BEIJING—A group of Chinese rock bands collectively known as Artists For Oppression held a benefit concert in Beijing's Tiananmen Square Saturday to raise money for the struggle against political dissent in China.
The historic five-hour concert, which drew an estimated crowd of 250,000, generated more than $3 million for the Chinese army and secret police.
In addition to raising funds for such items as bayonets and leg shackles, the concert also helped raise awareness of the oft-overlooked problem of human rights in China, organizers said.
"Yes, there are a lot of innocent people wasting away in Chinese prisons for crimes they did not commit," Artists For Oppression organizer and Rocking Hard Boys lead singer Li Han said. "But what many people don't realize is that for every person jailed unjustly in China, another innocent person is set free because of foreign threats of economic sanctions against China or a weak-hearted provincial judge. People need to realize that not every political prisoner is being tortured and executed, and they need to ask start asking themselves, 'What can I do about this problem?'"
Continued Li: "We simply cannot afford to take the brutal repression of basic human rights for granted. We cannot assume that people like University of Shanghai professor Peng Chiang, who in 1978 was caught distributing pamphlets critical of the government and the legacy of Mao, will always receive sentences of life imprisonment," Peng said. "We must remain ever-vigilant if such gross violations of international law are to endure."
In addition to featuring a line-up of 15 of China's top rock bands, the Artists For Oppression show offered booths where concertgoers could do everything from sign up to join the army to throw bricks at pro-reform journalists. Volunteers also circulated among the crowd, collecting signatures on petitions calling for the execution of various political dissidents.
In perhaps the concert's most moving moment, the band Flying Rocket Ship asked audience members to hold lighters aloft in honor of Chinese Minister of Military Affairs Wu Mingxia. Wu, who died last Thursday at age 81, was the man behind the crushing of the massive pro-democracy demonstrations that occurred nine years ago at the very site of the concert. As a result of his orders to send tanks into Tiananmen Square, thousands of student protesters were killed or injured, ending all calls for political change and preserving oppression in China.
"It is for men like Minister Wu that we rock tonight. He is the reason we are here," Flying Rocket Ship guitarist Zhonghou Chen said prior to the band's final song. "Now, are you ready to do some more rocking? All right, let's tear the house down with some loud guitar sounds!"
Audience members, who were overwhelmingly in their teens and early 20s, said the concert was fun but also educational.
"I had a blast at the Artists For Oppression show," said Beijing 15-year-old Kunming Hong. "But I also learned a lot. This show really opened my eyes to the importance of maintaining order through military force, and to the importance of not giving people a taste of freedom, because then they'll just want more, and, eventually, all of society will collapse."
"This was music with a message," said 17-year-old Xiamen Chung. "It moved my feet, but it also moved my iron heart."