China continues to deny Tiananmen, but we won’t let the world forget

On the 30th anniversary of the massacre, commemorations to those who were killed will show the Chinese government we will not be silenced

The Guardian
Date: 4 Jun 2019
By: Rowena Xiaoqing He

Tiananmen Square on 2 June 1989, two days before the massacre. Photograph: Catherine Henriette/AFP/Getty Images

He was just a kid, but he cried like an old man in despair.” Liane was trying hard to steady her emotions when she described to me how she had attempted to hold back a young boy whose unarmed brother had been shot by soldiers during the 1989 Tiananmen massacre.

Liane was a student from Hong Kong when the 1989 Tiananmen movement erupted and she went to Beijing to support the demonstrations. On the night of 3 June, when 200,000 soldiers equipped with tanks and AK-47s were deployed against unarmed civilians, she was outside the Museum of the Chinese Revolution on the north-east corner of Tiananmen Square. She fainted after she failed to stop the young boy from dashing toward the soldiers, and was carried away covered with blood.

The legacy of Tiananmen is not something that belongs to China or to the Chinese people alone. It belongs to the world

“When I regained consciousness, people tried to put me into an ambulance,” Liane recalled. “I told them that I did not need one. A second ambulance came, and again I struggled not to get in.” At that point, a middle-aged female doctor got out of the ambulance, held Liane’s hands and told her: “Child, we need you to return to Hong Kong. We need you to leave alive to tell the world what our government did to us tonight.” Because of the freedom Hong Kong citizens enjoyed before the handover of 1997, citizens of Beijing hoped that Liane would bear witness for them. The fear that the blood would be shed in vain was widely shared by Chinese people that night. One Chinese man asked a Canadian reporter on the street: “Does the world know what happened here?”

The despair felt by Chinese people at the time was not misconceived. Although the world’s attention fell on Beijing, the Tiananmen movement had been national in scope, with millions of participants in cities across China. So, immediately after the crackdown the government carried out mass arrests across the nation.

Even as the massacre was taking place Wu Xiaoyong, the deputy director of Radio Beijing, broadcast a statement internationally, asking the world to remember “the most tragic event [that] happened in the Chinese capital, Beijing”. Wu was placed under house arrest after the crackdown. Two China Central Television (CCTV) news anchors appeared on camera dressed in black wearing sad facial expressions as they read the official texts about the army’s successful crackdown on the “counter-revolutionary riot”. Both were removed from their positions.

Propaganda officers of the People’s Liberation Army took control of all major media in Beijing. Many editors attempted to protect their reporters who were on the ground and saw what was happening (and tried to report what was happening), but the editors themselves were sacked so that the purge could proceed smoothly. Both the editor-in-chief and the director of the People’s Daily, the official mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist party (CCP), were dismissed from their posts because of their sympathetic attitudes toward the students.    [FULL  STORY]