In an interview for Guernica Magazine, published June 1, I asked Wuer Kaixi where he planned to be yesterday, the twentieth anniversary of the Tianamen Square massacre. Kaixi, who became known to the world when cameras captured him scolding Chinese Premier Li Peng while wearing a hospital gown, was one of the most prominent student leaders of the uprising.
Kaixi, who escaped China shortly after the massacre as the second most wanted man in the country, hesitated. He stuttered slightly before answering, "I have not really decided yet. Most likely I will be co-hosting a commemoration in Washington D.C."
The response struck me as odd since Kaixi had quick responses to a host of seemingly more intrusive questions, like how he felt about detractors who claimed he had spent his exiled life enjoying the perks of his fame -- meeting with foreign dignitaries and, for a time after relocating to Taiwan, hosting a radio program.
Just days before the interview published, I emailed Kaixi once more, asking if he could let us know for certain where he'd be.
"Thanks for your note," he wrote, "I am sorry that I still can't report to you where I will be this June 4th, maybe you will learn it through media. Thanks for your concerns. Voice is a bird that reports the arriving of the spring of freedom. We shall all have it one day."
That last line seemed to be more than a pithy literary quote many of us writers fix to the end of our sent emails. It suggested something was up, a psychology that was veering toward a grand, romantic gesture -- though I couldn't know what it was.
It turns out Kaixi, now married with two sons and working with an investment company, was ready to risk a comfortable and free life, meet his accusers and, most importantly, see his parents for the first time in two decades. Wednesday, Kaixi flew into Macau in hopes of being handed over to the Chinese mainland. Much like the idea of a peaceful demonstration twenty years ago, however, Kaixi's plan was foiled. He was denied entry to Macau and was sent back to Taipei yesterday.
In the Guernica interview, Kaixi expressed gratitude for the many opportunities his exile has given him, but said of living in exile, "We may have gained the sky, but we lost the earth." He would much rather be in China. The events of the last couple days have not changed those feelings. "I will never stop trying to go home as long as I live," he told the Taipei Times yesterday.
(Crossposting with guernicamag.com)