Memory as Resistance: From Tiananmen to Hong Kong

Dr. Rowena He, Civitas Senior Research Fellow

April 25, 2024  |  2:00 - 3:30 PM
GAR 4.100

On Thursday, April 25th, the Clements-Strauss Asia Policy Program and the Department of History’s Institute for Historical Studies will host a talk by Dr. Rowena He, Civitas Senior Research Fellow at UT Austin, on “Memory as Resistance: from Tiananmen to Hong Kong”. Join us at 2:00 PM in Garrison Hall (GAR) 4.100.

The event takes place in-person only and will not be recorded. Please RSVP to

This talk is grounded in over two decades of fieldwork on the preservation of historical memory tabooed by the CCP regime. Drawing on contextualized personal accounts, Dr. Rowena He will illuminate the unequal contest between state-imposed interpretations of history and independent scholarship on China’s forbidden past, and their implications for nationalism, democratization, and the field of China studies. Highlighting her extensive interactions with local and mainland Chinese students during Hong Kong’s unprecedented social movement, she illustrates how memory becomes a form of resistance that embodies citizen autonomy and agency. The power of the powerless.

Dr. He is a China specialist and historian of modern China. Her first book, Tiananmen Exiles: Voices of the Struggle for Democracy in China, was named Top Five Books 2014 by the Asia Society’s China File. The book has been reviewed in the New York Review of Books, China Journal, Human Rights Quarterly, New Statesman, Spectator, and other international periodicals. Her research has been supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), Harvard’s Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, the National Humanities Center, and the Civitas Institute at the University of Texas Austin. Dr. He received the Harvard University Certificate of Teaching Excellence for three consecutive years for the Tiananmen courses that she created. In 2019 she joined the Chinese University of Hong Kong and received the Faculty of Arts Outstanding Teaching Award in 2020 and 2021. In 2023, she was denied a work visa to return to her position as an Associate Professor of History at CUHK. Dr. He publishes and speaks widely beyond the academy. Her op-eds have appeared in the Washington Post, The Nation, The Guardian, The Globe and Mail, and the Wall Street Journal. She has been a keynote speaker for the Canada Human Rights National Symposium, testified before a US Congressional hearing, and delivered lectures for the US State Department and the Canada International Council. Her scholarly opinions are regularly sought by international media outlets. She was designated among the Top 100 Chinese Public Intellectuals 2016. Born and raised in China, she received her Ph.D. from the University of Toronto. Read more about her work here.