor of Visual Culture and Chinese Studies at George Mason University. Hinton has co-directed many documentary films with Richard Gordon, including “The Gate of Heavenly Peace” (about China’s 1989 protest movement), and won a George Foster Peabody Award, both the International Critics Prize and Best Social and Political Documentary at the Banff World Television Festival, and the Golden Spire from the San Francisco International Film Festival (among other honors). Hinton was born in Beijing. Chinese is her first language and culture.

Jeffrey Wasserstrom, Ph.D., is the Chancellor's Professor of History at the University of California- Irvine, the editor of the Journal of Asian Studies, and the author of four books, including Popular Protest and Political Culture in Modern China, co-edited with Elizabeth Perry, a collection of essays exploring the dramatic events of 1989, and Student Protest in Twentieth-Century China.  He was one of three core consultants for the prize-winning documentary “The Gate of Heavenly Peace.”

Wu Guoguang, Ph.D., is a professor of political science and a professor of history, and chair in China and Asia-Pacific Relations at the University of Victoria, Canada. He previously worked as a speechwriter for Chinese officials, including President Zhao Ziyang. Before being purged following the 1989 Tiananmen Crackdown, he was involved in struggles for press freedom and political reform in China.

Guobin Yang, Ph.D., is an associate professor in the Department of Sociology and the Annenberg School for Communication of the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of The Power of the Internet in China: Citizen Activism Online and co-editor (with Ching Kwan Lee) of Re-Envisioning the Chinese Revolution: The Politics and Poetics of Collective Memories of Reform China.

The symposium is supported by the Bernadette B. and James J. Nealis III ’69 Program in Asian Studies at Saint Joseph's University; the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations' Public Intellectuals Program, which is funded by the Henry Luce and C.V. Starr Foundations; the Department of History and the Program in International Relations at Saint Joseph’s University; the Office of the Dean, the College of Arts and Sciences at Saint Joseph’s University; and WHYY: Where you go to know.

For more information, contact Carter at jcarter@sju.edu

Media Contact

Patricia Allen, Director of Communications/CAS, 610-660-3240, patricia.allen@sju.edu


Founded in 1851 in the Jesuit tradition of academic excellence, Saint Joseph’s University is a top-ranked Catholic University that provides a rigorous, student-centered education. With a total enrollment of 8,500 undergraduate and graduate students, SJU offers a wide-array of academic programs designed so that each graduate enters the world with a competitive resume and global perspective. This is achieved through intense academic study led by thought-leading faculty scholars, a comprehensive campus experience and robust study abroad, service-learning, internship and co-op programs. Upon graduation, nearly 100 percent of students are employed, pursuing advanced degrees or volunteering in prestigious service programs. A member of the Atlantic 10 Conference, SJU offers 20 Division I intercollegiate men’s and women’s sports. SJU alumni – over 60,000 strong - provide a powerful network that spans the globe.

Expand this section