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calendar   Sunday - June 04, 2006

On This Day In History

June 4, 1989 - Tiananmen Square Massacre

Chinese troops storm through Tiananmen Square in the center of Beijing, killing and arresting thousands of pro-democracy protesters. The brutal Chinese government assault on the protesters shocked the West and brought denunciations and sanctions from the United States.

In May 1989, nearly a million Chinese, mostly young students, crowded into central Beijing to protest for greater democracy and call for the resignations of Chinese Communist Party leaders deemed too repressive. For nearly three weeks, the protesters kept up daily vigils, and marched and chanted. Western reporters captured much of the drama for television and newspaper audiences in the United States and Europe.

On June 4, 1989, however, Chinese troops and security police stormed through Tiananmen Square, firing indiscriminately into the crowds of protesters. Turmoil ensued, as tens of thousands of the young students tried to escape the rampaging Chinese forces. Other protesters fought back, stoning the attacking troops and overturning and setting fire to military vehicles. Reporters and Western diplomats on the scene estimated that at least 300, and perhaps thousands, of the protesters had been killed and as many as 10,000 were arrested.

The savagery of the Chinese government’s attack shocked both its allies and Cold War enemies. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev declared that he was saddened by the events in China. He said he hoped that the government would adopt his own domestic reform program and begin to democratize the Chinese political system.

In the United States, editorialists and members of Congress denounced the Tiananmen Square massacre and pressed for President George Bush to punish the Chinese government. A little more than three weeks later, the U.S. Congress voted to impose economic sanctions against the People’s Republic of China in response to the brutal violation of human rights.

Source: The History Channel

image


Tank Man

I was watching it from the Beijing Hotel, where we had rented a room that looked onto the north side of the square. That morning, I remember, my husband said to me, “You’d better get out here.” I rushed out onto the balcony, and I saw this lone person standing in front of this long column of tanks. … The young man—… I couldn’t see his face but I think he was young because of the way he moved, he was very fluid, he didn’t move like an older person. … He tried to step in front of the tank. … The tank turned to go around him; the tank did not try to just run him over. I thought, “Wow!” So the tank is turning and then the young man jumps in front of the tank, and then the tank turns the other way, and the young man jumps down this side. And I thought, “What’s going on?”

They did this a couple of times, and then the tank turned off its motor. … And then it seemed to me that all the tanks turned off their motors. It was really quiet; there was just no noise. And then the young man climbed up onto the tank and seemed to be talking to the person inside the tank. … After a while the young man jumps down and the tank turns on the motor and the young man blocks him again. … I started to cry because I had seen so much shooting and so many people dying that I was sure this man would get crushed. [And] I remember thinking, “I can’t cry because I can’t see; I want to watch this, but I’m getting really upset because I think he’s going to die.”

But he didn’t. … I think it was two people from the sidelines ran to him and grabbed him—not in a harsh way, almost in a protective way. … Then he seemed to melt into the crowd. Then the tanks, after a moment, just started up the engines again, and then they kept going down the Boulevard of Eternal Peace. That was the end. It was amazing. …

… I think that the people who took the Tank Man away—I call him the “Tank Man”—were concerned people. I’ve thought about this, and given the timing, I don’t think the security forces had kicked in that fast. … I think that was still too early. That’s one reason … the timing. The second reason is the body language. If you’ve ever seen security people manhandle a Chinese citizen, they’re really brutal. … They twist your arm, they make you bend over, they punch you a few times, they kick you. … So to me, I think he was helped to the side of the road. He wasn’t being arrested.

I think that he is [still alive] … I think the chances are pretty good … that he’s in China because if he had left—and many people have left China—he might have felt free to talk. The fact that we have not heard from him since that amazing incident tells me he’s still alive, he’s still there. He has not been caught, and he’s certainly not telling anybody.

Jan Wong - Author and former Toronto Globe and Mail Beijing correspondent.

Fast Forward To June 4, 2006 ...

Security Tight for Tiananmen Anniversary
June 4, 2006, 11:56 AM EDT

BEIJING (AP)—Chinese police tore up a protester’s poster and detained at least two people on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on Sunday as the country marked 17 years since local troops crushed a pro-democracy demonstration in the public space. An elderly woman tried to pull out a poster with apparently political material written on it, but police ripped it up and then took her away in a van.

A farmer tried to stage a protest apparently unrelated to the 1989 crackdown, but he also was taken away in a van. After dawn, a group of tourists tried to open a banner while posing for a photo, catching the attention of police, who quickly forced them to put the nonpolitical material away. They were not detained. Discussion of the crackdown is still taboo in China outside of the semiautonomous regions of Hong Kong and Macau. Chinese television news and major newspapers did not mention the anniversary.

In Hong Kong, several hundred people holding candles gathered at Victoria Park, creating a sea of lights covering four soccer fields. They observed a brief silence and organizers laid wreaths at a makeshift shrine dedicated to “martyrs of democracy.” China’s authoritarian government has stood by the suppression of what it has called “counterrevolutionary” riots, saying it preserved social stability and paved the way for economic growth.

Chinese police monitored Tiananmen Square closely Sunday. About 2,000 police were on guard in and around Beijing’s “petitioner’s village,” a cluster of cheap hostels popular with people from the provinces who have come to the capital to complain to the central government.


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Posted by The Skipper   United States  on 06/04/2006 at 02:46 AM   
Filed Under: • HistoryOppression •  
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