ON 28 MAY 1989, Lijia Zhang, a twenty-something factory worker, addressed a political rally in the Chinese city of Nanjing. This was unusual for her. A high-school dropout, Lijia had up until then been largely apolitical. But the pro-democracy student demonstrations at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square—going five weeks strong, and days away from massacre—had captured the public imagination. Like many workers, she had followed the events on the radio for weeks. Learning of a nearby demonstration that day, she impulsively decided to attend.
At the rally, Lijia somehow found herself on the podium. Speaking without preparation, through tears, she began modestly enough, expressing solidarity with the students at Tiananmen. The crowd egged her on. Emboldened, she went on to denounce the People’s Republic of China as a “dictatorship,” and even led a chant for democracy. She then ended with these lines by the poet Bei Dao:
Let me tell you, world