How China’s young idealists are turning to the soil
by Carrie Gracie for the BBC
In June 1989, on the orders of China’s ruling Communist Party, the army crushed pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square, killing hundreds of people. Twenty-five years on, a different type of protest against the values of modern China has emerged.
My hunt for China’s young idealists, the inheritors of the Tiananmen spirit, started with a three hour drive through snarled traffic. Ironically the route took me first across the north end of Tiananmen Square, under the gaze of Chairman Mao’s portrait on the gate of heavenly peace.
Then west along the avenue of eternal tranquillity, the very same route the tanks took in the opposite direction 25 years ago, rumbling into the heart of Beijing to kill both an untold number of young people and the idealism of a generation.
These public spaces haven’t changed much, but the Beijing beyond is unrecognisable from the one the students marched through a quarter of a century ago. No more mule carts, markets and teeming brick alleys. Beijing has supersized – it’s now all six-lane ring roads, high rise glass and concrete.
The young idealists I was hunting had renounced city life and decamped to the countryside. After much to-ing and fro-ing on bumpy tracks, we finally stumbled upon a flaking sign proclaiming the Righteous Path farm.
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