The Pennington community was invited to a special Global Studies Speaker Series panel discussion on the 1989 protests on Friday April 5, in the Wesley Forum. The panel speakers, Chun Lai P'19 and Dr. Celina Imielinska, were introduced by Dean of Academic Affairs Scott Peeler. Each speaker offered reflections on the 1989 protests in the light of personal experiences.
Lai was working professionally during the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. To explain the protests in China, he broke down the protest in stages. In stage 1, Chinese student demonstrations took place in Tiananmen Square, and the government was unsure what to do to stop the protests. There were roughly 700,000 people,including Lai, who showed up in the square every day. In stage 2, a curfew was declared, but it was not effective. Finally, in stage 3, fully armed Chinese troops moved into Tiananmen Square and opened fire. Hundreds and potentially thousands were killed or harmed during this event. Lai said that China wants stability, and communism provides that stability. As a result, the country does not mention the events of 1989, and any research on the Tiananmen Square protests is banned.
Imielinska told the story of Poland's Solidarity Movement in the 1980s: a fight for free elections and the end of communism. She co-organized a protest and brought a crowd of over 10,000 Polish voters to the Polish Consulate in New York on June 3, 1989, one day ahead of the June 4 parliamentary elections in Poland. She represented Solidarity in one of the two poll committees at the Consulate. She said she was very proud that Poland was able to stop communism. Once Poland had success, she added, much of Eastern Europe followed.
The panel wrapped up with questions from Pennington students who asked about the aftermath of both of the protests.