Forbidden City by William Bell is a story of action, loss and tragedy. It is a piece of historical fiction based on the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, where Chinese soldiers killed anywhere from 200-3000 people when the town of Beijing comes under martial law due to massive protests.
The story centers around 17-year old Alex Jackson. Alex is very tall, has blond hair and blue eyes, and is a huge military history buff. He lives in Toronto with his Dad, Ted Jackson, who is one of CBC's top photographers. One day, Ted gets an assignment to help cover the huge story of the Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev going to Beijing. Alex and his Dad are ecstatic. They take a plane to Beijing, where they meet Eddie Nowlan, one of CBC’s top news correspondents. They also meet a tall Chinese man by the name of Lao Xu. He is their interpreter and guide. Lao Xu give Alex the name 'Shan da' because he can pronounce Alexander correctly.
The next month or two goes by, and Alex is living the Chinese dream. That is until protests start to happen in Tiananmen Square. They start peacefully, but escalate. Finally, the government shoots hundreds of students when the town comes under martial law due to a strong government reaction. Alex is caught in the middle of this; he’s lost his dad, and been shot in the leg. Students take him home and wait until he is healed. They devise a plan to get Alex out of the country with the video tapes he has filmed. The plan works, to an extent. Alex gets to the airport, but his friend Xin-hua is shot. He gets home and destroys all his war paraphernalia, and gives the tapes to the CBC, so the world will know the truth.
This book is widely popular as a source of study in schools around North America. As is classic with a piece of historical fiction, it uses real facts from the Tiananmen Square incident on June 4th to support it.
Forbidden City (novel) is currently banned in mainland China because of it's mention of the Tiananmen Square protests.