HONG KONG It was almost like stepping back in time. A quarter of a century after helping to lead the Tiananmen Square protestsin Beijing, Zhuo Fengsuo found himself back in a familiar situation Tuesday as he paid an emotional visit to Hong Kong’spro-democracy protests.
“The atmosphere feels very much like Tiananmen Square 25 years ago,” he said, talking amid the tents, umbrellas, artworkand banners that mark Hong Kong’s main protest site. “This feels like a carnival of freedom for Chinese people.”
One of the 21 most-wanted student leaders after the Tiananmen protests, Zhou was turned in by his own sister, spending a year in jailand another year in a re-education program, before immigrating to the United States and settling in San Francisco.
In June, he slipped back into China, visiting a detention center where several old friends and other activistswere being held, and even driving through Tiananmen Square on the eve of the 25th anniversary of the bloody crackdown onthe protests he helped lead.
Shortly afterward, police turned up at his hotel room and arrested him again. After about 16 hours of interrogation, hewas put on a plane back to the United States. But this week, he was back in China on a much happier mission, reliving memoriesthat had inspired his life. He said he was happy, excited and relieved that the ideals he struggled for remained alivein his country.
“I see the hope, I see the proof that the Chinese people love freedom, they enjoy it, they can talk, they can express themselvesfreely, truthfully and they can be really peaceful and powerful at the same time. That’s very similar,” he said. “To me, it’s like back to the future it’s coming back, but it is also the future of Hong Kong, the future of China.”
Zhou was a 21-year-old physics student at Beijing’s Tsinghua University before joining the Tiananmen protests. He ended up gettinga business degree in the United States and working in finance, before founding a group that works on behalf of Chinese politicalprisoners.
Zhou clearly feels a deep bond with Hong Kong, a city where about 100,000 people turned out this year as they do everyyear to commemorate the Tiananmen Square massacre, even though many of those who attended the annual rally were not even bornat the time.
“I am hopeful that the ideal here, what is unfolding here, will some day happen in China,” he said. “I am not sure when,but I know that what is happening here will be an important moment.” A future generation of Chinese people, he predicted,would one day look to Hong Kong “for ideas and inspiration.”
Zhou slipped into China this summer under a new scheme allowing for a 72-hour visa-free transit stay. It took more thana day for the authorities to realize he was there, even though he showed his passport at the detention center he visited.
WorldViews: This feels like a carnival of freedom: 25 years later, a Tiananmen veteran visits Hong Kong