Today I finally gave in to my seven year old son's pleas and together we went to watch the Karate Kid remake. A fan of the original, I wondered how a remake in China would play out. More importantly I wanted to see how China itself would be portrayed.
I don't intend to review the movie... but will say it at it did not leave me disappointed. My son was thoroughly fascinated and loved the movie. Promptly after leaving the theater i suffered the first of I am sure to be be many beatings over the coming days
As the movie unfolded a great deal of scenery and sequences highlight Chinese life and I would say mostly in a positive fashion. Overall it appeared the movie went to great lengths to avoid the elephant in the room.. China political system and history of repression. That is until halfway in the movie.
Amazingly in the middle of this film which undoubtedly relied on the goodwill of the Chinese government the ultra sensitive topic of Tienanmen Square is tackled.
Through first half of the movie Han who is Drey's (Karate Kid) mentor, is seen rebuilding an old car, methodically, lovingly until at the halfway point Drey (the Karate Kid) walks in to see him a drunken mess and in the process of wrecking the car with a sledge hammer.
You may ask what this has to do with Tienanmen... Han, eventually explains to Drey that this day... June 8.... was the anniversary of the day that his wife and child were killed in a car accident. The accident occurred during heavy rain as they were driving down a steep hill and he was arguing with his wife. He cannot recall what the argument was about. But talks about his love for his wife and child and how his wife used to sing to him.
Apparently every year he rebuilds a car and destroys it at the anniversary of the accident. I have not been able to digest the entire scene or some of the documents and pictures he shows, but based on his age, and the age of his wife and child it appeared that this must have happened back in the late eighties.
For those of us who have forgotten or never knew....
In the spring of 1989 Chinese students and workers occupied Beijing's Tienanmen Square and conducted the largest political protest in Communist China's history. They were protesting for faster reforms, democracy and a new future for China.
By late April 1989 over 200,000 Chinese students and workers gathered in Tiananmen square to demand reforms and democracy. By May 17 over 1 million protesters had gathered in Beijing and protests had spread across hundreds of cities in China creating the largest political protest movement in communist China's history.
On May 20 the government declared martial law. After contentious deliberations among party elders and a divide that led to the ousting of General Secretary Zhao Ziyang a decision was made to utilize military action to break up the protests.
In the early hours of June 4, 1989 sevaral hundred thousand troops of the Peoples Liberation Army moved into Beijing to crush the demonstrations. This act was higly unpopular among the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) and hundreds of officers were court martialed as a result of their refusal to move against the students.
June 8, 1989 is the day that an uneasy calm returned to Beijing. Thousands of students, civilians and workers were dead along with any hope for the Chinese people obtaining democracy in the 20th century
There are many resources on the web about the massacre. For those of us who live in free countries access is as easy as a Google search. The events are fascinating and inspiring. One wonders what the world and China would be like today had the students succeeded and the army never turned its weapons on its people.
But back to the Karate Kid. Han's story is a beautiful allegory of what happened. Yes. China was at the time on a steep hill.. heavy rain.. the proverbial slippery slope..... yes there was a terrible fight in the Chinese family. And yes by June 8, with thousands of its students, workers and innocent civilians dead, it had crushed and killed what it had professed to love the most. Its people.
Today thanks to over a decade of suppression of truth in China.... many there do not remember or know what it was all about and why over a million Chinese were protesting.