Tiananmen Square crackdown

Young actors embrace the spirit of Wang Dan

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 May, 2014, 4:10am
UPDATED : Friday, 30 May, 2014, 3:21pm

Actress Vicky Lam Wing-yee, 20, wasn't born at the time of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, but she wants to make sure its history is not obliterated.

That is why she has joined an annual theatre production with the bloodshed 25 years ago as its theme. "Although I was not born at that time, as a Chinese and a Hongkonger, I don't want this incident - part of our history - to be forgotten," said Lam, a cast member of Stage64, the theatre group that produces the annual show. "I want to know more about it and not let it die down."

Watch: Wang Dan: China lost legitimacy after Tiananmen

For the 25th anniversary, the group is rehearsing a play called Wang Dan, after the exiled Tiananmen protest leader. It follows others, including Edelweiss, that marked the 20th anniversary, and Beliefs Soar, which had another former Tiananmen leader, Chai Ling, as its main theme.

"The central government this year is suppressing June 4 activists even more severely in the run-up to the anniversary, making us think that we have to do more to make sure it can be talked about, especially among the next generations," producer Wei Siu-lik said.

Five actors of different ages and genders will play five different Wang Dans - before the prodemocracy movement, on the date of the crackdown, in jail, at present and from his heart - to explore the revolutionary history, still deemed taboo on the mainland, through the eyes of the dissident.

Wang served five years in jail in the 1990s for organising the 1989 democratic movement in Beijing as a student leader and was exiled to the United States in 1998 on medical parole from another 11-year imprisonment for conspiring to overthrow the Communist Party.

The cast went to Taiwan in October for two days to interview Wang, now a visiting faculty member at the National Tsing Hua University in Taipei.

"The drama is about shaping the character of Wang Dan," director Lee King-cheong said. "We have five actors of different genders and ages playing him simply because everyone can be Wang Dan. His spirit can be shared by everyone."

Actor Samuel Yau Man-shing, who plays the present Wang, likened a democratic movement to a farmer sowing seeds. "He never knows how many seeds will sprout but eventually some of them will be able to grow."

The play will be performed in Cantonese with some Putonghua at the Arts Centre in Wan Chai from June 20 to 22.