History of VSSDM
Promoting democracy - VSSDM was thus conceived
Upholding human rights – Thirty-plus years unswervingly
In 1989, on the cusp between Spring and Summer, university students in China rose up in waves of democracy movements, stirring the hearts of overseas Chinese and the world over. Unexpectedly, the heartless and ruthless Chinese Communist authorities brutally suppressed the patriotic students and citizens; the June 4th massacre shocked the world, and led to censure from all sides. Countless overseas Chinese, indignant over the tragedy, took the initiative to organize efforts in support of the fight for democracy in China, and The Vancouver Society in Support of Democratic Movement (VSSDM) was thereby conceived, becoming a pillar of strength and support for democracy in China, but also in other areas of the world. In the blink of an eye, thirty years had passed, and VSSDM has been continuing the struggle in the frontline of the democratic movement, promoting overseas Chinese to become involved in politics, unswerving in its labour.
In the early years, VSSDM breathed with China’s democracy movements. In 1989, we organized many large-scale rallies and demonstrations, in solidarity with the patriotic students in Beijing (Peking). A few of our rallies were possibly the largest social movement organized by private individuals in Vancouver’s history, and their effects were far-reaching, creating the inspiration and conditions for some of our core members to eventually enter politics. Concurrently, VSSDM fought the battle with accomplices of the massacre, as well as with remnants of authoritarian rule, becoming advocates of universal values and defenders of democracy and human rights.
Because of the Chinese Communist authorities’ suppression of the country’s democratic movements, with its leaders being either jailed or exiled. VSSDM lent a helping hand, lobbying and exhorting the Canadian and United States governments to protect overseas students who had supported the Beijing (Peking) students in their struggle, issuing visas that allow them to remain; subsequently, we had assisted exiled and escaped democracy advocates; from 1993, lending a helping hand to democracy advocates from Hong Kong and Thailand to settle in Canada, including one of “Three Gentlemen of Tiananmen”, Lu Decheng. All these years, VSSDM had organized visits to Vancouver many of the leaders of China’s democratic movement, including Wu’er Kaixi, Wang Dan, Wei Jingsheng, Liu Binyan, Yan Jiaqi, Nguyen Ming, Su Xiaokang, Chen Yizi, and Wang Ruowang. The souls of the democratic movement in Hong Kong, Szeto Wah and Martin Lee, had made frequent visits to Vancouver, exchanging views on the development of democracy movements.
At the dawn of the 21st century, the democracy movement in China entered a new low, and VSSDM turned its sights to focus on upholding universal values, and promoting human rights. Their hands soaked in the blood of its own people, the Chinese Communist authorities, in the name of stability, continued its suppression of democracy advocates, fighters for human rights, ethnic minorities, as well as protestors in Hong Kong; VSSDM has since shifted its battlefield to the Chinese consulate in Vancouver, with many occasions throughout the year when shouts against the brutal dictatorship of the Chinese Communist Party. VSSDM raised its angry and righteous voice in reaction to incidents such as the unexplained death of the iron-willed martyr of June 4th Tiananmen, Li Wangyang, who famously said, “Rather beheading than to turn my head”, the death from “liver cancer” of Liu Xiaobo, drafter of “Charter 08”, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, the brutal suppression by the Hong Kong police of the “Occupy Central” and “Anti-extradition” movements, and the genocide of Uyghur minorities, among others.
Other than struggles within the political arena, VSSDM also organized many other activities, all in order to deepen people’s understanding of China’s dictatorial rule, and how it damages and endangers the basic human rights not only of its own citizens, but universally. On numerous occasions, we held talks and forums, inviting speakers to comment on timely topics, and to work with the society at large to explore the evolution and future of China’s democracy movement.
Cultural education has also been a vital part of our fight for democracy. From 2001, VSSDM founded our bimonthly newsletter, The Eternal Flame, which continues publication to this day. Over the years, VSSDM has organized various cultural events centering on different themes, including the 2001 “Twelve Years Ago In My Old Home” evening, the 2002 play “Broken Dream”, the 2005 drama “Homecoming”, as well as many June 4th-related plays, all receiving positive responses.
In addition, VSSDM organized, in 2013 and 2014, each lasting a fortnight, “June 4th Memorial Museum”, displaying artifacts from the June 4th event, introducing the background and development of the 1989 democracy movement, as well as the many historical events when the Chinese Communists violated fundamental human rights, attracting a large number of interested visitors.
In 2018, on the occasion of “30th Anniversary of June 4th” and the erection of “Liu Xiaobo Monument”, VSSDM organized a fundraising dinner, with highly successful results.
To mark the 30th anniversary of the June 4th Massacre, from April to June of 2019, VSSDM brought forth a series of related events. On July 13th of the same year, we erected the “Liu Xiaobo Monument” adjacent to the Goddess of Democracy at the University of British Columbia.
On June 30th of 2020, the Chinese Communist authorities announced the enactment of the “National Security Law” in Hong Kong, and VSSDM rose up and organized a large-scale demonstration. On July 1st, over a thousand Vancouverites stood outside Vancouver’s Chinese Consulate to protest the Chinese Communists this evil law, raising a clamour and fever pitch rarely seen in these many years.
Democratic movements in China, as an episode of modern history have, from its precursor to today, had its struggles for over a hundred years; there have been times when a ray of hope emerged, but also times when its efforts have been beaten back. Even today, China’s one-party dictatorial rule is now more intensified and fanatical, and steps toward democracy and human rights have become smaller and smaller. Nevertheless, freedom and equality are things that we all thirst for, and the wave of democratic movement is carried forward over time. VSSDM continues its work with the same fervor and heart on the day of its inception, doing its utmost to promote human rights in China as well as internationally.