Dr. He’s research interests focus on political socialization, citizenship, human rights, and democratization in China. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Toronto and conducted her postdoctoral research at Harvard’s Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies. Her book manuscript Tiananmen Exiles: Voices of Struggle for Democracy in China (Palgrave- Macmillan, 2014) is a result of her eight years’ collaboration with political prisoners and student leaders of the 1989 Tiananmen Movement. Her postdoctoral project Identifying with a `Rising China’?: Overseas Chinese Student Nationalism examines the roots and development of nationalism among Chinese students in the post-Tiananmen era. Her writing has appeared in The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post and she has been interviewed by The Boston Globe, NBC, the CBC, the BBC, and various other international media.
Dr. He has taught for Harvard’s Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard’s Freshman Seminar Program, the Harvard Extension School, and the Harvard Summer School. Her seminars on the 1989 Tiananmen Movement and its aftermath have earned her the Harvard University Certificate of Teaching Excellence for three consecutive years.
Tiananmen Exiles: Voices of Struggle for Democracy in China
In the spring of 1989, millions of citizens across China took to the streets in a nationwide uprising against government corruption and authoritarian rule. What began with widespread hope for political reform ended with the People’s Liberation Army firing on unarmed citizens in the capital city of Beijing, and those leaders who survived the crackdown became wanted criminals overnight. Among the witnesses to this unprecedented popular movement was Rowena Xiaoqing He, who would later join former student leaders and other exiles in North America, where she has worked tirelessly for over a decade to keep the memory of the Tiananmen Movement alive.
This moving oral history interweaves He’s own experiences with the accounts of three student leaders exiled from China. Here, in their own words, they describe their childhoods during Mao’s Cultural Revolution, their political activism, the bitter disappointments of 1989, and the profound contradictions and challenges they face as exiles. Variously labeled as heroes, victims, and traitors in the years after Tiananmen, these individuals tell difficult stories of thwarted ideals and disconnection that nonetheless embody the hope for a freer China and a more just world.
“Though China’s democracy movement was crushed in the Tiananmen Massacre 25 years ago, the ideas that animated it are eternal. Rowena Xiaoqing He, one of the most courageous academics in the U.S., has written a powerful book that tracks the poignant journeys of three exiled activists and honors the sacrifices so many Chinese had to make in 1989 and after.”
- Adi Ignatius, Wall Street Journal Beijing Bureau Chief in 1989 and co-editor of Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang
“This new book revives as well as preserves the memory of the 1989 Tiananmen Movement in a quintessential way. Combining autobiographical and biographical approaches with psycho-cultural analysis, Rowena Xiaoqing He has ingeniously reconstructed the entire movement in historical perspective not only to unlock the past and explain the present but also to peer into the future of China’s sustained struggle against totalitarian tyranny. This is also a deeply touching narrative that the reader will find difficult to lay down until reaching the last sentence.”
- Ying-shih Yu, Emeritus Professor of East Asian Studies and History, Princeton University, and winner of the John W. Kluge Prize for the Study of Humanity
“Tiananmen Exiles rekindles our painful memories of those who paid dearly for their ideals. In this oral history project, Rowena Xiaoqing He captures the indomitable spirit of three student leaders forced into exile after the Tiananmen crackdown a quarter century ago. Their stories are powerful, moving, and inspirational.”
- Minxin Pei, Director, Keck Center for International and Strategic Studies at Claremont McKenna College and author of China’s Trapped Transition: The Limits of Developmental Autocracy
Wall Street Journal
Reading Havel in Beijing by Rowena Xiaoqing He
Still Seeking Justice for the Tiananmen Massacre by Rowena Xiaoqing He
Harvard Gazette story on the Tiananmen Seminar
Echoes of Tiananmen Square