In two parts, HKFP’s Ilaria Maria Sala shares unseen photos from the 1989 Tiananmen protests.
By the standards of Beijing in 1989, 10 pm was very late. The evenings were quiet.
The gate at Bei Shi Da, the short-form name for Beijing Normal University, was locked shut just before 10. If for any reason one was still out, it took a bit of banging on the metal to wake up the shifu sleeping on a berth in a hut next to it.
He would stir and get up, and let us in with a reproachful look. We smiled guiltily and apologised, but were too young to mean it.
Everyone was known as shifu: the man at the gate, the one at the entrance of the Foreign Students Dormitory, the one who looked at our comings and goings from a little office just by the door, and the couple who knew everything about us.
They took turns writing in a large book all the phone calls we wanted to make, whether local or international, and would call us loudly for all to hear every time we were wanted on the telephone. They made sure to shout the name of our caller, too, in case we fancied our privacy.
And they feigned not to understand if we asked if this was necessary. Only today I see that cheekiness as a small prank in an otherwise odd and dull job. Maybe any hint of secrecy was best dispelled as soon as possible, too.......