AFTERMATH, IMPACT AND HISTORICAL RESEARCH OF TIANANMEN SQUARE

AFTER TIANANMEN SQUARE

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student leader
Wang Dan in 1989
Tiananmen Square was followed by a period of repression marked by mass arrests and executions. Thousands were jailed, harassed and threatened. Some were executed, shot in the back of the neck, and photographs of the bodies were posted all over the country as warnings. One girl leapt from a 12th story window because she was "depressed in the atmosphere of recrimination."

Wu Renhua, author three books on Tiananmen Square, told China Change: In Beijing, many workers and urban residents continued to protest after June Fourth, as did people in other cities around the country. Many of those protesters paid a high price. After June Fourth, the Communist authorities carried out a large-scale campaign of investigations and arrests. This is another important part of the history of June Fourth. [Source: Yaxue Cao, China Change, June 3, 2016 ++]

A few months after Tiananmen Square the Berlin Wall, the symbol of the Cold War for a generation, fell, followed two years later by the demise of communism in the Soviet Union and its satellite states. On December 25, 1991, the Soviet Union was disbanded.

After Tiananmen Square, freshman at several universities in Beijing and Shanghai were sent away for Cultural-Revolution-like re-education and universities offered ideology classes that taught the governments version of the events. Eulogies for senior party members usually included a praise for their "clear stand" on Tiananmen.

After Deng's death, under Jiang's orders, Chinese television showed a 12 hour documentary on Deng's life that included footage of Deng and the Tiananmen Square crackdown. The segment was shown over and over.

Good Websites and Sources on Deng Xiaoping: Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Life of Deng Xiaoping cbw.com ; CNN Profile cnn.com ; New York Times Obituary nytimes.com ; China Daily Profile chinadaily.com. ; Wikipedia article on Economic Reforms in China Wikipedia ; Wikipedia article on Special Economic Zones Wikipedia .

Good Websites and Sources on the Tiananmen Square Protests: Graphic pictures christusrex.org and christusrex.org ; Tiananmen Square Documents gwu.edu/ ; Gate of Heavenly Peace tsquare.tv ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; BBC Eyewitness Account news.bbc.co.uk Film: The Gate of Heavenly Peace has been praised for its balanced treatment of the Tiananmen Square Incident. Gate of Heavenly Peace tsquare.tv.

Books Abour Deng Xiaoping: Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China by Ezra F. Vogel (Belknap/Harvard University, 2011); Burying Mao: Chinese Politics in the Age of Deng Xiaoping by Richard Baum (1996, Princeton University Press); China After Deng Xiaoping: The Power Struggle in Beijing Since Tiananmen by Willy Wo-lap Lam (1995, P.A. Professional Consultants); Deng Xiaoping by Uli Franz (1988, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich); Deng Xiaoping and the Chinese Revolution: A Political Biography by David S.G. Goodman (1994, Routledge); Deng Xiaoping: Chronicle of an Empire by Ruan Ming (1994, Westview Press); Deng Xiaoping and the Making of Modern China by Richard Evans 1993, Hamish Hamilton); Deng Xiaoping: My Father by Deng Maomao (1995, Basic Books); Deng Xiaoping: Portrait of a Chinese Statesman edited by David Shambaugh (1995, Clarendon Paperbacks); The New Emperors: Mao and Deng---a Dual Biography by Harrison E. Salisbury (1992, HarperCollins). Books about Modern China worth reading include The Search for Modern China by Jonathan Spence, China-Alive in a Bitter Sea by Fox Butterfield, To Get Rich is Glorious by Orville Schell, The New Emperors by Harrison Salisbury, Coming Alive-China After Mao by Roger Garside and The Dragon Wakes by Christopher Hibbert. You can help this site a little by ordering your Amazon books through this link: Amazon.com.

Books About Tiananmen Square: Timothy Brook’s “Quelling the People: The Military Suppression of the Beijing Democracy Movement” is regarded as the most complete book on Tiananmen Square. According to Ian Johnson it is “a work by a classically trained historian who turned his powers of analysis and fact-digging on the massacre. Even though Brook’s book doesn’t include some important works published in the 2000s (especially the memoirs of then Party secretary Zhao Ziyang and a compilation of leaked documents known as The Tiananmen Papers), Quelling the People remains the best one-volume history of the events in Beijing.” One should also note the works of Wu Renhua, a Tiananmen participant and author of several Chinese-language works, as well as a a book by Jeremy Brown of Simon Fraser University.

Good Chinese History Websites: 1) Chaos Group of University of Maryland chaos.umd.edu/history/toc ; 2) WWW VL: History China vlib.iue.it/history/asia ; 3) Wikipedia article on the History of China Wikipedia 4) China Knowledge; 5) Gutenberg.org e-book gutenberg.org/files ; Links in this Website: Main China Page factsanddetails.com/china (Click History)

People's Daily: "Socialist Democracy: People’s Democracy Enjoyed by the Majority of the People"

According to Columbia University’s Asia for Educators: “The Democracy Movement of 1989 was a sharp wake-up call for the Communist Party leadership. They had never expected the incident to get so seriously out of hand. One of the lessons that the Party leadership drew from the events of that spring was that they needed to do far more to teach the people, and particularly the young people, about patriotism and loyalty to the Party and the government. To begin with, they needed to refute the ideas about democracy that the students, workers, and other protestors had been discussing. The editorial below was published in the Party newspaper, People’s Daily, in March 1990, as a part of that project of education (or indoctrination). [Source: Asia for Educators, Columbia University, Primary Sources with DBQs, afe.easia.columbia.edu <|>]


Wang Dang at the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Massacre

A March 1990 People’s Daily article entitled “Bourgeois and Socialist Democracies Compared” read: The socialist democracy means the democratic rights enjoyed by the broad masses of the workers, peasants, intellectuals, and all the people who love their socialist motherland. The nature of the socialist democracy is that people act as the masters of their country. The socialist state system is the state system under which laborers and citizens are allowed to manage the state, administer the society, and act as the masters of their country in the history of mankind for the first time. It is because of this reason that the socialist country is the most advanced democratic country in the history of mankind. “The proletarian democracy is a million times more democratic than any types of bourgeois democracy.” (Selected Works of Lenin Volume 3, page 634). [Source: “Chinese Civilization: A Sourcebook”, edited by Patricia Buckley Ebrey, 2nd ed. (New York: The Free Press, 1993), 501-503]

“During the period when turmoil and the counterrevolutionary rebellion broke out in Beijing, a handful of people who stubbornly adhered to the stand of bourgeois liberalization flaunted the banner of “Striving for Democracy” in an attempt to confuse and poison people’s minds. These people denounce our country as a despotic state in which there is no democracy to speak of. This is an out.and.out distortion of the realities in our country. What is true is that since the founding of the New.China, the CPC and the People’s Government have made unremitting efforts to build the socialist democracy in China. Although China’s socialist democratic system is still far from perfect, China has after all established a comprehensive democratic system under which people can participate in the administration and management of the state. <|>

“The PRC Constitution stipulates in explicit terms that all powers in the People’s Republic of China belong to the people. The organs through which people exercise state power in a unified way are the National People’s Congress and the local people’s congresses at various levels. The National People’s Congress is the supreme state organ which formulates and ratifies the constitution and the laws, elects and removes from office the state president, vice-president elects the Central Military Commission, elects the president of the Supreme People’s Court and the procurator general of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, and, in accordance with the relevant procedures, appoints the premier and vice.premier of the Stare Council, the state councilors, and ministers, and examines and ratifies the national economic and social development plans, the state budget, and so on. This is the basic socialist democratic system instituted in our country. <|>

“The CPC-led Multiparty Cooperation and Political Consultation System has remained an important channel for the evolution of socialist democracy in China. The CPPCC has remained an important political and organizational form through which the CPC-led Multiparty Cooperation and Political Consultation System has been realized in China. Over the past few decades, the CPPCC committees at all levels, the various democratic parties, people’s organizations, and public figures of all nationalities and all walks of life have played an important role in making China’s state decision.making process more scientific and more democratic and in promoting the building of socialist modernization in China. There is no denying the fact that our country is still at the initial stage of socialism and our country’s socialist people’s democratic system and socialist legal system are still in a historical process of establishment, improvement, development, and perfection. Nevertheless, it is also an undeniable basic fact that the Chinese people have already become the masters of their country and are currently enjoying wide.ranging and real democratic rights. Take the citizens’ right to vote, for example; our country instituted the universal suffrage system as early as 1953. Since then, the Chinese people have been able to elect their own deputies, hold people’s congresses at all levels, form people’s governments at all levels, and exercise the state power. <|>

“Since 1979, China has several times revised her electoral law and instituted the system under which the electorate can directly elect their deputies to the people’s congresses at county and township levels. The revised PRC “Electoral Law” stipulates that apart from the fact that political parties or people’s organizations can either jointly or individually nominate candidates for the people’s congress elections held at various levels, the voters or the deputies can also jointly nominate candidates for the people’s congress elections held at various levels. In the revised “Electoral Law,” the election system under which equal numbers of candidates run for an equal number of deputy seats has been substituted with the election system under which more candidates run for fewer seats, thus gradually enlarging the citizens’ right to vote. <|>

“Given the basic realities in China, the building of socialist democracy in China can only be a gradual and accumulated process. Since the founding of the PRC, we have done a lot of work, made much headway, and achieved marked results in building the people’s democratic system. However, as a comprehensive system, our country’s people’s democratic system has yet to be further developed and perfected. In his speech addressed to a Beijing rally in celebration of the fortieth anniversary of the founding the PRC, comrade Jiang Zemin pointed out that it is necessary to make continued efforts to improve and perfect our country’s people’s congress system and CPC-led Multiparty Cooperation and Political Consultation System, establish and perfect a democratic decision.making and supervision procedure and system, expand the existing links and channels of dialogue between the CPC and the broad masses of the people raise the citizens’ consciousness in participation in the political and state affairs, and guarantee the full realization of both the will and the interests of the broad masses of the people in the state life and social life. This is the orientation for building socialist democracy in our country at the current stage. In this analysis, those who blindly worship the democratic system of the Western countries and try to transplant the parliamentary system and multiparty system of the Western countries to China are doomed to failure.” <|>

People's Daily: "Bourgeois and Socialist Democracies Compared"


Replica of the Goddess of Deomocracy in Hong Kong

A People’s Daily article from March 1990 entitled “Bourgeois and Socialist Democracies Compared” read: A small number of people who obstinately stick to bourgeois liberalization have made major efforts to advocate bourgeois democracy and distort China’s socialist democracy in an evil attempt to overthrow the CPC leadership and sabotage the socialist People’s Republic of China. In their minds, the capitalist system is more democratic than the socialist system instead of the other way round, and only with the establishment of the capitalist system can there be genuine democracy. These bourgeois liberal fallacies must be exposed and criticized. In a class society, democracy bears a class nature. Since mankind entered class society there has never been equality between the ruling class and the classes that are ruled, or in the distribution of rights. Democracy is equal power distribution in the possessing class. The classes that are ruled can only obtain a part of democratic rights that serve the power distribution in the ruling class. In this sense, all forms of freedom, democracy, and human rights are abstract and practiced on conditions that the fundamental interests of the possessing class should be protected or left unharmed. This is class democracy, class freedom, and class human rights. [Source: “Chinese Civilization: A Sourcebook”, edited by Patricia Buckley Ebrey, 2nd ed. (New York: The Free Press, 1993), 501-503]

“A small number of people who obstinately hold to bourgeois liberalization, including Fang Lizhi and Wang Ruowang, have made energetic efforts to beautify American democracy. They asserted that this democracy “is genuine democracy for the entire people.” In their opinions, exploitation of the majority by the capital.possessing minority has been over long ago. They said Marx wished to proletarianize the capitalists and turn them into self-supporting laborers, but Western society has capitalized the proletarians. Some Americans in power have also asserted that “America is the beacon of the world.” Is it true that the American bourgeoisie are so kind.hearted, “do not exploit,” “do not exercise dictatorship,” and have become the “beacon of world democracy”? Is it true that the American proletarians have mixed with the bosses of financial groups, enjoy the right of equal distribution and possession, and have equal democratic rights? The answer is negative. <|>

“In the present-day world, capital is still characterized by exploitation, oppression, and dictator. This is a historical definition provided for capital by the law governing human history. Similarly, the United States, where “capitalists are the personalization of capital,” cannot exclude itself from this definition. In the United States capitalists still dominate everything. A look at the nature of American democracy will make it easy to draw a conclusion that corresponds to historical facts. <|>

“First, U.S. democratic elections are actually the trials of capital and wealth. As everyone is aware, U.S. elections are the “elections of money.” Each U.S. presidential election costs about $1 billion. During their presidential campaign, Reagan and Carter spent $45 million each. Even the expenditures for the election of a senator are as high as $500,000. At least $500,000 to $600,000 are required for the election of a state senator. Undoubtedly, only the rich can afford such huge expenditures, whereas the American workers and other laborers, even the middle class, do not dare to inquire about the elections. Statistics suggest that the per capita assets of U.S. Senators amount to $5 million, and seventeen percent of them have assets worth over $5 million. No wonder the American working people call the U.S. Congress the “club of the rich.” According to relevant statistics compiled by the U.S. authorities, people in power in the United States control fifty percent of the assets in the industrial, transportation, and telecommunications field, in public enterprises, and in banks, but these people account for only three percent of the country’s population. Since the end of World War II, nine U.S. presidents and vice-presidents have been either members of monopoly capital groups or supported by huge financial organizations; they are representatives of these organizations. <|>

“True, the American people do enjoy universal suffrage at present. Again, the government waived restrictions on the property of voters and on women and black people. Democratic as all this looks, it cannot prove that the democracy practiced in the United States is no sham. I should like to ask: What benefits can laborers, women, and black people gain from such a universal direct election, which is held under the influence of the “contest of property and capital”? In the history of the United States, which worker has been elected as president? How many workers have been elected as congressmen or congresswomen? With regard to human rights, the world monopoly capital has also made every possible endeavor to advertise to the whole world that it is the one that truly “respects” and “safeguards” human rights. Nonetheless, out of its own class interests, the monopoly capital has not only trampled upon human rights at home but has also frequently acted as the world military police by sending troops to directly interfere with the internal affairs of other countries and practice power politics in the whole world. <|>

“For instance, the United States recently invaded Panama and carried out wanton and indiscriminate bombings and killings in Panama. The United States seriously violated basic norms governing international relations. Comrade Deng Xiaoping once laid bare the true nature of the bourgeois human rights. Comrade Deng Xiaoping sharply pointed out: “What are human rights? How many people now enjoy human rights? Do human rights mean the rights of the majority of the people or the rights of the minority of the people or the rights of the people of the whole country? The so-called human rights as advocated by the Western countries fundamentally differ from the human rights we are talking about. On this question, our views do differ.” Andrew Young, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, once said: In the United States, “a lot of people have been imprisoned because they are poor, not because they are bad.” In so saying, Andrew Young gave a true picture of the human rights situation in the United States. <|>

Impact of Tiananmen Square: Lingering Idealism and Violence-Backed Policy


Tiananmen 20th anniversary protest in Hong Kong

In a review of “The People’s Republic of Amnesia: Tiananmen Revisited” by Louisa Lim, Ian Johnson wrote in the New York Review of Books, “One of Lim’s most important points is that Tiananmen made violence acceptable in today’s reform era.” Over the decades the Chinese economy has grown at a remarkable rate, bringing real prosperity and better lives to hundreds of millions.” But behind it was this stick, the message that the government was prepared to massacre parts of the population if they got out of line. When I returned to China as a journalist in the early 1990s, the Tiananmen events had become a theater played out every spring. As the date approached, dissidents across China would be rounded up, security in Beijing doubled, and censorship tightened. It was one of the many sensitive dates on the Communist calendar, quasi-taboo days that reflected a primal fear by the bureaucracy running the country.”

After the violence of the Mao era, people had hoped that social controversies wouldn’t be solved by force—that there would be no more Red Guards ransacking homes of real and imagined enemies, or mass use of labor camps. And while many of these more drastic forms of violence have been curbed, the Party regularly uses force against its opponents, illegally searching and detaining critics. Street protests haven’t ended. Although the state talks continually of social harmony and reportedly spends more on “stability maintenance” than on its armed forces, China is beset by tens of thousands of small-scale protests each year, “little Tiananmens,” as Bao tells her. Some are innocuous protests by retired workers seeking pensions, but others are by people trying to defend their homes from being taken away, and they are punished by violent attacks by government thugs or by lynchings carried out by the notorious chengguan street police. [Source: Ian Johnson, New York Review of Books, June 5, 2014 ==]

“Living in today’s China, one realizes that amnesia is pervasive and exile all too common, but so too is the idea that the Tiananmen events still have meaning— that they continue to have a presence, not only in the negative sense of causing repression and censorship, but in more positive ways too. I was reminded of the New York Times correspondents Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, who titled their 1990s best-selling book about that era China Wakes. Today, such a book would probably be about GDP, peasant migration, and aircraft carriers, but their genius was to include Tiananmen too, not merely as a background to economic growth—including the theory of the economic takeoff as, in effect, compensation for political repression—but as part of a broader awakening among the Chinese people, even if the political aspects of that awakening have been eclipsed by the economic development of the past quarter-century. ==

“If this sounds naive, consider that almost exactly a decade after Tiananmen, ten thousand protesters quietly surrounded the Communist Party’s Zhongnanhai leadership compound in Beijing, asking that their spiritual practice, Falun Gong, be legalized. Had they missed the government’s brutal message, or were they on some subconscious level emboldened by a rising consciousness among ordinary people—a sense that they had rights too? ==

“The Falun Gong protesters met with intense repression, including torture, and most people are now more circumspect in pushing for change. But in talking to intellectuals, activists, teachers, pastors, preachers, and environmentalists over the past years, I’ve found that almost all say that Tiananmen was a defining point in their lives, a moment when they woke up and realized that society should be improved. It can’t be a coincidence, for example, that many major Protestant leaders in China talk of Tiananmen in these terms, or that thousands of former students—not the famous leaders in exile or in prison, but the ones who filled the squares and streets of Chinese cities twenty-five years ago—are quietly working for legal rights and advocating environmental causes. ==

“It’s true that many of these people are at least forty years old, and one can rightly wonder, as Lim does, about the upcoming generation, for whom idealism might seem childish or irrelevant. But idealists are a minority in any society. Cynicism and materialism are of much concern, but Chinese people themselves—including young people—discuss their presence and their danger in person or online every day.” ==

Book:“The People’s Republic of Amnesia: Tiananmen Revisited” by Louisa Lim, Oxford University Press, 2014.

Impact of Tiananmen Square on Stability and Economic Growth

Tim Daiss wrote in Forbes: “In place of the desire for greater democratic freedom, Beijing has spun a new narrative, one that has been extremely successful at keeping most, not all, of its masses happy – economic progress. Economic progress backed by a heightened sense of nationalism will keep the party in power in Beijing mostly unchallenged. However, it’s a fair question to ask: What happens to that sense of peace and serenity if economic conditions spiral out of control? What happens if a new generation of students, unable to experience China’s economic miracle or simply desiring something else, start to ask questions and in time protest? The events of May and early June 1989 give us a pretty good answer to those questions.[Source: Tim Daiss, Forbes, May 15, 2016]

In his biography of Deng, Ezra Vogel, an emeritus professor of social sciences at Harvard, wrote: “What we do know is that in the two decades after Tiananmen, China enjoyed relative stability and rapid—even spectacular—economic growth. Today hundreds of millions of Chinese are living far more comfortable lives than they were living in 1989, and they enjoy far greater access to information and ideas around the world than at any time in Chinese history. Both educational level and longevity have continued to rise rapidly. For these reasons and others, Chinese people take far greater pride in their nation’s achievements than they did in the previous century.”

Fang Lizhi wrote in the New York Review of Books, “With these words Vogel indicates that he basically accepts an argument that the Communist Party’s Propaganda Department has been making for the past twenty years: that ‘stability’ and economic growth show that the repression at Tiananmen was justified in the long run. When foreign dignitaries or journalists have asked about the massacre, the response of Party leaders has been consistent: if Deng Xiaoping had not taken “resolute” (i.e., murderous) measures, China could not have had the stable society or flourishing economy that it enjoyed in the ensuing years. [Source: Fang Lizhi, New York Review of Books, November 10, 2011, in a review of Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China by Ezra F. Vogel]

Other aspects of government rhetoric, however, suggest that even the sources of such statements do not quite believe them. If it were really true that Deng’s “resolute action” led to economic growth, and that this causal connection is plain for Chinese people to see, one would expect Party propaganda to be highlighting “the suppression at Tiananmen.” But they do the opposite. Over the years, the official description of the massacre events has steadily shrunk from “counterrevolutionary riot” to “turmoil” to “incident” to “flap.” The leaders are well aware that what happened is an extremely ugly mark on their historical record, and they have been eager to have the world forget it as soon as possible.

What about the claim that China has enjoyed ‘stability’? Did the crackdown really bring stability? Is it true, as Vogel says, that now “Chinese people take far greater pride in their nation’s achievements than before? If so, why does the government now need to spend huge sums — reportedly as much as the entire military budget — on ‘stability maintenance’ aimed at deterring and quelling protests, demonstrations, and other “mass incidents”?

But just for the sake of argument, let us postulate that the Tiananmen crackdown was indeed a primary cause of later stability and economic growth. We would still need to ask this question: Do stability and economic growth justify lethal force of the kind used at Tiananmen” An elemental principle of human rights is at stake here: you cannot use violent force to take the lives of one group of people (even if it is a minority) in order to serve the material interests of another group (even a majority).

Communist Party Prospers After Tiananmen Square

John Delury, associate director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations, wrote: “Amazingly the party emerged from the crisis unified around Deng Xiaoping’s vision of a ‘socialist market economy’ and regained legitimacy with the urban population through implementing that vision.”

Down the road Tiananmen Square also provided as opportunity to purge hardliners that stood in the way of reforms. After the massacre “Deng temporarily withdrew, letting the central planner around the party elder Chen Yun slow down marketization and weather China’s international isolation in Tiananmen’s wake” and then undermined their authority in 1992 with his famous Southern Tour. Delury wrote: “In the cold eyes of history, the 1989 movement and its aftermath may eventually be seen as the Chinese Communist Party’s “Machiavellian moment,” when Deng confronted the mortality of the republic, and saw what it would take to survive: party unity based on urban growth and used Tiananmen Square and the Southern Tour to achieve that goal.

John Pomfret of the Washington Post wrote: “Tiananmen saved the party from collapse” by prompting “the party to launch a far-reaching investigation into how some political parties succeeded in staying in power and why others failed, As a result of that study, it replaced thousands of party hacks with technocrats and college graduates. It opened the door to business owners who decades ago would have been jailed for walking “the capitalist road.”

Zhao Ziyang After Tiananmen Square

The Communist Party made Zhao a scapegoat for Tiananmen Square. He was relieved of his position as Secretary General of the Communist Party in 1992 for showing "serious mistakes of judgement and splitting the party" for his role in the 1989 demonstrations.

Zhao was placed under informal house arrest. He lived in a spacious Beijing villa that was locked from the outside. In the 1990s, he released a letter calling the Communist leaders to declare Tiananmen Square a mistake. For the most part he spent his time quietly reading, with occasional trips to the golf course and the provinces. He spent a lot time hitting golf balls in his backyard, he was occasionally let out to play pool at a club used by the Communist Party elite but before he arrived everyone was cleared out so he was forced to play alone.

Zhao died on January 17, 2005. He was given a low profile public burial. His death was given a lot of press in the West but did not draw much attention in China, where no announcement of his death was made on television. There was a debate within the Communist Party and between the government and Zhao’s family as to what kind of accolades he should receive if any.

When Zhao died in 2005 the Chinese government formed an “Emergency Response Leadership Small Group,” declared a “period of extreme sensitivity,” and ordered the Ministry of Railways to screen all travelers heading to Beijing.In the end Zhao was given a “body-farewell funeral" (lower status than a state funeral) and was buried with other Communist leaders in Babashan Cemetery and was given credit for “valuable contributions” to China’s economic reform but criticized for making ‘serious mistakes’ during the Tiananmen square protests. Measures were taken to prevent any demonstrations and show of support for Zhao or his political reforms. No serious demonstrations materialized.

On the 10th anniversary of Zhao Ziyang’s death, Sui-Lee Wee of Reuters reported: “Chinese liberals have clung to Zhao as a symbol of democratic change in a country whose leaders have rejected a reassessment of the 1989 protests. The ruling Chinese Communist Party has stamped out his legacy. At the heart of that anxiety is a wariness of Zhao's enduring influence and the divisions that remain over political reform in China. "If he can be vindicated, then our country will be able to go on the path of democracy," said Ruan Jizhong, who travels from central Hubei province to Zhao's home every January 17. "Everyone thinks this way. It's just that they don't dare to speak up." [Source: Sui-Lee Wee, Reuters, January 17, 2015]

Zhao's ashes remain at his home because the family and the authorities cannot reach agreement on a final resting place, a source close to the family told Reuters."In order to maintain their vested interests, (China's leaders) must maintain a political system of despotism and try to exclude the democratic influence that Zhao Ziyang has on the public," said Du Guang, the former head of a think-tank that advises the government on political reform. "He has no cemetery and no tombstone, but in the hearts of Chinese people he is a monument," Wu Wei, a former Chinese official, said at Zhao's home. [Ibid]

Book: Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang (Simon and Schuster, 2009) is based on 30 audiotapes secretly recorded in 1999 and 2000 and published in the United States on the eve of the 20th anniversary of Tiananmen Square. Much of what is described in Zhao’s book was already been revealed by the Tiananmen Papers book but what Zhao’s book does do is offer an insiders look into what happened, with Zhao not being shy about naming names. Zhao made the recordings on Peking opera and kid’s tapes lying around his house. Not even close family members were aware of them.

Ex-Beijing Mayor’s Reassessment of the Tiananmen Crackdown

The Chinese government's official line is that the demonstrations were a "counter-revolutionary riot" which had to be crushed for China's greater good. Despite repeated calls, the authorities have never sanctioned an independent investigation into the events of 1989.

“Andrew Higgins wrote in the Washington Post: ‘shortly after Chinese troops stormed into Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989, the then-mayor of Beijing gave a lengthy report that, for 23 years, has formed the bedrock of the Communist Party’s justification for the use of lethal force against unarmed protesters. Describing street demonstrations by millions of people in Beijing and other cities as a Western-backed conspiracy orchestrated by a “tiny handful of people,”Chen Xitong’s report hailed the crackdown as “correct” and unavoidable. [Source: Andrew Higgins, Washington Post, June 3 2012]

“Now 81, battling cancer and fighting to salvage his reputation after a corruption conviction, Chen wants to come clean. In a book of interviews released in Hong Kong, the Chinese capital’s former mayor and onetime Politburo member declared that the bloodshed was “of course a tragedy that could have been avoided and should have been avoided. . . . Nobody should have died if it had been handled properly.” [Ibid]

“In a series of eight conversations with Yao Jianfu, a retired government researcher, Chen insisted that he played no role in composing his June 1989 report to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress and had merely read out—“ without changing a single punctuation mark” —a script prepared for him by unnamed “Party center” officials. “I couldn’t not read it,” he said. [Ibid]

“The Tiananmen matter has never been forgotten, particularly by the government,” said Bao Pu, the Hong Kong-based publisher of “Conversations With Chen Xitong.” Bao’s father, a senior official at the time of the crackdown, was jailed after the massacre and, though now back at home, remains under constant surveillance by security forces. The party “does not let people talk about Tiananmen but can never forget what happened because it is living with the consequences,” the publisher said. “The crackdown fundamentally altered the relationship between leaders and the people. It created deep mistrust.” [Ibid]

“In a deviation from that script, Chen, in the interviews, referred to Zhao Ziyang repeatedly, praising his contributions to China’s reform drive. But he disputed assertions made by Zhao in posthumously published memoirs that Beijing city officials presented misleading reports about the 1989 protests to Deng Xiaoping, distorting the students’ demands and prodding China’s then-paramount leader to take military action. “How could Deng possibly have been deceived? To say he was is to underestimate Deng Xiaoping,” Chen said. [Ibid]

“Chen, who was ousted from office in 1995, shed little light on the still-unanswered question of just how many people died when the People’s Liberation Army blasted its way into the center of Beijing on the night of June 3-4, 1989. Chen said he had spent the night in the Great Hall of the People overlooking Tiananmen Square and insisted that “not a single person died” in the plaza. Witnesses disagree on whether troops fired on people in the vast concrete square in front of the Forbidden City but concur that most of the shooting occurred elsewhere. Chen said those killed in other parts of Beijing numbered probably ‘several hundred,” an estimate in line with official figures issued at the time. He dismissed as “nonsense” reports that thousands might have been killed. [Ibid]

Determining What Happened in Tiananmen Square Protests in Chengdu

In her NPR report Louisa Lim wrote: “Tang Deying holds her determination in the stubborn set of her jaw. This diminutive, disheveled, elderly woman shuffling into the room in her pink plastic flip-flops is one of the few living links to the crackdown in Chengdu during the summer of 1989. When martial law troops opened fire on civilians in Beijing on June 4, 1989, the violence was beamed immediately into living rooms around the world. Yet it has taken a quarter-century for details to emerge of the deadly events in Chengdu that cost Tang's 17-year-old son his life. For 25 years, a single aim has driven Tang's existence: seeking restitution and accountability for the death of her son, Zhou Guocong, who was fatally beaten in police custody after disappearing in the 1989 Chengdu crackdown. "Right is right. Wrong is wrong," she told me firmly. [Source: Louisa Lim, NPR, April 15, 2014 ^-^]

“That simple mantra became the starting point for me to pursue a trail of evidence sprawling over three continents, including eyewitness accounts, old photographs, hastily scribbled, anguished journal entries, U.S. diplomatic cables and the Chinese government records laying out the official version of events. These disparate threads entwine to illustrate Chengdu's forgotten tragedy, which has been almost entirely wiped from the collective memory. ^-^

“Why does it even matter 25 years later? It matters because of Tang Deying, who has been punished for her refusal to forget. Her son, who was detained riding his bike home on June 6, never emerged from police custody. She was told by another detainee that he'd been beaten to death. On her quest for an explanation of his death, she has visited Beijing five times to lodge official complaints. Each time she was intercepted and sent back. She has been detained by police, beaten, placed under surveillance and twice locked in an iron cage. ^-^

“But her stubbornness paid out hard-won dividends. In 2000, she was presented with a photograph of her son's corpse, which confirmed the painful knowledge of how he died. Blood was congealed around his nostrils and on one side of his mouth. There was a large bruise across his nose, and his face appeared swollen and uneven. One of his eyes was slightly open. On seeing it, she fainted. In death, her son was still watching her. In 2006, she accepted a "hardship allowance" of almost $9,000, becoming the first and only person to be given a government payout in connection with a 1989 death. The authorities expected her to stop her activities — but she hasn't. She says those responsible still need to admit their culpability. What happened in Chengdu 25 years ago matters enough that the local government continues to devote financial and human resources to muzzling Tang. Her treatment shows how scared the Chinese authorities are of their own recent history.

A quarter-century ago, the government used guns and batons to suppress its own people. Now it is deploying more sophisticated tools of control — censorship of the media and the falsification of its own history — to build patriotism and create a national identity. Though China's citizens have become undeniably richer and freer in the post-Tiananmen era, Tang Deying's experience shows the limits to that freedom. Simply by keeping alive a memory that others have suppressed or simply forgotten, Tang has become seen as a threat to social stability.

Wu Renhua, Tiananmen Square Historian

Yaxue Cao wrote in China Change: “In 1989, Mr. Wu Renhua was a young faculty member at China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing, leading the student demonstration along with other young scholars. He participated in the Tiananmen Movement “from the first day to the last,” and was among the last few thousand protesters who left Tiananmen Square in the early morning of June 4. On the way back to his college, he witnessed PLA tanks charging into a file of students at Liubukou, a large intersection, killing 11 and injuring many. In February, 1990, Wu swam four hours from Zhuhai to Macau, and onto Hong Kong, and arrived later that year in the United States. Over the next 15 years he was the editor of Press Freedom Herald, a Chinese-language paper founded on June 9, 1989, by a group of overseas Chinese, to bring news of pro-democracy activities to China. Given Mr. Wu’s training as a historiographer, he began his research of 1989 as soon as the incident ended—but his writing didn’t start until in 2005, when the paper he edited folded. From 2005 to 2014,he published three books (none have been translated into English): “The Bloody Clearing of Tiananmen Square” (2007), “The Martial Law Troops of June Fourth” (2009), and “The Full Record of the Tiananmen Movement” (2014). [Source: Yaxue Cao, China Change, June 3, 2016 ++]

Wu Renhua told China Change: “I myself took part in the 1989 democracy movement. But it was also because I was a historiographer. From February 1978 to June 1986, I studied ancient Chinese historiography in the Chinese Department at Peking University, first as an undergraduate and then as a graduate student. After I graduated from Peking University in 1986, I went to work as a historiographer at the Chinese University of Political Science and Law. Given my academic background, as the events of 1989 were underway I had already begun to feel the need to create a record of this great moment that not only influenced China but also changed the world. That, after all, is the role of a historian.++

“Ever since the Chinese Communists took power, a lot of history has either been covered up or distorted. Those of us who deal with historical documents are much more concerned with the historical record. And the Tiananmen movement was the biggest public movement of citizens since the Communists took power, and the massacre was so tragic and shocking to the world. So after the massacre, I vowed to create a record of that period of history so that it would not be forgotten.++

Wu Renhua’s Books

Wu Renhua published three books (none have been translated into English): “The Bloody Clearing of Tiananmen Square” (2007), “The Martial Law Troops of June Fourth” (2009), and “The Full Record of the Tiananmen Movement” (2014). Together, the three books form a complete record of the 1989 democracy movement and the June Fourth Massacre.

Wu Renhua told China Change: “My June Fourth research is divided into two parts: the collection of documents, and writing. The document collection process is the harder of the two parts and takes a lot more time. Writing takes a bit less time, relatively speaking. I began collecting documents when I arrived in Hong Kong in 1990. I began writing in 2005 when the Press Freedom Herald ended. +++

“The first book, “The Bloody Clearing of Tiananmen Square,” was published in May 2007. By that time, many years had already passed and June Fourth wasn’t a big news item anymore...“That book was a complete account of the clearing of Tiananmen Square, covering roughly 22 hours from around noon on June 3, 1989, to just past 10 a.m. on June 4. It also included materials I collected later on the massacre that happened on West Chang’an Avenue, where the worst of the killing took place. Before I published that book, there had been a few books and some articles on the subject, but their accounts were all based on memories and were incomplete. My book was compiled in the traditional annalistic style, with events presented in the order that they happened and each incident and the time in which it occurred recounted as fully as possible so as to satisfy the requirements of the historical record. I think another reason this book attracted people’s attention was that it dealt with certain aspects of the PLA martial law troops, such as which units took part in clearing the square, what routes they took, and what tasks they each carried out. This might have been the first time someone revealed the hidden details of what the martial law forces had done...The first book was very readable and had many moving, tragic stories that I tried to tell as fully as possible. That’s an attractive aspect of it.++

“The second book, which I published in May 2009, was called “The Martial Law Troops of June Fourth.” Again, I published this myself through Truth Publishing and distributed it in Hong Kong. The content of this book should be clear from the title. My plan was for it to represent another type of Chinese historiographical writing, namely biography, and to focus on personalities and events. The book is composed of a total of 19 chapters covering each military unit, plus an introductory chapter. The introduction was a comprehensive overview comprised of 14 sections, in which I dealt with questions like how the order to open fire was issued and how many soldiers and police officers died.++

“This book received quite a reaction from academics and researchers because it was the first of its kind. No one inside or outside China had ever done that kind of research before. Another reason is that it truly did reveal some specific details about the martial law troops...For example, I calculated that around 200,000 troops took part in the martial law forces. And the book gives a more precise number of units that made up the martial law troops. These answers aren’t estimates: they’re precise figures based on evidence. I think the ability to answer these questions is the reason that academics and researchers took note of this book. So, if you go online to places like Wikipedia, the information cited there regarding the martial law troops all comes from that book. On the 20th anniversary of June Fourth in 2009, Yazhou Weekly in Hong Kong mentioned this book as an authoritative source on the Tiananmen Massacre and the details of the martial law troops. The political scientist Yan Jiaqi went even further. He wrote an article entitled “Wu Renhua’s Contribution to China,” in which he said that those two books were a milestone in research on the Tiananmen Massacre and that future researchers would first have to go beyond the work that had already been done in them. I’m deeply humbled by his praise.++

“The title of the third book is “The Full Record of the Tiananmen Movement,” which I published in May 2014. I published and distributed that book myself, just as I’d done with the first two books. It was different from the first two books in that it was a comprehensive account. Another title for it could be A History of the 1989 Democracy Movement. But I don’t dare call it a “history,” given the limits of my ability as a single researcher and the control that the Chinese Communist Party has over information. “Full Record” starts from Hu Yaobang’s death on April 15, 1989, which sparked the 1989 democracy movement, and follows events up to June 30.

How Wu Renhua Worked Out Information on China’s Military Units

Explaining how he worked out the code number and numerical designation issue, Wu Renhua told China Change: Take the 38th Group Army as an example. “38th” is its numerical designation, and the so-called code number is a five digit number used to refer to it. The media reports won’t directly refer to the 112th Infantry Division of the 38th Group Army, but will instead talk about “a certain” division or regiment from a certain army group. Sometimes they’re even vaguer, for instance when referring to the commander of the 38th Group Army, they’ll say “the commanding officer of certain troops.” But “commanding officer” could be an army commander, a division commander, or a regiment commander. These books and official materials only use code numbers when referring to the army, for example the 51112 Group — you’ve got no way of knowing what it is. Is it a whole corps, or an infantry regiment?” [Source: Yaxue Cao, China Change, June 3, 2016 ++]

How did you go about matching each unit’s numerical designation and its code number? “In the simplest case, you just type “Unit 51112” into Google. If all soldiers and veterans strictly followed the regulations, then you’d find nothing. But by looking at forums and websites run by veterans, you can glean a lot of information. A lot of these veterans don’t always keep secrets, and they’ll say something like: Back in the day I was in, for instance, the 112th Infantry Division of the 38th Group Army. The 38th has three infantry divisions, a tank division, an artillery brigade, and an anti-aircraft artillery brigade. Within an infantry division there will be a number of regiment-level units, so you have to, one-by-one, match together all of the many code numbers for all the units in the 14 army groups involved. I was in the military for a short period before university, so I had some basic concepts about it. Through internet searches, following the idle chatter of old veterans, I just kept a running record of all the code names as they appeared. By the time the book was published in 2009, there were still a small number of code numbers that I hadn’t been able to match up.++

“Apart from the code numbers, you also need to figure out where the troops are stationed. A lot of the martial law troops came from outside Beijing, and if you can’t find out where they were stationed, you have no way of knowing where they set out from and which route they took to enter the capital. In The Martial Law Troops of June Fourth, I charted out which routes all the different units took when they got the order to enter Beijing and how they were transported: by air, by train, and by just driving their trucks. Same with information about commanders. When referring to the commander of a unit, they use they’ll say “the commanding officer of certain troops.” But “commanding officer” could be an army commander, a division commander, or a regiment commander.++

“So I spent a lot of time surfing the veteran message boards and keeping notes – for instance hometown association sites, or alumni groups. Sometimes I might spend a whole day and come away with nothing. Other times I got lucky. There were times when I got not only where a particular regiment was stationed, but also the name of the regiment leader. Sometimes I’d even get a whole name list. That’s why you’ll see in some places in my book that the lists of names are complete. Some people would post the whole name list of a unit that was enlisted together, say a whole battalion, from battalion commander down to everyone in each company and platoon — the whole lot. There were disappointments of course. For instance, I’d been tracking a particular officer for a long time and I wanted to know where he was in 1989, but then I’d find that he’d been discharged in 1988.++

How do you get into these veteran websites? “These websites are all open. Inside there are different sections, and the one “Seeking Old Comrades” is open to everyone — they’re notices of soldiers looking for their buddies, saying “I joined the 38 Army Group’s 112th Infantry, and I’m looking for comrades who enlisted at the same time.” Or “I was such-and-such soldier with such-and-such regiment, I’m looking for my platoon leader so-and-so from back in the day.” All those sections of the sites are open — but the private discussion area is not. You have to be verified before being admitted: for instance, you are required to report your personal information, which year you enlisted with what unit, and you have to provide two names of former military comrades. After you get admitted, you can enter the private chatroom. The numbers of people in there differ. The most popular in China are QQ chat groups. There are a lot of them. Because of my research I had the basic name lists of a lot of units, so I’d provide a name for myself and two for the old comrades and get in that way — it was quite straightforward. In the open segments of the veteran forums, people won’t talk about the June Fourth suppression, or if they occasionally do, someone else will come along and put a stop to it. But in the private chat rooms people do open up, and I was able to collect a lot of valuable information that way.++

“Announcements of governmental appointments is another source that yielded results for me: it would include a list of appointments and dismissals at various ranks, some of which contain curriculum vitaes. Then there is Google search: one day I’d search for the 334th regiment in the 38th Army Group’s 112th Infantry Division, another day I’d look up the 335th regiment in the same division. You punch in the keywords, then just flip through page by page. The material is voluminous.” ++

How Wu Renhua Obtained Insider Information About the Chinese Military

Explaining how obtained information on the Internet, Wu Renhua told China Change: “The material I’ve collected has primarily come from Chinese official publications in the wake of the crackdown, including triumphalist propaganda about how it was suppressed. Many people think these publications are beneath contempt, but for me it’s extremely valuable. These are all open source, published materials, and there’s no problem with taking them out of China. I don’t have internal PLA reports. [Source: Yaxue Cao, China Change, June 3, 2016 ++]

“On a website for the veterans of the 14th Artillery Division of the Beijing Military Zone, someone mentioned the “Beijing Military District 14th Artillery Division Report on the Suppression of the Counterrevolutionary Riot.” A report like that would record the commands given by headquarters and the entire process of their being carried out, as well as the names of many officers and servicemen. Every participating unit had a report like this — this is the kind of material that I want to get my hands on the most, but I’ve never been able to get hold of one. The only thing I’ve found online is one chapter, the seventh, of the 38th Group Army’s official history. It was about the suppression, but anything that’s in the form of military history is already highly condensed and sometimes altered. [Source: Yaxue Cao, China Change, June 3, 2016 ++]

“But there was one thing I received from an anonymous source that could be considered an internal document: it was edited by the PLA’s General Political Department, and it was called “A Compilation of the Personal Achievements of the Heroes and Model Soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army”, and it has a portion about June Fourth. Even though it wasn’t the sort of primary report I described above, it was still an enormous help. Specifically, with a few of the 37 “Defenders of the Republic,” I had never found out the units they had served in, and this compilation helped me resolve this problem.”++

Who gave it to you? “Because of my June Fourth research, I have gained a minor reputation online, and my biographical introductions often include my email address. This document arrived in my email around early 2009. In all sections but the June Fourth one, this person redacted all the names and the numerical designations of troops, even the parts listing the decorated combat heroes of the Korean War. By the way he or she was so careful about confidentiality, I judged that he was a military officer.” ++

Interesting Finds by Wu Renhua

When asked about interesting moments during his research “Wu Renhua told China Change: “The most dramatic incident had to be the identification of Wu Yanhui. I was trawling a veteran website when I saw a veteran from the No. 1 Tank Division. At the time he was working at the Hengshui Lao-bai-gan Liquor Distillery in Hebei province as a salesman, hoping to spark up some business with his old comrades. He’d often frequent the forums to chat with old friends. He said he was in Beijing in 1989 to put down the riot, and so he became an important target of mine. I’d often go back and look at the message log, and I followed him for a long time, collecting scraps of information about him. Bit by bit, I pieced together his identity: He was in the Tianjin Garrison Command First Tank Division, First Regiment, First Battalion, First Company, First Platoon—and he was the second gunner in Tank No. 106! [Source: Yaxue Cao, China Change, June 3, 2016 ++]

“I was so overwhelmed, at the moment of this revelation, that I broke down in tears. This, to me, was a most shocking discovery. In the over 3,000 servicemen I’ve verified, he was a highly representative case, because this was the very tank that ran over students in Liubukou. So many people remembered this tank, including the wheelchair-bound victim Fang Zheng who lost both legs, and the Tiananmen Mother Ding Zilin. Back then someone wrote a note to Ding Zilin with No. 106 on it. I was there when the Liubukou massacre happened. It’s something you never forget. I recall that when we left the scene, we shouted: “Remember this tank! Remember this tank!” Now, finding this tank’s second gunner opened up the possibility of finding the driver and the commanding officer. Of course, those who held the most responsibility for what happened are the driver and the commanding officer, but finding the soldier in charge of the ammunition was a close clue.”++

“Another find that was very exciting was to discover the chief of staff of the 38th Group Army’s 1st Tank Division. This chief of staff led the spearhead of that tank division, the 1st Regiment of armored infantrymen and the 1st Regiment, the very first tanks to arrive in Tiananmen Square, including the three tanks involved in the massacre at Liubukou. This chief of staff was eager to carry out orders and show his “politically correctness.” In all the military propaganda materials celebrating his “heroic achievements,” he was only ever referred to as “Chief of Staff Yan.” They described how he repeatedly ordered for forcing advancement, and his troops shot dead a student attempting to obstruct them outside Beijing Broadcasting Institute (now the Communication University of China). So I had a very strong wish to identify this chief of staff. But despite countless searching, I had never found the man’s name. [Source: Yaxue Cao, China Change, June 4, 2016 ++]

“There were a total of five regiments in the 1st Tank Division. The 2nd and 3rd tank regiments, and the artillery regiment, were led by the division commander and political commissar — they were the remaining units that followed. The division commander and political commissar acted completely differently. Like a lot of the other martial law troops, they encountered obstruction and interference by citizens as they advanced toward Tiananmen, but they weren’t willing to smash through and hurt people. So they simply stopped, and only arrived at the Square on June 5. They didn’t participate in the clearing of the Square, and had no involvement in the massacre.++

“A Taiwan publishing house is going to put out the Taiwanese version of The Martial Law Troops of June Fourth this year, so I made a round of revisions for that, correcting a few minor errors, and also did some more searching for a few tricky pieces of information that I had never been able to solve. The name of Chief of Staff Yan was one of them. As I searched, I came across a Yan, the division commander of the 38th Army Group’s Sixth Tank Division. My intuition was: this is my man! Yan Hongji is his name! I was able to confirm the connection with more searching. I’d poured countless hours into figuring out this person’s name and whereabouts, and in this round of revision I found the answer. I was so excited. This happened not long ago.++

Important Books on Tiananmen Square

Explaining why the Chinese-language book “One Day During the Martial Law; was so valuable to his research,Wu Renhua told China Change: “One Day During the Martial Law” was edited by the PLA’s General Political Department and published in 1990. This is the most valuable official publication about the Tiananmen incident. It consists of two volumes and was an anthology of over 100 articles by as many authors, all of whom are named along with their service post and military rank. Each of the authors records their participation and experience in the enforcement of martial law. Some of them write about how they helped the common citizens, others discuss their marching into Tiananmen Square on the night of June 3. Among them there were commanders and political commissars of army groups, but also regular soldiers. Apart from a few policemen from the Beijing Public Security Bureau, the vast majority were all soldiers and officers involved in martial law. The value of each piece is different, but overall this book provided many leads and clues for my own research. From a historiographical perspective, the official documents are extremely accurate, better than individuals’ memories, when it comes to times and places, although other details of the events may be concealed or distorted.[Source: Yaxue Cao, China Change, June 4, 2016 ++]

“Not a month after this book was published in 1990, it seems that the military realized that it revealed too much, so they retracted it, making it a “banned book.” Later they published an “abridged edition,” which was shrunk into a small pamphlet with huge chunks deleted....In early 1990 when I’d just arrived in Hong Kong, the editor-in-chief of the magazine Contemporary Monthly Ching Cheong learnt about my interest in researching and recording June 4, so he gave the book to me. He was once the Beijing bureau chief of Hong Kong’s Wen Hui Bao.”

“Defenders of the Republic” is another important book. Wu said: “This is official propaganda material, also published between the latter half of 1989 and 1990. A year after the June 4 incident, this form of propaganda was put to a stop; evidently an internal decision was issued to cease it, because they knew there was nothing glorious about it, and it would only draw more criticism. On June 4, 1990, Yang Baibing and the General Political Department wanted to put on a massive celebration, but Li Ruihuan, the then head of Communist Party propaganda and a member of the Politburo Standing Committee, dissented. Yang was furious. Li said that it wasn’t his order, but from the top — from Deng Xiaoping, obviously. So from that point on basically all celebration and propaganda about the suppression vanished from official sources.++

“The sub-title of Defenders of the Republic is A compilation of the deeds of heroic troops and model soldiers enforcing martial law in the capital — that’s the kind of book it was. There are about a dozen or so similar books. I asked friends in Beijing to dig them out for me. Some were brought over to the U.S., other were scanned and sent.” ++

Wu Renhua on the Tank Man

Wu Renhua told China Change: “As long-time researcher on 1989, of course I’m very interested in finding out who he is and what happened to him — the man in the white shirt and shopping bag in each hand who, on the morning of June 5th, stopped a formation of tanks. Wang Weilin, as many believed, is not necessarily his name. Videos show that he was spirited away by a few men off the street. For many years the story went that he was dragged away by good people and once on the sidewalk disappeared into the crowd, and safety. [Source: Yaxue Cao, China Change, June 4, 2016 ++]

“But a couple of years ago, an academic specializing in body language studied the video and concluded that those who took the Tank Man off the street were not ordinary bystanders, but trained personnel. He believed that the Tank Man fell into the hands of the Chinese military or police.++

“When this analysis came out, the Voice of America was very interested and consulted me for my comment. In their studio in Los Angeles, I watched the video over and over again. It was a couple of seconds longer, and revealed the scene: there was nobody on the sidewalk, and dozens of tanks were parked in the area. That means that it was an area secured by the martial law troops, and there could be no large crowds anymore. I had to agree with that professor that the Tank Man ended up in the hands of the soldiers or the police.++

“We already know that protesters who were captured after the clearing of the Square were beaten badly with batons or the butts of rifles. For example, Gao Xu, a student of Shanxi University who was captured on June 5, was tied to a pillar at the Great Hall of the People and beaten so badly he ended up blind in one eye.++

“In the case of the Tank Man, he was seen as highly provocative in that he not only tried to stop the tanks, but even climbed on one. So he would be treated even more brutally in the hands of the troops. My sense is that he was probably beaten to death. Otherwise, in the age of internet, we would have heard something.++

Image Sources: AP, China.org

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.

Last updated September 2016

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