Exactly 25 Years Ago Tonight… Tiananmen Square – Twenty-five years after the bloodshed in Beijing, new details keep emerging

tank man

ON THE night of June 3rd4th 1989 the Chinese army unleashed its tanks in the centre of Beijing to crush a protest that had begun seven weeks earlier against the Communist Party’s autocratic rule.

Ever since, Chinese officials grow nervous in the run-up to the anniversary of the crackdown. This year they are especially jittery, fearful that the symbolic passage of a quarter of a century might encourage some dissidents to be more daring than usual in their public remembrance of the hundreds, perhaps thousands, who were killed.

Security forces around the country are on heightened alert, particularly in Tiananmen Square, the plaza that has become synonymous with the unrest.

tank man 2

Louisa Lim, a correspondent for America’s National Public Radio, writes in her new book, “The People’s Republic of Amnesia”, that China’s modern history “pivots on that night” of bloodshed in 1989.

Yet a new generation of young Chinese has since grown up that knows little of what happened, and appears not to care. Ms Lim showed students at leading Beijing universities the iconic photograph of the man standing in front of a column of tanks close to the square (above).

The party’s memory-eradication campaign has been so effective that only 15 out of 100 of them correctly identified the picture. As Ms Lim notes, many young Chinese see today’s prosperity as justification for the crackdown.

This year’s anniversary will not be mentioned by party-controlled Chinese-language media. Two years ago censors even tried to block online references to the Shanghai stock exchange when it fell 64.89 points in a day, a number that sounds like June 4th 1989.

Tiananmen Square VictimsTiananmen Square Victims 2

Few will notice this year’s information blackout, other than the rebels of the era, some elderly intellectuals and the relatives of those who died.

No one expects more than a handful of small-scale isolated efforts to mark the occasion inside China; the only exception may be Hong Kong, where controls are much lighter.

But the memories that remain are potent, as Ms Lim shows, which is why the party still expends so much effort in trying to suppress them. The author offers a series of meticulously (and often daringly) reported portraits of participants, beginning with one of the least-told stories of all: what the soldiers who took part in the killings felt about their mission.

Chen Guang, now an artist in Beijing, was then a 17-year-old soldier with the martial-law troops. He describes how, in order to avoid being detected by the demonstrators, he and his fellow soldiers dressed as civilians and made their way by subway, bus or on foot to the Great Hall of the People overlooking the square. Others stormed their way into the city, shooting indiscriminately.  (continue reading)


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12 Responses to Exactly 25 Years Ago Tonight… Tiananmen Square – Twenty-five years after the bloodshed in Beijing, new details keep emerging

    • Sharon says:

      It still seems surprising to me that they didn’t just run him over at the moment it happened. Perhaps just the simple reality of being caught off guard and no one in command of the tanks was clear on what they dared do without direct orders…


  1. sundance says:


  2. Moishe Pipik says:

    Hey! I’ve been there. Lots of people to keep order….

     photo aeac932b-7153-404d-82f9-e6381245aebf_zps6df78f06.jpg


  3. cg says:

    Praying a Rosary for China, right now.


  4. sundance says:

    FYI I’ve asked a few reporters -from back then- to send their thoughts and pictures out via twitter – this is an important anniversary and everyone seems to be ignoring it.


  5. Dianne says:

    Pretty funny that the media is whining about the Chinese govt. wanting history to forget about this, but then these same people give Obama a pass on closing/blocking U.S. tourist sites to “punish” Americans for not going along with his plans – and also appears to be gearing up to attack Americans who disagree with overriding the Constitution and creating a socialist govt. here. WTF is wrong with people? It’s okay if Obama wants to do it, but not okay for another country to do it. At this point, I don’t think our MSM has any grounds to point out someone’s else’s problems.


  6. stella says:

    Why Hollywood Hasn’t Made a Tiananmen Movie


    Last night I talked to my friend Rose Tang, one of the last students to leave the square that fateful night—which she did after climbing over a tank. Tang, now a writer in New York, was, too, perplexed about Hollywood’s silence. “Yeah, why?” she asked. “There are a lot of great stories to tell, and it would be very dramatic. They could recreate Tiananmen in any Hollywood studio.”

    Make no mistake: There is a story to tell. Students mourned Hu Yaobang’s death because Hu had proved himself to be serious about reform – which was precisely why he was purged by the Communist Party’s ruling body. As Chinese students watched European countries rebel against their communist dictators, they were inspired. That, combined with their fond memories of Hu, created a strong longing for political emancipation. In the weeks that followed Hu’s death, students turned their mourning into a full-fledged pro-democracy protest. By May, 1989, Tiananmen and adjacent parts of Beijing were filled with hundreds of thousands of demonstrators, and there were protests in 400 Chinese cities. And then, of course, there was the terrible ending: the massacre itself.


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