TIANANMEN SQUARE MASSACRE
At 2:00am on June 4th 1989, People's Liberation Army tanks and 300,000 soldiers moved into Tiananmen Square in Beijing to crush a large pro-democracy demonstration that had been going on for seven weeks. The tanks rolled over people that got in their way and soldiers opened fire on groups of protesters.
Hundreds of students and supporters were killed. Hospitals were filled with casualties and P.L.A. troops in some cases prevented doctors from treating wounded demonstrators. The figure 2,000 dead is often cited but nobody but the Chinese authorities know how many people really died, partly because the bodies were carried off the night of the massacre and buried in secret graves. Reporters that tried to investigate what happened have been roughed up by soldiers with cattle prods.
The massacre at Tiananmen Square didn't take place in Tiananmen Square but rather in the streets around it. Most of violence occurred on the Avenue of Eternal Peace on the southern side of the square. Reports that the square was washed in blood were unfounded and it appears no one actually died within Tiananmen Square itself. Crackdowns also occurred in more than 200 cities all over China. What occurred in these places is still largely unknown.
The Chinese government death figure is 300. Other estimates range from 2,700 to much higher. It seems that most of those killed were not student protesters but ordinary Beijing citizens, many of whom happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Among them were many bystanders, including a 17-year-old high school student, a 27-year-old chemistry teacher, and a 30-year-old computer company employee who had been married for only a month.
Zhao Ziyang said he could hears shots from automatic rifles from his home. ‘While siting in courtyard with my family , I heard intense gunfire.’ he wrote, ‘A tragedy to shock the world had not been averted, and was happening after all.’
Never before had the People's Liberation Army turned its weapons on the Chinese people with the intention of murdering so many of them. Demonstrations at Tiananmen Square in 1976 and 1987 had been broken up with batons and tear gas not guns and tanks.
Good Websites and Sources on the Tiananmen Square Protests: Tiananmen Square Demonstration Photos cryptome.cn ; Graphic pictures christusrex.org and christusrex.org ; Tiananmen Square Documents gwu.edu/ ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Google Video video.google.com ; BBC Eyewitness Account news.bbc.co.uk ; Film: The Gate of Heavenly Peace has been praised form its balanced treatment of the Tiananmen Square Incident. Gate of Heavenly Peace tsquare.tv
Links in this Website: DENG XIAOPING Factsanddetails.com/China ; CHINA UNDER DENG XIAOPING Factsanddetails.com/China ; DENG XIAOPING’S ECONOMIC REFORMS Factsanddetails.com/China ;TIANANMEN SQUARE DEMONSTRATIONS Factsanddetails.com/China ; TIANANMEN SQUARE MASSACRE Factsanddetails.com/China ; AFTERMATH AND LEGACY OF TIANANMEN SQUARE Factsanddetails.com/China ; DISSIDENTS, POLITICAL ACTIVISTS AND POLITICAL PRISONERS IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ;
Events Before the Tiananmen Square Massacre
Tiananmen Square documentary Deng and the Elders ordered that an editorial be placed in the People’s Daily accusing the students of causing “turmoil,” a word only used in serious situations. The high ranking Communist leader Wang Zhen, one of the Elders, said, "We’ve got to do it, or the common people will rebel...These people are really asking for it. They should be nabbed as soon as they pop out again. Give 'em no mercy...Anybody who tries to overthrown the Communist Party deserves death and no burial”
On May 19, martial law was declared. Zhao was replaced with Jiang Zemin, then a Shanghai official known as being able but compliant. Thousands of military vehicles, including tanks and armored personnel carriers, began moving into Beijing. Rumors began circulating about splits in the Communist leadership, army units that planned to disobey orders and side with the students; and immanence of civil war.
On May 27th, some student leaders announced a retreat. In his book China Live, CNN correspondent Mike Chinoy said the 1989 demonstrators stayed too long in Tiananmen Square. "Why didn't they just declare victory and go home?" he wrote.
But activities continued. On May 29th, five days before the massacre students from the Beijing Art Institute raised a 30-foot-high statue called the Goddess of Democracy, which was model after the Statue of Liberty, near the Monument of People's Heroes at the center of the square. By that time some 3,000 demonstrators staged a pro-democracy hunger strike. On June 2nd there was a rock concert and soldiers began moving in.
Troops came from various cities around China and took up positions on the outskirts of Beijing. On June 3rd orders came to drive through the city and clear the square. Thousands of armed soldiers in open-back trucks and tanks began closing in around Tiananmen Square from the east, north and west.Heading towards the square some military units were blocked by barricades. Some soldiers have said bricks and rocks were thrown and they were shot at by unknown shooters. One soldier said soldiers fired over the head of civilians as a warning.
On the evening of June 3, only about 4,000 demonstrators, most of them students, were left in Tiananmen Square. The others had mostly gotten bored and went home. Some of those who remained squabbled over whether they should leave or hold their ground and die as martyrs. The scene was very tense, in the words of some: “hysterical.”
Before the Tiananmen Square Massacre
Tiananmen Square Describing the scene on the streets around the Tiananmen Square, the writer Yu Hua wrote in the New York Times, ‘The people. Still, it was not the rallies in Tiananmen Square that made me truly understand these words, but an episode one night in late May. Martial law had been declared by that time; students and residents were guarding major intersections to keep out armed troops. [Source: New York Times, May 30 2009, Yu Hua is the author of Brothers. This essay was translated by Allan Barr from the Chinese]
In Beijing in late May, it’s hot at midday but cold at night. I was wearing only a short-sleeved shirt when I set off after lunch, and by late that evening I was chilled to the bone. As I cycled back from the square, an icy wind blew in my face. The streetlights were dark, and only the moon pointed the way ahead. Then as I approached the Hujialou overpass a wave of heat suddenly swept over me, and it only got hotter as I rode further. I heard a song drifting my way, and a bit later I saw lights gleaming in the distance. “ [Ibid]
Thousands of people were standing guard on the bridge and the approach roads beneath. They were singing lustily under the night sky: With our flesh and blood we will build a new great wall! The Chinese people have reached the critical hour, compelled to give their final call! Arise, arise, arise! United we stand. “ [Ibid]
Although unarmed, they stood steadfast, confident that their bodies alone could block soldiers and ward off tanks. Packed together, they gave off a blast of heat, as though every one of them was a blazing torch. That night I realized that when the people stand as one, their voices carry farther than light and their heat is carried farther still. That, I discovered, is what the people means. “ [Ibid]
Tiananmen Square Massacre Decision
The meeting in which the decision to declare martial law was held without Zhao Ziyang being present even though as premier he was supposed to preside over such meeting according to the Communist Party Charter.
In many ways the two dozen or so leaders in the Chinese elite were out of touch with what was going on. They believed, for example, that “groups of old ladies and children slept on the road,” blocking martial law troops form entering Beijing—but there were no such old ladies or children.
Deng, who endured the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural revolution, had little tolerance for political instability. Many say Deng faced a choice between re-asserting the power of the Communist party or opening up the party to the forces of democracy, which would probably lead to the dilution of the party’s power. Given that choice he chose force to re-assert the party’s power.
Deng and the Tiananmen Square Massacre Decision
Deng is widely believed to have been the one who ordered the crack down at Tiananmen Square. According to the Tiananmen Papers, before the arrival of Gorbachev, Deng said, "We must not give an inch on the basic principal of upholding the Communist Party. At the same time the party must resolve the issue of democracy."
Later Deng changed his tune. On May 18, he said, "After thinking long and hard about this, I've concluded that we should bring in the People's Liberation Army and declare martial law in Beijing."
Later Deng said, "If they refuse to leave they will be responsible for the consequences." Analysts believe that a few dozen policemen could easily have removed the protestors but Deng, who had just emerged from a power struggle within the Communist Party, felt it was necessary to send a strong message that he was solidly in power and wouldn't tolerate dissent.
Deng reportedly waited for Zhao to crack down on the students. When Zhao didn’t, Deng decided it was time to replace Zhao and take matters into his own hands, telling the Elders, “It’s lucky we’re still here to keep a lid on things.”
Communist Party Struggle at the Time of Tiananmen Square
The debate over how to respond to protesting students was part of a continuing struggle over economic and political change. In his book Zhao said that the goal of the party meetings at the time of the demonstrations was not to suppress the student demonstrations but rather to settle a power struggle between conservative and liberal factions. Adi Ignatius, one of the editors of the book and editor in chief of the Harvard Business Review, wrote in Time, ‘China’s hard lined had tried for years to derail the economic and political innovations that Zhao had introduced. Tiananmen, Zhao demonstrates in his journal, gave conservatives a pretext to set the clock back .
Ignatius wrote, ‘The power structure described in the book is chaotic and often bumbling...Deng is a conflicted figure who urges Zhao to push hard for economic changes but demands a crackdown on anything that seems to challenge the party’s authority. Deng is at times portrayed not as an emperor but as a puppet subject to manipulations by Zhao or his rivals, depending on who presents his case to the old man first.’
In June 2010, a Hong Kong publisher was printing an alleged insider account of decision-making process behind the Tiananmen square crackdown in 1989 allegedly by former premier Li Peng when it suddenly stopped the presses, siting copyright problems.
Thought Processes behind the Tiananmen Decisions
Describing the thought process behind the decision that were made, Zhao wrote in his memoirs, ‘First, it was determined then that the student movement was a planned conspiracy of anti-Party, anti-socialist elements with leadership. So now we must ask, who were these leaders? What was the plan? What was the conspiracy? What evidence exists to support this? It was also said that there were black hands within the Party. Then who were they? [Source: Zhao Ziyang’s Prisoner of the State ]
Second, it was said that this event was aimed at overthrowing the People’s Republic and the Communist Party. Where is the evidence? I had said at the time that most people were only asking us to correct our flaws, not attempting to overthrow our political system. After so many years, what evidence has been obtained through the interrogations? Have I been proven right, or have they? Many of the democracy activists in exile say that before June Fourth, they had still believed that the Party could improve itself. After June Fourth, however, they saw the Party as hopeless and only then did they take a stand to oppose the Party. “ [Ibid]
Third, can it be proven that the June Fourth movement was counterrevolutionary turmoil, as it was designated? The students were orderly. Many reports indicate that on the occasions when the People’s Liberation Army came under attack, in many incidents it was the students who had come to its defense. Large numbers of city residents blocked the PLA from entering the city. Why? Were they intent on overthrowing the republic? “ [Ibid]
Of course, whenever there are large numbers of people involved, there will always be some tiny minority within the crowd who might want to attack the PLA. It was a chaotic situation. It is perfectly possible that some hooligans took advantage of the situation to make trouble, but how can these actions be attributed to the majority of the citizens and students? By now, the answer to this question should be clear. “ [Ibid]
Another issue was how to deal with people implicated in all of this. The Anti-Liberalization Campaign was not just a theoretical issue. My biggest headaches came from the issues of whether to punish people, how to reduce the harm done to people, and how to contain the circle of people being harmed. From the beginning of the campaign, some Party elders were also very enthusiastic and wanted to punish a lot of people. Deng Xiaoping had always believed that those who proceeded with liberalization within the Party should be severely punished. Wang Zhen and other elders believed this as well. People like Deng Liqun and Hu Qiaomu were even more eager to take the opportunity to destroy certain people and take pleasure in the aftermath. “ [Ibid]
Under these circumstances, it was difficult to protect certain people, or limit the number being hurt or even to reduce the degree of harm that was done. Hence when it was drafted, the Number Four Document set strict limits on the punishment of those designated by the campaign as having made mistakes. The document defined this as: Punishments that will be publicized and administrative punishments must first be approved by the Central Committee, and are to be meted out to those few Party members who openly promote bourgeois liberalism, refuse to mend their ways despite repeated admonitions, and have extensive influence. The document also stated, For those who hold some mistaken views, criticisms by fellow Party members may be carried out in Party group administrative meetings. They should be allowed to hold to their own views and the method of carrying out the criticism must be calm. “ [Ibid]
When proceeding with the Anti-Liberalization Campaign, I had intentionally emphasized that we should classify those who had taken faulty liberal actions as well as those who were too conservative and rigid into the same group of people who were too biased. The purpose was to avoid or reduce the harm being done to people. “ [Ibid]
Critical Meeting Between Zhao Ziyang and Deng Xiaoping
Zhao Ziyang argued that most of the demonstrating students were only asking us to correct our flaws, not attempting to overthrow our political system. In his memoirs Zhao attacks several officials, especially his arch rival, the conservative former prime minister Li Peng, who fiercely opposed or, in his view, betrayed him. He describes how they schemed to turn Deng against him and blocked, resisted, and sabotaged Zhao’s efforts to defuse the tensions. Zhao said that Li Peng accompanied him when he went to Tiananmen quare but was ‘terrified’ and quickly fled the
As he feuded with hard-line party rivals over how to handle the students occupying Tiananmen Square, Zhao requested a personal audience with Deng. Zhao was told to go to Deng’s home on the afternoon of May 17 for what he thought would be a private talk. To his dismay, he arrived to find that Deng had assembled several key members of the Politburo, including Zhao’s bitter foes. [Source: Erik Eckholm, New York Times, May 14, 2009]
Ignatius wrote, ‘The key moment in Zhao’s narrative is a meeting held at Deng Xiaoping’s home on May 17,1989, less than three weeks before the Tiananmen massacre, Zhao argued that the government should back off from its harsh threats against the protesters and look for ways to ease tensions, two officials immediately stood up to criticize Zhao, effectively blaming him for escalating the protest in him. Deng had the last world with his fateful decision to impose martial law and move troops into the capital. In a rare historical instance of a split at the party’s highest levels, Zhao wouldn’t sign on.’
I realized that things had already taken a bad turn, Zhao recalls. From Deng’s impatient body language and the scathing attacks he received from his rivals, Zhao said it was obvious that Deng had already decided to overrule Zhao’s proposal for dialogue with the students and impose martial law. It seems my mission in history has already ended, Zhao recalls telling a party elder later that day. I told myself that no matter what, I would not be the general secretary who mobilized the military to crack down on students. As Zhao anticipated, he was immediately sidelined and soon vilified for splitting the party. [Eckholm, Op Cit]
Zhao’s aide Bao Tong told the Times of London that he was with Zhao after meeting with Deng on May 17. He told the Times of London, “Comrade Ziyang was completely relaxed. He asked me to draft a letter of resignation. I asked if he would reign as general secretary of the party or deputy of the Central Military Commission, he said. ‘Both.’ So I went away and wrote it.” On the matter Zhao wrote: ‘I refused to become the General Secretary who mobilized the military to crack down on the students.’
By forcing out Zhao and restoring a political grip that remains largely in place today, the conservatives squelched hopes that China’s economic reforms would be accompanied by systematic political change. But they were also surprised by the popular revulsion over the crackdown. [Eckholm, Op Cit]
Tiananmen Square During the Massacre
The hunger strikers Zhuo Duo and Hou Dejian decided they would try to negotiate a safe exit for those still in the square. They took a mini van to the north end of the square. Zhuo later told the Times of London, “We had to walk the last 100 meters or so. It was the most frightening moment of my life. I felt as if I was walking into Hell. Everything was dark. Suddenly I heard a tremendous noise. The soldiers were cocking their guns, Someone shouted to us to stand still or they would open fire. We cried out that Hou Deijan had come to negotiate. There was a pause and then about 10 soldiers approached us. I told the officer that we would tell the students to leave, but we needed to know the attitude of the army.” The officer left to consult with his superiors. By ths time soldiers were starting to clear the square by setting fire to pile of debris.
After what seemed like an eternity the officer returned. Zhou said, “He told us that the command post had agreed to our request. We had to leave by the southeast corner of the square and we had to be gone before the deadline for the army to clear the area. No discussion.” Zhuo and Hu returned to the students area and relayed the message. A voice vote was taken among those still there with voices favoring withdrawal being louder than those for staying.
Zhou remained in the square until the end. “I saw everything,” he told the Times. “I was the last to leave. There were no students left in tents on the square.” Dawn was breaking as he left, with the soldiers closing in on him as he was. “I saw a tank drive up and stop just 20 meters away from us. Everyone was crying.” Zhou’s report is consistent with Chinese government claim that no one was killed in Tiananmen square itself.
Tiananmen Square Violence
The first shots were fired around midnight at unarmed civilians about three miles west of the square. For reasons that are still unclear only soldiers in the west began firing. Students that were grouped around the Monument of People's Heroes in Tiananmen Square were petrified by the shooting. Four intellectuals were able to negotiate with an army commander to let the students leave peacefully through the southwest corner of the square.
Some students threw rocks and Molotov cocktails. The morning after the street were littered with debris, burnt buses and smashed bicycles.
Student leader Chai Ling later told Newsweek, "The irony is that we were so afraid of every move we made being misinterpreted. We were afraid that if we left to go to the bathroom, people would think we were deserting. I remember 2 a.m. the morning of June 4. The tanks had already finished moving into the square. We were all gathered around the Monument of the People's Heroes. It was all very tense, very emotional. But at the same time, we had to pee. We had this little tent. So my second in command says, 'Can you all move out? The commander in chief has some business to do.' And they moved out and handed me this pot. It was so embarrassing."
Tiananmen Square Killing
The student activist Lu Jinghua later recalled, "The night the army came, I finally left the square at 2:30am and made my way out. It was terrible. They were shooting people, there was blood everywhere. I was mad, sad, scared—everything together. I just didn't want to die. I didn't know whether to walk or run." [Source: The Independent]
Victims were shot, run over with tanks, clubbed to death, caught in crossfire. Fang Zheng, a student at Tiananmen Square who is now China's disabled discus champion, had his legs crushed and later amputated after a Chinese army tank ran him down and dragged him for 30 feet.
Wu Pei, a school teacher, told Newsweek, "Around 4:00am, soldiers encircled our group. Several hundred in our group lined up and filed off peacefully. But when we got to Beijing Music Hall [west of Tiananmen Square], some students started screaming, 'Don't panic, nobody panic!' Everyone started to run. Suddenly gun shots crackled around me and the air filled with gas. Just then a tank rolled through the bike lane, crushing people behind me who couldn't get out of the way. I still can't endure that [memory]. I'll never forgive them for that."
Time correspondent Jaime FlorCruz recalled, "In front of my apartment, about 2 k east of the square, a convoy of army trucks stood bumper-to-bumper. Students had blocked their advance, chanting Xia lai! Xia lai! (Come down!). Amid the commotion , an armored personnel carrier plowed through the crowd, made a U-turn, then sped off, knocking over a truck loaded with students. In an instant one man lay on the ground, his head a mush of red and pink, on the gray concrete. 'They're killing us,' shrieked a woman. Civilians pushed towards the army vehicles, beseeching the military to go home."
"For the first time in my life I saw a man die," one student told National Geographic. "The left side of his face was blown away by a bullet." The same student found the soldier who shot the man and hit him over the head with a metal bar similar to "the sort a cook uses to stir or mix a large pot." [Source: Ross Terrill, National Geographic, July 1991]
There was a report of one tank crushing 11 civilians. Qi Zhiyong, a 33-year-old construction worker who lost his left leg from the knee down after he was shot by Chinese troops, told AP, “I saw people being run over. Blood sprayed everywhere. The tanks kept moving as if the people weren’t there. My hair stood on end. I was chilled to the bone.”
Tiananmen Square Victim
Wang Zhengqiang, a 28-year-old office workers, was cycling home in the early hours of June 7 with six friends after an evening of playing cards. They were stopped by a voice in the darkness that said, “Don’t move!” [Source: Jane Macartney, Times of London, May 31, 2009]
Wang told the Times of London. “Suddenly it was bang, bang, bang. It was the People’s Liberation Army. They opened fire on us. We all fell flat. I didn’t know what had happened t the others. They fired another round, I was completely panicked.”
Wang crawled to the edge of a building and lay as still as he could. A soldier who looked no more than 20 approached him. “He came towards me until he was about seven or eight meters away. He pointed his automatic weapon at me. Neither of us said a word. Because the distance was a little far I thought that if I spoke it would be in a loud voice and that might make him nervous. If I spoke in a low voice he might not fear me. After a while he just opened fire. Paff, paff, paff, a round of bullets was fired at me. I was hit.”
When the soldier came closer Wang held up his hands and said, “You’ve made a mistake. I was just passing through.” He then heard another soldier say, “This one is still alive.” Wang was pulled him to a footbridge. Of the other six, one was dead, two women were let go. Zhou and his brother and two friends were watched over through the night by the soldiers. They heard shots off and on through the night. When he started to stand up, one of the soldiers told him “Don’t move or I’ll shoot.”
Wang said he drifted in and out of consciousness. “They realized they that they had made a mistake. But the hospitals were too afraid to send out an ambulance. In the end they put me in an armored personnel carrier and took us to the hospital.” Wang was badly wounded and needed months of treatment. It was not until some time later that he was told brother had died. He had been shot in the lung and probably would have survived had he received immediate medical care. Wang’s own injuries were so severe that he was unable to have children.
Looking for Victims From Tiananmen Square
The mother of a victim named Zhou Lind told Time, "We heard gunfire around Tiananmen Square...I told them not to go, but they promised they'd be back early. They weren't going far: we live on an alley...only two blocks from the square." [Source: Su Bingxian, Time, June 7, 1999]
“At 4:00am on June 4, Zhou Lind still hadn't returned home, so I set out to find him. I headed towards the square, but it was overrun with soldiers. I went to nearby hospitals; carrying his photo. I worked my way through the sick rooms to the morgue. The bodies were in drawers. We pulled out one after another looking for him."
"My husband and I finally found Zhao Long on June 6 at the No. 3 Hospital. Doctors recalled a boy in the morgue dressed in the yellow T-shirt, blue jeans and Nikes I described. He had been carried in by two students during the shooting. The doctors refused to let me look at him; they feared I would drop dead, as another mother had.”
Hospitals Near Tiananmen Square
Jiang Yanyong, a doctor who worked at a hospital where the victims were brought told the Washington Post: “I could not believe my eyes. Lying on the floor and the examination tables were seven young people with blood all over their faces and bodies. Two were confirmed dead after EKG tests...After another salvo of gunshots, more wounded young people were brought to the emergency room by people with pull carts and pedicabs. All 18 surgical rooms were used.”
“During the two-hour period from 10 p.m. to midnight, our emergency room accepted 89 patients with bullet wounds. Seven died despite emergency treatments. Doctors in three groups spent most of the night performing surgery to save all who could be saved.” Another doctor who treated Tiananmen Square victims brought to his hospital said that many had been hit by bullets designed to break apart inside the body and damage internal organs.
“I never forgot one who died,” Jiang said. “He was a young man in his twenties...This young man and his fiancee went to the streets when they heard the gunshots outside. When they ran to the Five Pines Crossroad, a salvo of gunshots sprayed on them. The girl turned and ran. When she found her boy friend did not follow her, she went back. She found him lying in the roadside in a pool of blood. She pulled him, but he would not move. People nearby came forward to help and brought him to the emergency room. A nurse checked his blood pressure. There was none...The girl cried as if she were crazy.”
Man and the Tank Near Tiananmen Square
The image identified most with the Tiananmen Square demonstrations is that of a white-shirted young man, with a shopping bag in each hand, who stood in front of a line of 17 tanks and refused to budge. His historic showdown was broadcast live around the world on C.N.N. The incident didn't take place at Tiananmen Square but rather east of the square on the Avenue of the Eternal Palace, just beyond the old Beijing Hotel.
The incident occurred around noon on June 5th, the day after the massacre. The man held his ground for about a minute or so. When the tank at the front of the line of tried to go around him he moved to the right and then to the left to block it. Then he shifted both shopping bags to one hand and jumped on the tank and appeared to say something to the driver. Finally a bystander stepped forward and pulled the man away to safety.
The young man has never been identified. His fate is unknown. His image though has appeared on posters and T-shirts but we only see him from the back. The Chinese government reportedly conducted a thorough search for him but turned up nothing.
Time magazine called him one of top 20 leaders and revolutionaries of the 20th century. A song about him appeared in a Wim Wenders film. John Kamm, the director of the Dui Hua Foundation a San-Francisco-based human rights group, told the Los Angeles Times, “For me he represents the unknown soldier of the Chinese democratic revolution. What’s so strange is that his act of bravery was conducted in plain view of the world. But other than seeing his act, we know very little about him.”
But as well known as he in the West few in China have seen him. No newspaper has shown his image. Attempts to pick up teh image on the Internet are blocked by government censors. Some of the few Chinese who have heard of him doubt whether he is even Chinese.
Photograph of the Man and the Tank
The famous photograph of the man and the tank was taken by Jeff Widener, then a 33-year-old Bangkok-based AP photographer. The day before the event, on June 4, he suffered a concussion after being hit in the face by a brick thrown by a protester and heard soldiers were using cattle prods to get photographers to turn over their film. On the day he shot the picture he asked a student he met if he could take photographs from the student’s room on the sixth floor of the Beijing Hotel, not far from Tiananmen Square. Out of film he borrowed a roll from the student and went to the room’s balcony
Using a device that doubled the power of his 400-millimeter telephoto lens, Widener watched the tanks rumble down the street almost a kilometers away. He later told Smithsonian magazine, “The protester walks out and I’m thinking, ‘This guy is going to screw up my [photograph]...That’s how messed up I was. I knew they were going to shot him, so I got focused and waited for them to shoot him. Then he started to walk up to the tank.” By the time he realized the f-stop was the wrong setting for the borrowed film he already snapped the pictures and the man had been pulled away by students. Widener then gave the film to the students who stuffed it in his underwear and bicycled to the AP office, After the grainy photograph was developed it put on the AP news wire. Others took similar photographs but Widener’s was the first to be widely circulated.
Chinese Government Position on Tiananmen Square
Five days after the massacre Deng accused the demonstrators of trying "to overthrow the Communist Party and demolish the socialist system" and praised the troops that crushed them. On June 19, Li Peng said, We can in no way leave [rioters] unpunished and let them stage a comeback."
Afterwards Deng said, “This has been a wake up call for all of us. In the future...we will use severe measures to stamp out the first signs of turmoil.” In a speech in 1990, Deng said, "If someone practices bourgeois human rights and democracy, we have to stop them." But at the same time he insisted that his program of economic liberalization would continue. China would not become a "closed country," he said, nor would it go "back to the old days of trampling the economy to death."
The Chinese government characterized Tiananmen Square demonstrations both as a "counterrevolutionary riot led by a bunch of hooligans" and a well-organized insurrection led by a few "Black Hands." Deng's daughter told New York Times that the fiasco was partly the result of China's inexperience in riot control. "It was a tragedy," she said. "No Chinese person wanted to see something happen like what happened then. Many people died, both among the ordinary people and among the military, and some of them died very cruel deaths."
Crackdown After Tiananmen Square
Washington Post bureau chief John Pomfret was kicked of China on charges of stealing state secrets and violating martial law provisions.
On his own arrest Bao said he as driven to Zhongnanhai party headquarters and greeted there by a Politburo member who gave him an unusually strong handshake when they parted. When he left he found his car had been replaced by a police car. “I knew everything was over,” he told the Times. “I was being arrested. We drove for more than an hour and finally went through a large iron gate. Three men waited for me. I asked if I was at Qincheng prison,” the infamous jail where the Gang of Four and others were imprisoned. “They told me I would be known only as Prisoner 8901. Then I knew I was the first person arrested for the year. It was the start of the crackdown.”
Bao Tong, the most senior party official to be jailed after the demonstrations. He spent seven years in prison and was placed on house arrest after that. As of 2009, he was still being monitored by guards 24 hours a day. As of 2009, Bao Ting was still not allowed access to the Internet and couldn’t own a fax machine or even a reliable cell phone.
Image Sources: AP, YouTube
Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
© 2008 Jeffrey Hays
Last updated February 2011