Through never-before-seen footage which had been hidden from the authorities for thirty-five years, Beijing Spring chronicles China’s first democracy movement and forgotten struggle for freedom of expression especially the brave Stars Artists who risked their freedom .  Andy Cohen has achieved what I wanted to do when I wrote Brushstrokes in Time– tell the world about these talented and brave young men and women.

A courageous filmmaker, Chi Xiaoning, stood atop Democracy Wall, camera in hand, recording it all in plain sight of the police. They eventually surrounded Chi and demanded he expose the film. Chi pulled out the unused portions of film, tricking the police into believing he exposed all the negatives. Fearing for the safety of his friends, Chi hid the 47 minutes of salvaged footage in a confidante’s home, swearing him to secrecy. After Chi’s untimely death, no one knew the whereabouts of the footage as it had been kept underground, passed from friend to friend as time passed. After years of searching, the film’s director, Andy Cohen, was able to track down Chi’s film, now shown for the first time ever in the film Beijing Spring. It is likely  to be premiered in the UK in autumn.  It is moving and inspirational. The pic below is of Qu Leilei and Shao Fei at the informal Stars show, the Stars marching to Tiananmen Square and Chi Xiaoning filming

Beijing Spring,-  Given censorship around the recent films of protest in Hong Kong and of the showing there of Beijing Spring , it is important and desperately relevant ! See clips here

I am interested in important lost history.  I couldn’t understand why these great and courageous artists are not better known in the West and I wrote my novel Brushstrokes in Time(BiT) to celebrate them. The historical background is true. The Guardian journalist, John Gittings, reviewed the original show. John read BIT trying to find fault with it but says that he failed. He endorses it as do Harvard and Oxford academics . Read Leilei’s inspiration story on the link below.  The picture below is of the Stars march to Tiananmen Square in 1979. Ma Desheng  is on crutches in the middle. You see him addressing the crowd in the trailer . Leilei is holding a poster two places to the right.  Ai Weiwei, Ma Desheng and Qu Leilei and law-changing female  artist, Li Shuang  talk in the trailer. Poets, writers and activists were also part of the Beijing Spring . Wei Jingsheng and Xu Wenli in the film spent 13 years as political prisoners.

Qu Leilei Castaway

My second novel Sculpting the Elephant set in Oxford and India also concerns important lost history. Asoka founded Buddhism but  was forgotten for over a thousand years and is not well known in the West.


The artist with the author at the Summer Palace where his father the famous novelist Qu Bo worked.