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Bye bye, Beijing

After Tiananmen I had to join the Chinese army. There I heard a song that took me to America

By Yiyun Li   October 2004

In the summer of 1991, I graduated from high school and was headed for Peking University, one of the hotbeds of the pro-democratic movement which had led to the Tiananmen Square protest two years earlier. But after the bloodshed in June 1989, the government had decided, as a precaution, to send all students entering Peking University to the army for a year of disciplining or “political re-education.” This programme lasted until the university had “changed blood” – meaning that younger students would no longer have direct contact with the troublemakers of Tiananmen.

We arrived at the army camp in Xinyang,…

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