Paul Theroux traveled in China in 1986 and 1987 for his book “Riding the Iron Rooster” published in 1988. He described police assaults on pro-democracy demonstrators that he witnessed. The book was dismissed by some reviewers “as alarmist and Sinophobic.” The Tiananment Square massacre in 1989 made it seem prescient. “… All I had done as a traveler was record what I saw: Writing the truth is prophetic,” Theroux adds in his letter to the NYTimes. He concludes as follows:
I have mentioned this in lectures I have given, in many Western cities as well as in Hong Kong, and each time I raise the subject, uttering the words “Tiananmen Square,” two or three Chinese people — sometimes more — rise and rush to the exits, as if I’d yelled “fire.”
The first time it occurred I was puzzled. When it continued to happen, I was told that all Chinese people connected to the government — which includes business people and academics — are under instructions to respond to any mention of the massacre by turning their backs on the speaker and fleeing the room.
(“Paul Theroux: Truth and Tiananmen [Letter],” NYTimes, 6-7-19)
(c) 2019 JMN