Chai Ling was one of the most wanted students in China after she participated in demonstrations in Tiananmen Square 25 years ago.
She had to be smuggled out of Beijing by crate to Hong Kong, but managed to escape and today is reflecting on the years that have passed since students demanded political reforms from the Chinese government.
“The crackdown was a complete shock,” Ling told ABC News today via Skype. ” We never in a million years ever expected a massacre.”
Ling was among thousands of students who crowded the public square in the spring of 1989 to call for democratic reforms of the government. On June 4, soldiers and tanks moved into the square and used force to remove the protesters.
The government has never released an official death toll and has censored any mention of the events from history books and media coverage. But outside watchdogs and the U.S. government has estimated the death toll at several hundreds.
“We wanted three reforms: economic reform, political reform, and also spiritual reform,” Ling said today. “China did have economic reform but it came in the worst form, economic dictatorship, but it has not had political reform. And despite the persecution against religious freedom and political freedom, China is undertaking a spiritual reform today.”
Ling said that she believes China will become free soon and that Chinese people must have faith in God that freedom will come.
“I have a great hope for China today. The troops can crush our movement but not our hopes and dreams for a free China,” she said. “It is in the hands of the Chinese people to choose freedom in spite of our circumstances.”
Asked if she had any words for China’s leaders today, on the anniversary of the deadly crackdown, Ling warned them that freedom will come to the Chinese people.
“My words for the leadership today are that relief and deliverance for the Chinese people will rise from another place,” Ling said. “I will encourage leaders to embrace freedom, to release political prisoners, to uncensor Tiananmen Square [discussion] right away, to compensate the victims’ families right away, and to move China toward the will of God because they are no match for that.”