For the past 29 years, Chen Wei has marked the anniversary of the bloody 4 June Tiananmen Square crackdown by fasting for 24 hours, consuming only water and thinking of the students who perished. Chen, a former student organiser, started the tradition when she was in prison, soon after the protests ended, while serving 20 months in an 8 sq metre cell. It was a small, silent act of resistance. The guards did not pay attention to whether she ate or not.
“It’s really a sacred day,” said Chen, who led protests in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou as a university student. It is a day of complicated emotions for Chen, of guilt and grief. “They died to promote democracy in China and it seems what we have done in the past 20 or 30 years is insignificant. We failed to let their souls rest in peace, we failed to redress their deaths,” she said.