April 27, 1998
PHIL PONCE: Mr. Wang, first of all, thank you very much for being with us.
WANG DAN: (speaking through interpreter) It's my pleasure.
PHIL PONCE: What has your life been like in the past week?
WANG DAN: (speaking through interpreter) Well, mainly, I've been resting, getting over jet lag, seeing some friends.
PHIL PONCE: Before we started talking on camera, you said the past week has been something like a dream. What did you mean?
WANG DAN: (speaking through interpreter) Because only a week ago I was still in prison; I didn't have my freedom, and now I am in a free world. And I am with my friends. So the contrast is very huge.
PHIL PONCE: Is this what you thought democracy would be like, would look like, would feel like?
WANG DAN: (speaking through interpreter) I hoped that democracy might be more orderly. I know that New York does not represent the whole United States, and democracy may not be represented by everything that I see.
PHIL PONCE: I understand you spent some time yesterday with one of your fellow exiled dissidents, Mr. Wei Jingsheng. What did he give you about his experience has been like, and how you might learn from what he'd gone through?
WANG DAN: (speaking through interpreter) I've always had great respect for Wei Jingsheng's courage and his perseverance, stamina. And from him I think I will learn the spirit of courage and of stamina, perseverance.
PHIL PONCE: What is your plan now?
|A tougher line.|
WANG DAN: (speaking through interpreter) Well, after coming to the United States, I hope to be able to study and accumulate some knowledge, and then to the best of my ability to do something for China's democracy and human rights exert my efforts in that direction.
PHIL PONCE: Now, when you say you want to study, what specifically do you want to learn?
WANG DAN: (speaking through interpreter) Personally, I have a strong interested in contemporary Chinese history, and there's a lot of material on that in the United States. So perhaps I can do more work in-depth on that subject.
PHIL PONCE: And how would the study of history prepare you for what your life will be like in the future?
WANG DAN: (speaking through interpreter)Well, I don't agree that history is very rigidly patterned, but I think that, nevertheless, with history you repeat something. And so if we study history, then when things happen in the future we may have some psychological preparation for it.
PHIL PONCE: Last week you mentioned that you felt the need to atone. What did you mean?
WANG DAN: (speaking through interpreter) My main assessment was not the events of 1989. I was grading myself on what happened at that time. And I felt that I do have some responsibility, because as students there were things we did not do as well as they could have been done. We could have done better, and we have to feel responsibility for that. But the democracy movement, if you talk about the bloodshed, then I think the responsibility for that should be borne by the government.
PHIL PONCE: Could you sort of summarize what you may have learned personally?
WANG DAN: (speaking through interpreter)I think that in a political movement, in a political engagement, what level you approach from and what circumstances you ask the other side to accept, what do you want, that I think we didn't know that much about these matters. In the future in China when you have another political engagement of that sort, we should behave in a more mature way.
PHIL PONCE: And speaking of the future, you expect to go back?
WANG DAN: (speaking through interpreter) Yes, of course, I hope to go back to China.
PHIL PONCE: Sooner rather than later?
WANG DAN: (speaking through interpreter) Well, I don't think it'll be in the immediate future but maybe not in the very distant future either, perhaps in-between.
PHIL PONCE: What changes would you like to see in China?
WANG DAN: (speaking through interpreter) The China I hope to see, at least, I think you need to see an increase in the level of civilization and democracy, the level--the caliber of the entire population. So one thing I believe is that you need to have the same standards that you find in democratic countries in the West.
PHIL PONCE: How would you go about establishing those standards in China?
|Working for human rights.|
WANG DAN: (speaking through interpreter) Well, a personal ideal of mine as a free and independent intellectual, is that I could be able to use my ideas--to influence the people and together to get some of our ideas so that the society can move forward in a healthy way.
PHIL PONCE: Mr. Wang, if you could have a dream job when you return to China, what would that job be?
WANG DAN: (speaking through interpreter)Well, maybe I have a little ambition of my own. I would like to become the president of Beijing University, because that's my alma mater.
PHIL PONCE: And what would you do as president of the university to promote your ideals?
WANG DAN: (speaking through interpreter) Well, a university produces ideas more so than technically skilled people. And Beijing University is a bastion of liberal thinking in China. And so if it trains these people and they go out to serve as important people in every sector of society, that would be an ideal of mine.
PHIL PONCE: Now, your father teaches at Beijing University. This must be a difficult time for the two of you to be apart.
WANG DAN: (speaking through interpreter) Well, it's not just my father. My mother also graduated from Beijing University. So my whole family has very close connections to Beijing University. And, of course, they would also, therefore, hope to see me at Beijing University.
PHIL PONCE: Have you been in touch with your family at all?
WANG DAN: (speaking through interpreter) Many times.
PHIL PONCE: Recently?
WANG DAN: (speaking through interpreter) Yes.
PHIL PONCE: And what are they telling you?
WANG DAN: (speaking through interpreter) Well, of course, they hope that I study well and achieve things.
PHIL PONCE: How are you different from the person you were when you were a 20-year-old student back in 1989?
WANG DAN: (speaking through interpreter) I think my enthusiasm is the same as before, and I still hope to move democracy in China forward. But now--how shall I say it--I may be more practical. At least, personally I think I have the wherewithal to do something.
PHIL PONCE: As you look back at what happened in 1989, do you feel it was worth it?
WANG DAN: (speaking through interpreter) The episode in 1989 had an effect on Chinese history that cannot be replaced by anything you know in China. I could say that without what happened in 1989, we would not have what is happening in China today or in the future.
PHIL PONCE: So, you think there have been some positive things that have evolved from Tiananmen Square?
WANG DAN: (speaking through interpreter)The last few years there have, indeed, been very tremendous changes in China. But the greatest change has been in social life--because--of course, politically the change has not been so great. But, of course, in the economic and social changes, a government cannot control everything, and that trend already is set, and it's forming the foundation for future democracy in China.
PHIL PONCE: Some of your fellow dissidents in exile have gotten very involved in the free market system here in the United States. One is studying to get her MBA at Harvard; another is starting an investment company. Do you see yourself doing anything like that?
WANG DAN: (speaking through interpreter)Well, I would like very much to take advantage of the excellent educational opportunities in the United States to enrich my own knowledge.
PHIL PONCE: In addition to studying, are there other things that you would like to do to have an influence back in China while you're still here?
WANG DAN: (speaking through interpreter) I think if I were to have any influence left, I would like to use it to hope that the international community stay concerned about the human rights in China--and to urge the Chinese government to be more responsible for its record in these areas. And I would like to be more concerned about the people who are still in prison for political beliefs and to do something for them and I believe there is a lot of space to doing things like that.
PHIL PONCE: What kinds of things do you think you can do to help those people who are still in prison from this country?
WANG DAN: (speaking through interpreter) I think at least we want to do enough so that every person that is in prison will at least be known about abroad, and I hope to get involved in that.
PHIL PONCE: Do you think it will be hard to be effective from the U.S.?
WANG DAN: I don't think it's that difficult because information exchange is becoming freer and freer and so I stay in close contact with China and we want to let the political prisoners be known outside of China.
PHIL PONCE: Do you plan to go to Washington
WANG DAN: If President Clinton is willing to meet me, I would be delighted.
PHIL PONCE: And what message would you say to him and the people of the U.S.?
WANG DAN: I have three things I want to say to the United States about China's policy. First, as I understand it, the United States represents the interests of the American people, and so in determining Chinese policy, I understand that you want to take into consideration the interest of the American people. But second, as a Chinese people, I hope that American Chinese policy will stimulate China's overall development including social, economic and political--and the third thing I'd like to say to the president is I hope America's foreign policy maintains it's own moral standards and does not lower those standards.
PHIL PONCE: Finally, what is your dream, is your dream for China?
WANG DAN: I hope that China will be able to rather peacefully make the transition to accept the rules of the international community and to become a democratic, healthy and strong country.
PHIL PONCE: Is there any message you'd like to give to the American people?
WANG DAN: We all live in the same global village and every country's circumstances affect every other country. So the people of the United States are concerned about their own futures and their interests then they should also care about China's future because we are all citizens of the world.
PHIL PONCE: Mr. Wang, I thank you for joining us
WANG DAN: Thank you for interviewing me.
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