Historian Carma Hinton is being sued by Tiananmen Square student activist
HNN Backgrounder Chai Ling was a leader in the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989. She escaped to the United States and reinvented herself as a software company entrepreneur. When Jenzabar, her company, was sued by former executives she complained about the bad publicity, saying it damaged her reputation as an all-American success story. One of her complaints was directed at George Mason University historian Carma Hinton, who leads a small non-profit production company (Long Bow Group) that made a documentary about Tiananmen Square:"Gate of Heavenly Peace." The Long Bow Group's website includes stories from the mainstream media about the controversies involving Chai's company. Two years ago Chai sued. In April Hinton issued an open letter asking"for your support of the principles of free speech and academic freedom which we feel are being threatened by this lawsuit."
For nearly two years the Long Bow Group tried to negotiate a settlement with Chai Ling and Jenzabar's lawyers. During this time, we were careful not to publicize the lawsuit. In April 2009, Jenzabar's lawyers declared that they had no interest in settling the case; given our limited resources, Long Bow has decided to appeal to the public for help.
The following open letter asks for your support of the principles of free speech and academic freedom which we feel are being threatened by this lawsuit. Please know that signing this appeal letter carries no legal obligations, responsibilities, or commitments of any kind, nor does it mean that you necessarily agree with opinions expressed in either the Long Bow Group's films or its websites.
Tiananmen 1989, Free Speech & its Advocates
The Long Bow Group, Boston
(15 April 2009)
We commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the 1989 Protest Movement in China and recall with heavy hearts its brutal suppression. During that movement millions of people in China demonstrated in support of freedom of expression and media openness.
In making the documentary film The Gate of Heavenly Peace (天安门, 1995), and with the creation of its archival website (www.tsquare.tv), the Long Bow Group attempted to reflect the complex motives and stories behind the events of 1989 in an accessible format, and to provide specialists and the public with an ongoing research resource.
The film was attacked sight unseen both by the Chinese government and by several former student activists prior to its première at the New York Film Festival in October 1995. Subsequently, the Chinese authorities demanded it be banned from international film festivals, claiming that showing it would 'mislead the audience and hurt the feelings of 1.2 billion Chinese people.' Meanwhile, the student activists who opposed the film accused us of working for the Chinese government and denounced us as 'a pack of flies, a true disease of our era.' (他们是一群苍蝇, 是我们这个时代真正的疾病.)
Despite controversy The Gate of Heavenly Peace went on to win numerous prestigious film and academic awards in the United States and overseas. The film has continued to draw attention in the mass media, among researchers and educators and, together with the related website, it forms part of the international discussion of China's modern history. We believe that the kind of independent research and cinematic work we produce has only been possible through the support of academic colleagues, public funding agencies, private donations, and under the protective umbrella of free speech.
We are now deeply concerned because our very existence as an independent film and archive group is being threatened by a lawsuit launched by one of the people who, during the 1989 Protest Movement in Beijing, professed support for freedom of speech and democracy....
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