University of Sydney
As Party leaders convened in Beijing for the momentous Third Plenum of the 11th Central Committee of December 1978, a street wall several blocks away became a site for posters (dazibao) expressing views on the state of Chinese society after the end of the Cultural Revolution and the overthrow of the Gang of Four. Some aired personal grievances not yet redressed from earlier political campaigns. Others explored social and political questions, especially democracy, leading to the site’s designation as “Democracy Wall”. Activists also produced mimeographed political and literary magazines, pasted up on the wall or distributed to gathered crowds. For a few months, these activities provided an unofficial forum for expressing the aspirations and ideas of the “lost” generation who went through the Cultural Revolution, but during 1979 leading participants were convicted as counter-revolutionaries, and the wall was shut down in December. The presenter was a regular observer of events at the Democracy Wall while a student at Peking University 1978-80.
Dr. Susette Cooke is an Honorary Associate in the Department of Chinese, School of Languages and Cultures, at the University of Sydney. Her current research focuses on society and state relations in the PRC’s northwestern region.