Exciting news: my historical thriller, Rabbit in the Moon, has been selected as one among best books on modern China’s myths, religions, politics, and culture. Check out the site. The novel is available in print, eBook and Audiobook.
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My historical thriller, Rabbit in the Moon, was published almost two decades after the Tiananmen massacre on June 4, 1989. I waited to write the story of the short-lived Student Democracy Movement, hoping that with the passage of time the Chinese government might be more open to the truth of what happened there.
That was not to be. The massacre was renamed the “June 4th incident”, my book was banned on the Mainland, and as I traveled to China over the years, it became clear that the government was more determined than ever to ban any discussion of the deadly crackdown- in schools, on the street, even from the Internet.
While Mainland citizens were subject to the ban for decades, Chinese living in Hong Kong and Macau were allowed to hold yearly candlelight vigils to commemorate the anniversary. That is until last year.
Today marks 32 years since Chinese soldiers killed hundreds if not thousands of pro-democracy protesters at Tiananmen Square.
Authorities in Macau and Hong Kong have banned the vigil for the second year in a row saying it would violate local criminal laws and citing corona virus issues.
Despite last year’s ban, tens of thousands of people defied the police, knocking down barricades that had been erected around Victoria Park where citizens had been gathering each June 4th for 30 years to mark the anniversary. This year, however, police closed off Victoria Park entirely. Thousands of officers have been placed on standby to stop any attempt to hold the event.
Several pro-democracy activists have been arrested including Chow Hang Tung who is the vice chairwoman of the Hong Kong Alliance which has been organizing the annual vigils. Arrested for promoting unauthorized assembly, she continued to call on residents to commemorate the anniversary in their own ways.
“Turn on the lights wherever you are – whether on your phone, candles or electronic candles,” she posted on Facebook a day before her arrest.
This year’s anniversary is the first since a new controversial security law was approved for Hong Kong, aimed at ending the city’s pro-democracy movement and criminalizing dissent. At least 100 people have been arrested since the law was enacted in June.
Already brave students from Hong Kong University have been photographed washing a statue titled the Pillar of Shame.
What the government’s response will be remains to be seen.
January 25thmarked the start of Chinese New Year for 2020.
The excitement of celebrations in China and elsewhere has been overshadowed by the emergence of the deadly Coronavirus. The new virus, which was first detected in Wuhan, a central city in Hubei Province, at the end of December, has killed at least 56 people and sickened almost 2000, including in Taiwan, Japan, Thailand, South Korea, Hong Kong, Scotland and now at least 3 cities in the United States (Washington state, Chicago and Orange County, California).
Fear is high as people recall the SARS outbreak, which began in China in 2002 and 2003. That epidemic spread rapidly around the world while officials denied the seriousness of the crisis. Eventually more than 800 people died.
According to the New York Times, about 30,000 people fly out of Wuhan on an average day. Even more leave by trains and cars. With the region’s biggest airport and deep-water port, Wuhan serves as the hub of industry and commerce in central China.
No doubt the new restrictions on travel will spoil the plans of millions of Chinese citizens who planned to visit family during the New Year holiday. The government said it would close Wuhan’s airport and train stations to departures, and it urged residents not to leave the city unless they had an urgent reason to do so.
Here in the US, the CDC is carefully monitoring the situation since this virus is highly contagious with a 10 to 14 day incubation period. Whether you are traveling or simply attending events where there are crowds, make a point of checking CDC updates on the TV and Internet.
For those who are content to stay at home and have not yet read the award winning thriller Rabbit in the Moonwhich deals with the 1989 Tiananmen massacre in Beijing, here’s a link to the updated version honoring the 30thanniversary of that terrible event.
This is me standing in Tiananmen Square in 1980- my first trip to China.
I was there again just before the massacre in 1989 on June 4th. Today is the 30th anniversary of that terrible day when Deng Xiaoping ordered his army to shoot students peacefully protesting the one Party-rule, demanding reforms including freedom of the press.
With inspiration from American democracy, the students had hastily created a 33-foot-tall sculpture made out of plaster and Styrofoam and dubbed the “Goddess of Democracy. It stood for less than a week from May 30th to June 4th before tanks rolled in and destroyed it.
Yet, outside of China, the “Goddess” is still remembered as a symbol of defiance. This year, in honor of the auspicious anniversary, a white statue of a woman has been relocated from Hong Kong University to Victoria Park, the site of the annual candlelight vigil commemorating Tiananmen. An almost identical sculpture has been installed in Taiwan’s capital (Taipei) inside Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. Similar statues can be found in the United States and Canada.
Sadly, if you travel to Beijing now, walk around the enormous Tiananmen Square, and approach someone born after 1989, it is unlikely they have any knowledge of what happened three decades earlier. And that’s not just because people who do remember are afraid to speak about it. After that short-lived (7 weeks) Student Democracy Movement, the government imprisoned many of the survivors of the massacre, exiled others, and clamped down on public dissent. Efforts to learn about the event on the Internet have been successfully squelched to this day. More than 3200 words referencing the bloody incident have been censored according to a joint survey by the University of Toronto and the University of Hong Kong.
I feel sure “tank man” is one of the censored phrases since his photo is probably the most iconic memory of the massacre.
The current president, Xi Jinping, has continued and even intensified the country’s oppressive trajectory. Control over the media in China is said to be tighter than ever. According to a CBS news report, days ahead of today’s anniversary, the government apparently jailed some people who were known to have been associated with the 1989 protests, placed some on house arrest and forced others to leave Beijing.
If you’d like to learn more about the events surrounding the Student Democracy Movement, read or listen to my international thriller Rabbit in the Moon. The book won the Gold Medal for the Florida Book Award as well as several other literary awards. In honor of today’s anniversary, my husband Joel, who co-authored the novel, and I have listened to fans and updated the Authors Note and added a glossary, pronunciation guide, and a list of Chinese characters.
Good news! After almost a decade, Florida Book Award Good Medal Winner Rabbit in the Moon is finally released in paperback as an updated Second Edition.
Here’s the premise:
Is mankind ready for a scientific breakthrough that could double the average lifespan? Dr. Cheng’s obsession to find the secret puts the doctor, his granddaughter, and the future of the entire world in jeopardy.
The backdrop for Rabbit in the Moonis the seven weeks in 1989 between the rise of the Student Democracy Movement and the fall with the Tiananmen massacre in June. We chose this period for two reasons.
First, it was dramatic. Anyone who read the newspapers or watched CNN at the time can hardly forget the image of the young man holding up his arm to stop the tank from rolling over him.
The second reason for choosing this backdrop was because after our first trip to China in 1980, we returned to Los Angeles and became a host family for students from the mainland who were studying at UCLA. During the weeks leading up to Tiananmen in 1989, many of these students communicated with friends and family back in China using our fax machine. Remember, there were no iPhones or Internet at the time. Very few people in China had their own landlines then.
In talking with the students, they perceived the conflict as a generational struggle between the very old leaders, many of whom had marched with Mao and who were desperate to hang onto power, and the younger generation anxious for reforms.
We expanded on the generational theme by looking at how young versus old might view the acquisition of a longevity elixir, not only in China, but also in the United States and in Korea.
Writing a story with an historical backdrop requires accuracy. It was difficult, however, to know what was happening at the highest level of government at the time. The release of the Tiananmen Papersin 2001- secret documents smuggled out of China- reveal how the authorities reached their decision leading to the final confrontation. In 2008, another secret record dictated onto 30 one-hour audiotapes by the moderate Zhao Ziyang while under house arrest in 2000 (he died under house arrest in 2005), was published by Simon and Schuster. The title is Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Zhao Ziyangand gives Zhao’s dramatic and disapproving account of the bitter power struggle behind the scenes as the students occupied Tiananmen Square, the deep rivalries between reformists and hardliners as well as the critical role Deng played in the decision to use force.
In the published memoir, Zhao describes the secret meeting of the Politburo Standing Committee on May 17 that led to the imposition of martial law. He contends that the crackdown was a miscalculation by the hardliners because the martial law declaration touched off even larger protests and an ultimate confrontation. “On the night of June 3… I heard gunfire,” he says in the memoir. “A tragedy to shock the world had not been averted.”
Both the Tiananmen Papers and Zeo Ziyang’s memoir formed the basis for assumptions we made in writing the novel. For example, there is a pivotal scene in the book in which three of the leaders meet with Deng Xiaoping, warning that the students threaten his leadership and convincing him to write an editorial for the People’s Daily (which he, in fact, did), accusing the students of creating “turmoil”. Deng’s editorial was really a signal that the hard-liners were in control because it alluded to the “ten years of turmoil” that was the Cultural Revolution. Unfortunately, the students did not appreciate the significance of the message. They did not know that behind the scenes the moderate Zhao Ziyang had been ousted. They began a hunger strike, announcing that they would not leave Tiananmen Square until the editorial was recanted.
As a result, any opportunity for defusing the situation disappeared. And as we know, on June 4th, tragically, hundreds, perhaps thousands were killed.
Now, 30 years after that bloody suppression, the facts about events that led to the Tiananmen Square tragedy have yet to acknowledged by the Chinese Communist government.
After the Tiananmen massacre, the Chinese leaders made a decision that they would tolerate more economic freedom in order to maintain power. In 1992 Deng visited the southern new territories and blessed economic reform with the famous statement “to get rich is glorious” This change was not meant to promote democracy, but rather to maintain central control. And as it happens, for almost two decades there was astounding growth and modernization, though not without creating serious problems including increasing poverty in the countryside, forcing young people from farms to the cities seeking work, elimination of free health care, increased pollution, increasing crime, widespread corruption, etc.
The irony is that the opening up of the economy, brought a rise in technology – people bought cell phones and computers – and suddenly websites and blogs appeared with ideas going out on the World Wide Web
As China has begun to face its own domestic financial crisis with rising unemployment, manufacturing decline, and some fear regional ethnic strife, the leadership has received increasing criticism from within the country.
In November, 2018 protests on Peking University brought a warning to student activists that protests “bear consequences”. The clampdown at Peking University comes ahead of several politically sensitive 2019 anniversaries, including the May 4 student protests in 1919 and the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, in which students from the university played prominent roles.
Sadly, President Xi Jinping has sanctioned a series of crackdown to all forms of dissent, including human rights, activists, labor groups and religious organizations
We hope that readers will find this new edition of Rabbit in the Moona compelling and still timely read.
In this edition, we took past readers’ advice, so you will find a list of the characters and a glossary of some of the Chinese and Korean terms to avoid confusion.
To get a flavor of the writing, here is podcast of prologue: https://youtu.be/ZAJZL0z4dS0
Once again, it’s June 4th and another anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre of 1989.
Hard to believe 24 years have passed since hundreds, if not thousands, of unarmed protesters were shot in the square and with those years, so much change.
Anyone who visits China today will see cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou that are more modern than most American cities where sophisticated residents dress in the most fashionable styles, drive brand new cars and carry the most up-to-date electronic devices.
More than 300 million Chinese have risen to the middle class and there are allegedly 83 billionaires in the Chinese parliament.
While the economy has embraced quasi-capitalism with a vengeance, the politics of one party rule has remained. Twenty-four years after a brief promise of democratic reform, the leaders’ aim to squelch any mass political protest is unwavering. Even though some of the new leaders installed in November had, as young men, expressed sympathy with the short-lived student democracy movement of 1989, no one really expects any announcement of regret about the massacre or overruling of the official verdict that the protests were a counterrevolutionary rebellion that had to be crushed.
To learn more about the events of June 4, 1989, read the award winning international thriller, Rabbit in the Moon by Deborah and Joel Shlian.
WXEL’s Florida Forum radio show’s Forth of July special will re-air past interviews of local authors who have books they think will be great summer reading. Our interview will air on 90.7 FM Sunday July 4 at 11am , and re-air Monday July 5 at 7pm.
The show streams LIVE, so anyone with access to the Internet can listen to it at the above date/times, by going to www.wxel.org and clicking on the Listen Live button .
Join us at the first UCF Book Festival. This inaugural event is being sponsored in association with the Morgridge International Reading Center at the University of Central Florida.
The 2010 UCF Book Festival will be held April 16-17, 2010, at the UCF Arena in Orlando.
We will be on two panels – both in Psych 105 from 10:30 -11:20 am (Mysterious Women: Characters of Intrigue) and 11:45 -12:35 pm (Telling Stories- Adding to the Action). We’ll be talking about the novels we’ve written together including our Florida Book Award winning international thriller, Rabbit in the Moon. Deborah will also be talking about her newest thriller, “Dead Air+, co-written with her former UCLA colleague, Dr. Linda Reid.
There will be book signings after both panels. Hope to see you there!
Today marks twenty years since Deng Xiaoping ordered the People’s Liberation Army to shoot down hundreds, if not thousands of peaceful protestors in Tiananmen Square. In the past two decades since, China has enjoyed enormous economic growth- mainly because Chairman Deng and his successors made a decision after the June 4, 1989 massacre that in order to retain centralized power, they would allow the people more economic freedom. The result has been a rising middle class that may be as large as 300 million and even a substantial number of super wealthy entrepreneurs who have all embraced Deng’s 1992 slogan that “to be rich is glorious”. The new focus on a more capitalist economy, however, has also meant an ever widening gap between rich and poor, with increased poverty in the countryside, weakening of the family unit as young people are forced to move from farms to cities seeking work, choking pollution, abusive police and many other negatives.
It is interesting that until very recently there were few obvious signs of protest akin to the short-lived 1989 student democracy movement. This has been primarily due to the fact that while allowing economic freedom, the government has kept a tight rein on political freedom. For example, people who try to take local issues to provincial or central agencies are regularly detained in “black jails” where they may be tortured or at least strenuously persuaded to “forget” their concerns. Parents of victims of the Sichuan earthquake and tainted milk have been warned not to speak about this to the foreign press.
With the rise of the internet, government control has become much more difficult.. According to a NY Times article, surveys show that four of five university students still rely on China’s heavily censored media for their news. However, in a digital age when nearly 70,000 Chinese students are studying in the United States and roughly 163,000 foreign students study at Chinese universities, walls blocking information dissemination are porous. Within the country, despite 30,000 “cyber cops”, there are brave souls who regularly blog about government corruption and urge reform. In December, over 300 prominent Chinese citizens signed a petition they dubbed Charter 08 recommending the end of one party rule. According to Yang Jianli, a dissident jailed after participating in the 1989 protests and now living in exile in the US, the document garnered more than 10,000 signatures with real names and e-mail addresses before the government shut down the online website. Some of the initial signers have been jailed and many more are under police surveillance
Even with this kind of intimidation, Yang estimates that 100,000,anti-government protests occur annually in China. A growing number of lawyers like Gao Zhisheng who defended the Falun Gong have been willing to endure torture and jail.
All of the government pushback demonstrates the leaders’ real fears that serious democratic reform could mean the end of their hold on power. Since that day on June 4, 1989 when the PRC turned its guns on its people, there has been virtually no discussion of what actually happened in the square on the Internet or in textbooks.
The government continues to keep tight control of any information about what is officially called “the June 4 incident”. In March, mothers of students killed in the square appealed to the National People’s Congress to end the taboo against acknowledging the event not as a “political disturbance” but as a massacre.
Around that same time, Zhang Shijun, a former soldier who had participated in the massacre, posted a letter on the Internet asking President Hu Jintao to “use his wisdom” to reevaluate Tiananmen,
And now, a just published secret memoir by moderate leader Zhao Ziyang, created while he was under house arrest, gives a disapproving account of the bitter power struggle behind the scenes as the students occupied the square, the deep rivalries between reformists and hardliners in the leadership as well as the critical role Deng played in the decision to use force.
Young people born after 1989 know virtually nothing about this history. They are rightfully proud of the positive transformative accomplishments of their country since the tragic events of 1989. Maybe following today’s important anniversary, the Chinese government will finally decide to open the door, acknowledge the true facts, and then move on.