issue 200 - October 1989
The NI is not only about words: we say just as
much about the world through the photographs we
select. What we have said about China has
been reflected throughout by the photos
of Sally and Richard Greenhill.
We have been travelling to China every three or four years since 1971. In the early (still Maoist) days the Western press was generally hostile to China's aspirations. Although we were wary of being shown set-up situations, the people we met impressed us as having deep convictions, lively minds, tireless enthusiasm, incorruptible moral standards.
All this has gone. In recent years there may have been more wealth and consumer goods around but people have seemed cynical, weary, amoral...
Then the most wonderful, exciting flower burst into bloom: the Democracy Movement! Unbelievably, the students were running Beijing. Suddenly' old standards of honesty and altruism reappeared: you heard stories everywhere about people refusing payment, giving, helping, volunteering...
It was the second Cultural Revolution but this time it came from the students and the workers and this time it was nonviolent, peaceful, gentle. And this time China's rulers knifed it in the back with shameless savagery - then set about hounding the survivors in a reign of terror. Many of the elements of this repression are not new: executions, controlled press, informers. On the other hand, the corruption and cynicism are new. So how far back does responsibility for the massacre go? To what extent do we have to re-evaluate everything we have seen and photographed over nearly two decades of involvement with China?
All photos by Sally and Richard Greenhill.