Page last updated at 18:22 GMT, Thursday, 28 May 2009 19:22 UK

Tiananmen figures: Worker


Han Dongfang heard bullets around his tent

Han Dongfang was a railway worker, son of a farmer and a construction worker, when he heard of the student demonstrations on Tiananmen Square.

He now lives in Hong Kong and runs the China Labour Bulletin, actively supporting the rights of Chinese workers.

"I was passing by Tiananmen Square on 16 April 1989, the first day students were gathering when [reformist leader] Hu Yaobang suddenly died.

"So I got off the bus at the next stop and went into the square and took a look, purely for my curiosity," Mr Han told the BBC.

Rapid political education followed - and the day after China's first autonomous workers' union was established on the square on 19 May 1989, he became its spokesman.

"Twenty years ago, students were leading the movement; they were in the square, they were everywhere in the street, and Beijing citizens and [people] also from many other provinces... supporting the students. It was one movement," he recalled.

Having done three years in China's military, he could not believe soldiers would fire on the people they were entrusted to protect.

But on 3 June 1989, he said people woke him up to tell him the soldiers had started shooting.

"And I did hear the bullets, bah bah bah bah, outside the tent.

"Even at that moment I was telling myself it was rubber bullets, not real bullets, and I walked out of my tent."

20 years on: Tiananmen memories

"I put out my hat, looked at the dark sky and saw the pink lines... and from everywhere I realised, that's real bullets.

"I really didn't know what to do because everything I predicted and I believed was wrong."

A group of young students then came up to him and told him to leave the square by the evening.

He said they told him: "In half an hour there will be bloody killing here and many people will die and you; we wouldn't let you die."

"That was it, two scenes - the bullets, the group of people who took me out of the square... It's always fresh."

No winners and losers

Mr Han escaped the carnage but was jailed for two years before gaining exile in the United States. Illness has deprived him of half a lung.

He has tried frequently to go back to China before settling in Hong Kong, where freedom of speech and assembly remain guaranteed by law.

Han Dongfang
Han Dongfang talks to workers in China every week by radio

"From my angle to look at 4 June, [and] the movement in 1989, I don't see it as a winning or a losing battle. I see this as a continuing battle.

"We're still on the stage. If we see this as a boxing match, yes somebody hit our face, we got a broken nose. But that match is not finished yet.

"All the changes in the last 20 years happened because... we pushed it and we contributed."

As for the Communist Party, "whether they can work out the economy... whether they can make a harmonious society, that becomes to them a bigger headache than 4 June."

He said 4 June was "political symbolic", like "a headache once a year", but that the daily headache of day-to-day problems was more important.

It is important to Mr Han too - he firmly believes daily realities are rightly more important to most people than political slogans.

His goal is to establish collective bargaining in China's companies and factories.

"Imagine if we could achieve that - democracy building is already half way through, without a political challenge to the Communist Party.

"So go ahead, have your dreams. Whether you can achieve your dreams in this system, that's another question."

Han Dongfang was speaking to the BBC's Vaudine England in Hong Kong

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