Bob Hawke: Why Chinese Australians are mourning a 'tender-hearted' PM

On Friday, Australians will honour beloved former leader Bob Hawke in a memorial service at the Sydney Opera House. Among them will be many Chinese Australians – including my parents – whose lives changed forever when Mr Hawke offered them asylum after the Tiananmen Square massacre.

In June 1989, Chinese troops used guns and tanks to suppress protesters calling for democracy in Beijing, killing an unknown number of people.

Half a world away in Australia, my father Cong Hui Mao watched in horror as the crackdown unfolded on his television set.

He had recently moved to Sydney, aged 30, on a one-year student visa. In Australia he found a vast nation with the kind of political freedoms that protesters in China had been calling for. The Tiananmen demonstrations had given him hope, and for weeks he closely followed the “promising flickers” of a new China.

“It was an exciting time – we felt that we were at a crossroads where we could bring up new ideas,” he says.

“So when Tiananmen happened, it was like a great fire had been quashed.”

Image caption Footage of the crackdown in Beijing was beamed across the world

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