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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained

Jiang Zemin Visits Harvard, Sparks Protests

By Joshua L. Kwan, Crimson Staff Writer

His advisers warned him against visiting Harvard, but Chinese President Jiang Zemin insisted on speaking at the nation's oldest university anyway.

For Jiang, his appearance at Harvard represented a public examination he badly wanted to pass.

He received mixed reviews from the over 4,000 supporters and protesters who lined the streets around Sanders Theatre.

Greeted by both cheers and jeers, Jiang arrived at Cambridge on Halloween after a quick jaunt through Drexel University in Pennsylvania, his son's alma mater, and a tour of Philadelphia's landmarks of liberty.

Public Speaking

Inside the Nov. 1 ticketed Harvard event, Jiang spoke with great pride, describing in meticulous detail the many scientific, cultural and economic achievements of China's 5,000-year history.

After carefully outlining the traditions of unity, independence, peace and self-perfection that he said shape China's history and society, Jiang cautiously looked ahead to the opportunity he saw in building a lasting relationship with the United States.

"We should take a firm hold of the overall interests of China-U.S. relations and settle our differences properly," Jiang said in English.

In other visits around the U.S., Jiang hinted at what those interests might entail: a bell-ringing ceremony at the New York Stock Exchange, a meeting with business leaders and the inking of a $3 billion purchase of Boeing airplanes.

After his speech, Jiang answered two prepared questions and one solicited from a member of the audience. The closed-question format of the event was the subject of many complaints and protests before and during Jiang's visit.

One man stood up in the upper balcony, shouted "human rights," and turned his back to Jiang while four others stood up in unison and turned their backs to reveal the slogan "Free Tibet" printed on the back of their T-shirts.

After the two prepared questions, Vogel unexpectedly asked the audience for a question. Philip J. Cunningham, a Nieman Fellow at Harvard, immediately shouted out to be recognized. Vogel ignored Cunningham, a reporter for The Japan Times, as he continued shouting "What about Wei Jingsheng?" (please see related story, C-3)

Cunningham was the last reporter to interview Wei before he was arrested.

At the time of Jiang's visit to Harvard, Wei was in prison serving his second 14-year sentence for speaking to foreign journalists and John Shattuck, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for human rights.

In November, shortly after Jiang returned home from his U.S. tour, Wei was released for what the Chinese government officially said were medical reasons. Currently a visiting scholar at Columbia University, he visited Harvard in May to give a speech at the ARCO Forum.

Vogel, director of the Fairbank Center for East Asian Research and the newly established Asia Center (please see related story, page C-3), instead called on one of his former students in the audience, Carroll R. Bogert '83.

Bogert, then a reporter with Newsweek magazine, asked the president what he learned about democracy in America through his state visit and from the demonstrations that have met him in every city.

"During my current trip to the United States,starting from Hawaii, I got a more specificunderstanding of the American democracy, morespecific than I learned from books," Jiangreplied.

Within the brick and wood confines of thetheater, a dull noise could be heard from thecombined shouts of protesters outside.

"Although I am already 71 years old, my earsstill work very well, so when I was delivering myspeech I did hear sounds from the loudspeakeroutside," Jiang said.

"However, I believe the only approach for me isto speak even louder than it," he said.

Sorry?

Jiang's speech included remarks that someexperts construed as a crack in the door towardsan apology for the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.

A question submitted by the Joint Committee forProtesting Jiang Zemin's visit to Harvard took himto task for the government's order to fire uponstudent protesters at Tiananmen Square.

When asked about the decision to use militaryforce in suppressing the student demonstrations,Jiang skirted any mention of the event and insteadvaguely said that China has "enjoyed the supportfrom our people."

"It goes without saying that, naturally, wehave shortcomings and even make some mistakes inour work," he said. "However, we have been workingon a constant basis to further improve our work."

The response was seen as an opening in themurky cloud of Chinese politics characterized bysubtlety and finesse.

"I haven't heard a public leader come thatclose to acknowledging it publicly," said Vogel, afrequent visitor to China who arranged Jiang'sHarvard trip.

A Warm Welcome

Chinese nationals celebrated their president'svisit by waving China's bright red flags alongsidethe Star-Spangled Banner. Chanting "One China,"supporters lined the streets around SandersTheatre and exchanged verbal volleys withanti-Jiang protesters.

The Greater Boston Area Chinese WelcomeCommittee, a coalition of four dozen groups,organized the supporters and handed out miniatureAmerican and Chinese flags to supporters.

Jiang proponents claimed that the media hadoverplayed the views of vocal dissidents,distorting the sentiments of the majority ofChinese citizens.

"It's no longer the Cold War, and China is nolonger the Communist country it once was," saidHui Kuok '00, a student from Hong Kong.

About 100 well-wishers journeyed from YaleUniversity to catch a glimpse of the president.Several students agreed with Jiang's contentionthat the idea of human rights is a relativeconcept.

"Everybody sees things through their ownculture and point of view," said James Ma, aChinese national at Yale's business school. "Humanrights is a cultural thing."

As a political science student at BeijingUniversity, Ma participated in the 1989demonstrations but said his views on democracy andChina had changed.

"The process of democracy is not something thatcan be completed overnight," he said. "We don'twant what happened to Eastern Europe to happen inChina."

A Cold Reception

Protesters began planning demonstrations weeksbefore Jiang even set foot in America.

The Coalition for Freedom and Human Rights inAsia, a cooperative project of 25 human rightsgroups, put together an array of events to drawattention to what they called China's egregioushuman rights abuses.

The coalition represented groups protestingChina's policies regarding the three "terribleT's": Taiwan, Tibet and Tiananmen.

A 48-hour hunger strike was organized atSwedenborg Chapel, located a block away from thesite of Jiang's speech, by the Tibetan Associationof Boston.

The PBS documentary on the Tiananmen Squaremassacre, "The Gate of Heavenly Peace," was shownin the Yenching Library Lecture Hall.

Chinese dissident and former political prisonerHarry Wu addressed thousands of protesters outsideSwedenborg Chapel and told the crowd that Jiangwas in America for a fund-raising campaign.

"[Jiang has] come here begging--begging formoney," Wu said. "Money can't buy overtotalitarianism."

Wu, honored by the Harvard Foundation forIntercultural and Race Relations in 1995, said hewas ashamed that there were so many Chinese peoplestanding outside Sanders Theatre in support ofJiang.

"Their president is a slaughterer," said Wu,who last spoke at Harvard at the Asian AmericanAssociation's annual conference in 1997.

"This is the country with the number one recordfor human rights violations and executions--he's amurderer," he said.

Building a Relationship

Jiang ended his prepared speech by presenting acomplete set of books on Chinese history andculture to Harvard. The Twenty-FourHistories were edited with comments from MaoZedong, Communist China's revolutionary fatherfigure.

Jiang also said he was glad to be expecting avisit from President Neil L. Rudenstine.

Rudenstine traveled to China and toured BeijingUniversity as part of his swing through Asiaduring spring break.CrimsonWilliam B. DecherdAnti-Jiang demonstrators massed in thestreets surrounding Memorial Hall when the Chinesepresident spoke in November.

"During my current trip to the United States,starting from Hawaii, I got a more specificunderstanding of the American democracy, morespecific than I learned from books," Jiangreplied.

Within the brick and wood confines of thetheater, a dull noise could be heard from thecombined shouts of protesters outside.

"Although I am already 71 years old, my earsstill work very well, so when I was delivering myspeech I did hear sounds from the loudspeakeroutside," Jiang said.

"However, I believe the only approach for me isto speak even louder than it," he said.

Sorry?

Jiang's speech included remarks that someexperts construed as a crack in the door towardsan apology for the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.

A question submitted by the Joint Committee forProtesting Jiang Zemin's visit to Harvard took himto task for the government's order to fire uponstudent protesters at Tiananmen Square.

When asked about the decision to use militaryforce in suppressing the student demonstrations,Jiang skirted any mention of the event and insteadvaguely said that China has "enjoyed the supportfrom our people."

"It goes without saying that, naturally, wehave shortcomings and even make some mistakes inour work," he said. "However, we have been workingon a constant basis to further improve our work."

The response was seen as an opening in themurky cloud of Chinese politics characterized bysubtlety and finesse.

"I haven't heard a public leader come thatclose to acknowledging it publicly," said Vogel, afrequent visitor to China who arranged Jiang'sHarvard trip.

A Warm Welcome

Chinese nationals celebrated their president'svisit by waving China's bright red flags alongsidethe Star-Spangled Banner. Chanting "One China,"supporters lined the streets around SandersTheatre and exchanged verbal volleys withanti-Jiang protesters.

The Greater Boston Area Chinese WelcomeCommittee, a coalition of four dozen groups,organized the supporters and handed out miniatureAmerican and Chinese flags to supporters.

Jiang proponents claimed that the media hadoverplayed the views of vocal dissidents,distorting the sentiments of the majority ofChinese citizens.

"It's no longer the Cold War, and China is nolonger the Communist country it once was," saidHui Kuok '00, a student from Hong Kong.

About 100 well-wishers journeyed from YaleUniversity to catch a glimpse of the president.Several students agreed with Jiang's contentionthat the idea of human rights is a relativeconcept.

"Everybody sees things through their ownculture and point of view," said James Ma, aChinese national at Yale's business school. "Humanrights is a cultural thing."

As a political science student at BeijingUniversity, Ma participated in the 1989demonstrations but said his views on democracy andChina had changed.

"The process of democracy is not something thatcan be completed overnight," he said. "We don'twant what happened to Eastern Europe to happen inChina."

A Cold Reception

Protesters began planning demonstrations weeksbefore Jiang even set foot in America.

The Coalition for Freedom and Human Rights inAsia, a cooperative project of 25 human rightsgroups, put together an array of events to drawattention to what they called China's egregioushuman rights abuses.

The coalition represented groups protestingChina's policies regarding the three "terribleT's": Taiwan, Tibet and Tiananmen.

A 48-hour hunger strike was organized atSwedenborg Chapel, located a block away from thesite of Jiang's speech, by the Tibetan Associationof Boston.

The PBS documentary on the Tiananmen Squaremassacre, "The Gate of Heavenly Peace," was shownin the Yenching Library Lecture Hall.

Chinese dissident and former political prisonerHarry Wu addressed thousands of protesters outsideSwedenborg Chapel and told the crowd that Jiangwas in America for a fund-raising campaign.

"[Jiang has] come here begging--begging formoney," Wu said. "Money can't buy overtotalitarianism."

Wu, honored by the Harvard Foundation forIntercultural and Race Relations in 1995, said hewas ashamed that there were so many Chinese peoplestanding outside Sanders Theatre in support ofJiang.

"Their president is a slaughterer," said Wu,who last spoke at Harvard at the Asian AmericanAssociation's annual conference in 1997.

"This is the country with the number one recordfor human rights violations and executions--he's amurderer," he said.

Building a Relationship

Jiang ended his prepared speech by presenting acomplete set of books on Chinese history andculture to Harvard. The Twenty-FourHistories were edited with comments from MaoZedong, Communist China's revolutionary fatherfigure.

Jiang also said he was glad to be expecting avisit from President Neil L. Rudenstine.

Rudenstine traveled to China and toured BeijingUniversity as part of his swing through Asiaduring spring break.CrimsonWilliam B. DecherdAnti-Jiang demonstrators massed in thestreets surrounding Memorial Hall when the Chinesepresident spoke in November.

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