Remembering Tiananmen Square | The Nation


Remembering Tiananmen Square

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About the Author

Robin Munro
As a researcher in 1989 for Human Rights Watch in Beijing, Robin Munro witnessed first hand the weeks of pro-democracy...

After fifty days of occupation by the pro-democracy movement, the square had finally been "returned to the people." But still the killing did not stop. As the student column wound its way slowly to the northwest, about half a mile from the square at the Liubukou intersection, four tanks came hurtling down Changan Boulevard and crushed eleven of them to death. Shortly afterward, troops repeatedly fired on unarmed protesters just west of the Beijing Hotel, killing dozens. An unknown number of laobaixing were summarily executed in the days that followed, as troops combed the alleyways of Beijing looking for "hidden counterrevolutionaries."

To conclude, we should turn to two Chinese activists from last year's democracy movement, both of whom witnessed the final clearing of the square, for an answer to the question posed at the outset: Why does it matter where the massacre took place? Kong Jiesheng, a famous novelist and essayist, says: "Now, when the power-holding clique in Beijing is still unrepentant about the June 4 massacre but also sorely vexed by the criticisms and sanctions imposed by numerous countries, rebukes from outside China based on ill-founded concepts have given those vicious thugs precisely the 'spiritual shield' they so desperately need. It makes plausible their lengthy refutations of outside criticisms as being mere 'stuff and nonsense' and 'much ado about nothing'"—the very phrase used by General Secretary Jiang Zemin when asked by Barbara Walters, on ABC's 20/20 on May 18, about "the massacre in Tiananmen Square."

But Lao Gui should have the last word: "Because of hatred of the murderer, one sometimes cannot resist exaggerating the severity of the crime. This is understandable. . . . But those butchers then take advantage of this opportunity 'to clarify the truth,' using one truth to cover up ten falsehoods. They exploit the fact that no one died during the clearing of Tiananmen Square to conceal the truth that some deaths and injuries did occur there earlier. And they use the fact that there was no bloodbath in Tiananmen Square to cover up the truth about the bloodbaths in Muxidi, Nanchizi and Liubukou. Why do we give them such an opportunity?"

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