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The following excerpt is taken from
Black Hands of Beijing: Lives of Defiance in China's Democracy Movement ,
by George Black and Robin Munro (New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1993), pp. 226-228.

Lü Jinghua was one of the few women who rallied to the banners of the BWAF [Beijing Workers Autonomous Federation]. On the surface, there was nothing extraordinary about her. She was, in fact, quite typical of the laobaixing who got their first taste of politics through the great, emotional mass rallies of mid-May.

Lü, twenty-seven years old, was the daughter of Party loyalists. Her father had become a Party member before Liberation, and her mother was a neighborhood activist during the Cultural Revolution. Lü attended the highly respected Yucai Middle School, where most of her classmates were the sons and daughters of PLA officers. She attended art school for a year and then held one job after another, none of them lasting for long: in a trading company in Guangzhou, on a chicken farm in the countryside near Beijing, and, most recently, as manager of a privately owned dress shop.

Lü rode past Tiananmen on her bicycle every day on her way to work. After the hunger strike began, she often stopped there in the afternoons on the way home. Like innumerable other women, she started to bring plastic bags of food to the student pickets: a few cucumbers, a bowl of rice porridge, a dozen pork baozi (dumplings). Even the students who were not fasting seemed to be half-starved. In return for her kindnesses, they told her the latest hair-raising stories of corruption among the Party elite. Lü began to march with the students. She had a powerful voice, and she chanted their slogans until she was hoarse.

On May 17, she was looking for a friendly group to march with when a huge banner caught her eye: "Elder Brother Workers from Capital Iron and Steel." She fell into step behind it; it somehow felt more natural to be with other workers, Each day she stayed in the square a little longer, worried only that she was not seeing enough of her one-year-old daughter.

Another banner caught her eye several times, the one that read "Beijing Workers Autonomous Federation." On May 26, she spotted it again outside Xinhuamen, the ornate gateway to the Zhongnanhai Party compound. Curious, she looked for someone who was connected with the group. A marcher pointed her toward a burly young man in a checked shirt who introduced himself as Liu Qiang. He explained that he was a printing worker and was helping to organize the workers' pickets. Lü asked if she could help. Liu Qiang frowned. "I don't know," he answered. "The situation isn't good. The government says we're an illegal organization. I feel like things are getting dangerous for us." They walked back toward the West Reviewing Stand.

Lü looked around. "The place is a mess," she said. "I'll help you clean it up."

The next day, she took up a collection from her friends at the dress shop and came back to Xiguanlitai laden with buckets, soap, washbasins, towels, and detergent. When the cleanup was done, she offered to correct some of that day's batch of BWAF handbills, carving neat characters laboriously onto mimeograph sheets.

"Do you know anything about broadcasting?" someone asked. "No," said Lü, "but I'll give it a try."

Papers piled up next to her microphone. She turned nothing away unread: manifestos, announcements of marches, appeals for material help , songs, poems, open letters. All day and into the early hours of the morning, Lü's strong, clear voice echoed across the northern part of the square. She read a satire of a poem of Mao Zedong's, contributed by an official from the Ministry of Trade and Economics. The crowd loved it. She read another poem dropped off at her table by an anonymous Beijing resident:

A red garbage can, it took many years to cast its form.
The power of the party, government, and military is the shell,
But with whose blood was it dyed red?
A red garbage can, filled up with feudalism and autocracy.
Deceptive policy is the shell,
And what's inside is anyone's guess.

The audience whooped. She read a letter from an eighty-five-year-old peasant in Hebei Province. "I have been a Party member for forty years," the old man wrote. "The cannon booming at Marco Polo bridge [during the Japanese invasion] did not scare me; the butchers' knives of the Guomindang did not intimidate me; likewise, the injustice and terror of the present puppet government cannot scare me at all.... I am holding out these two fingers: as I heard from my grandson, this means victory." Han Dongfang stopped by the broadcasting table to congratulate Lü on the magnificent job she was doing. She was a little awed by him; she felt she had never done anything more important in her life.

Black Hands of Beijing: Lives of Defiance in China's Democracy Movement
Excerpted by permission of publisher, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Copyright ©1993 by George Black and Robin Munro. All Rights Reserved.
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