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Six Four: A shift in attitudes

After translating numerous other perspectives, here is my take.

It’s hard to say what a “moderate” position on Six Four should be. In the early days and years after Six Four, it’s no exaggeration to say that the vast majority of Chinese were united in a single consensus: the students were heroes, and the government had behaved like fascists.

But as the years have moved on, as China’s economic and social development moved on from those early failed chaotic days… life has gone on, and attitudes have gradually shifted. I think this is perfectly understandable. Remember, the college students of 1989 are now approaching their 40s. This year’s entering class of university students were not even born during that fateful summer. The man who stood with Zhao Ziyang as he apologized to the fasting students on the square, now happens to be the beloved Premier of China.

Today, 19 years later, there’s a wide range of passionately held opinions. Many have argued that the goodness in today’s China would not exist if the student movement had succeeded; others argue the badness in today’s China would not exist if the government hadn’t suppressed the student movement. I can start by describing what the extreme positions are; these may be “extreme” in attitude, but it’s no exaggeration to say that many Chinese support each side. (Remember the “What kind of Chinese are you” quiz..?)

From those on the left, students broke the law by being on the square in the first place, and they never any intention of negotiation or compromise. They wanted revolution, and it was time to clear them off the square. Military force was the only justifiable reaction against those violent rioters and hooligans attacking PLA soldiers. From those on the right, students were protesting against an immoral and illegal government that lacked the authority to rule. Its use of force against unarmed civilians was a crime against humanity. We have plenty of videos and photos to support both sides of that argument.

It might also be a difference in perspective. Someone pointed out to me recently that the government tends to refer to these events as Eight Nine (the year), while the dissidents refer to them as Six Four (the actual clash). Why? Because the government sees the final violence as part of a long, extended (months long) political conflict that left it no other alternative. The dissidents, on the other hand, see the orgy of violence on that one night as being the one item that really matters, that really defines the government’s legacy.

I will go with those moderates who try to split the difference. It was a tragedy all around: the students were true patriots who grew out of control, but the government should have found some other way to resolve the situation. I mourn all of those who died as victims of a political game: PLA soldiers and student protesters. Hopefully, China has learned a valuable lesson about the dangers of a chaotic populist movement led by self-serving student “leaders”. I’d like to think Wen Jiabao agrees with me, but it’s sad that China still can not discuss this issue directly.

I want to talk about Hong Kong as a canary in the mine, a wind marker for Chinese attitudes about Six Four. It’s not possible to overstate the importance of Hong Kong (and Taiwan) to the Six Four movement. Hong Kong donations, Hong Kong activists played a major role in supporting and helping the burgeoning student movements. For Hong Kong’ers at large, Six Four was a proud patriotic movement that everyone supported from the bottom of their hearts. As an island that valued its British-created economic and legal freedoms, many were understandably concerned about the authoritarian Communist mainland they would be shortly rejoining. They adopted the student movement as their own. On the Chinese political spectrum, those in Hong Kong have always been on the far right. The passionate support of average Hong Kong is still remembered by many.

After the movement was violently suppressed, political attitudes toward Beijing hardened. For almost two decades, hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong’ers have come out every year on Six Four to memorialize the victims of the riots. For almost two decades, calling for a public reassessment of Six Four has been a necessary part of every Hong Kong political protest. If Six Four is a scar on the Chinese psyche, then for Hong Kong’ers, it was nothing less than the loss of a limb.

But in Hong Kong, time has also moved on. 19 years after Six Four, 12 years after reunification, they’ve also been witness to the shifts in Chinese society and government. From an IHT (NY Times) report:

Enthusiasm for the coming Olympic Games in Beijing, sympathy for victims of the May 12 earthquake in Sichuan Province and growing prosperity in Hong Kong because of mainland China’s economic boom have combined to weaken the city’s once-vigorous protest movement.

Even Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, the highest official of the Roman Catholic Church in China and a vociferous critic of Beijing’s human rights record for many years, has moderated his tone in the past several weeks.

Zen went further on Wednesday evening at a prayer meeting just before the candlelight vigil, although he gently mentioned a continued desire for China to apologize for the Tiananmen Square killings. “We will wholeheartedly support the leaders as they progress along the grand highway of respect for humanity,” he said.

..

The vigil attracted thousands of people, but the crowd appeared smaller than last year’s, estimated by organizers at 55,000 and by the police at 27,000.

Hong Kong University, which has a reputation for statistically valid surveys, found a significant shift this year in its 16th-annual survey, conducted since 1993, of public attitudes in the weeks preceding the annual vigil.


“On the assessment of China’s human right condition now and in future, optimism is at record high since the beginning of this survey series,” said Robert Chung, the director of the university’s public opinion program. “Moreover, although it is still the majority view that the Chinese government did the wrong thing in 1989, and that the official stand on June 4 should be reversed, both figures have dropped significantly compared to one year ago, probably due to the Olympic tide and the Sichuan earthquake relief.”

I think on this, the Hong Kong people can again speak for the vast majority of Chinese. This is another sad chapter of 20th century Chinese history that will likely be studied by future generations. Hopefully, those who lost their lives (both soldiers and students) will not have done so in vain, and China will become a country that deserves their sacrifice.

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  1. KL
    June 4th, 2008 at 16:18 | #1

    6.4 a new masterpiece of Nandu…
    Am I over sensitive?
    http://blog.focus.cn/group/blogforum_detail.php?blog_id=2500597&msg_id=141228355

  2. Nimrod
    June 4th, 2008 at 16:48 | #2

    Those who have gone through it won’t be able to forget it, but as they say, time heals all wounds. Whether there is an “official” reassessment or not, the real assessment and reassessment among people has never stopped year after year. As long as that wound is not opened by new ones and the country moves on the right path toward betterment, the sacrifices of many will not have been in vain.

  3. chorasmian
    June 4th, 2008 at 16:54 | #3

    I think some western media’s report on Tibet and torch relay in the past few months successfully pushed ordinary Chinese to stand with CCP. CCP should give CNN a medal for such a effort.

  4. e.r.
    June 4th, 2008 at 18:03 | #4

    There’s no “moderate” position about that massacre. There’s just a human, moral, decent position: a communist (not fascist) party/state that killed its citizens to preserve its power. It’s really sad to read every year such roundabout expressions trying to excuse the inexcusable. “Soldier and students” were not in the same part of history. To mix up everything is the perpetual strategy of the criminal powers. Sorry that many of you are serving that purpose.

    Regards.

  5. Nimrod
    June 4th, 2008 at 18:18 | #5

    Aren’t we glad to have e.r. to give the final word on everything, shout some slogans, and feel sorry for us…

  6. e.r.
    June 4th, 2008 at 19:27 | #6

    Guys, forgive me. I’m not sophisticated like you. In thousands deaths by ruthless state violence you can see philosophy. I just can see a massacre.

  7. Nimrod
    June 4th, 2008 at 19:34 | #7

    So what do you propose to do? Take revenge? Dig up some graves and whip some corpses? Or wallow in indignation or self-pity? Or totally forget about it? At least we’re talking.

  8. June 4th, 2008 at 20:26 | #8

    It wasn’t the students who attacked the PLA in the opening rounds of six-four.
    Originally the commander of the Beijing garrison had been ordered to attack but he refused, knowing why the students were there and that they were peaceful. So divisions were called in from Hubei province, they were not aware of the extent of the student protest, only that Beijing was under seige.

    The Hubei divisions did not come up the main avenues, they snuck through the hutongs and hoped to surprise the protesters, who by now weren’t just students but also workers, pensioners, intellectuals and even PLA members.
    The middle aged and elderly people living in the hutongs knew what was going to happen when they saw PLA vehicles and troops skulking through their neighborhoods and it was those people who attacked. And it was word of those clashes in the hutongs that drove the students to form vehicle barricades and arm themselves.

    bad, bad China.

  9. Buxi
    June 4th, 2008 at 22:23 | #9

    KL,

    I don’t think you’re being overly sensitive… I think the editors at Southern Metropolis are very clear in their minds that Wednesday was a special day in Chinese history.

    As far as whether it serves a purpose…

  10. Nimrod
    June 5th, 2008 at 00:41 | #10

    Meanwhile, Reuters writes in an article today that

    The square bustled with tourists and police, uniformed and plain-clothed, with no signs of protest on Wednesday.

    “You think today is still a sensitive day?” one woman selling souvenirs on the square said. “That was a long time ago. It was a period of chaos that the government handled well.”

    Despite efforts of dissidents and families of victims to keep memories of Tiananmen alive, the virtual silence on that period within China means few people know much about the movement.

    Asked on Tuesday about the anniversary, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said the government had given a verdict on 1989 long ago and the issue was an internal one.

    But in Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack disagreed.

    As did Nancy Pelosi, who spoke to a gathering of dissidents in DC. But I especially want to highlight the one sentence, which as we have seen here, is simply the wrong interpretation still being propagated in the press. It is wrong on three levels: the fact is wrong (people know), the reasoning is wrong (it’s not why people keep silent), and there is still conflation of the months-long movement and the final crackdown.

  11. yo
    June 5th, 2008 at 04:06 | #11

    Nimrod,
    I remember some news channel(don’t know which or when it took place) did a piece where they took in a handful of Chinese college students and gave them a picture of the tank man. For the most part, they didn’t know what it was, except for one person. The message of this informal survey was clear, they don’t know about the movement; so it’s interesting hearing you say they do know for the most part.

    But can you (or anyone else)elaborate on the degree of the people’s knowledge of 6-4 and who knows about it in China? Also, why do people “keep silent”(implies conscious restraint) about it?

  12. EugeneZ
    June 5th, 2008 at 04:48 | #12

    In 2002, when I returned to China and actually spent some time there, I realized that 6/4 was a largely unknown event to college students. But in 2007, when I again checked with some young people there, my impression was that more people have heard about it, but their knowledge or understanding of the historical events in 1989 was quite spotty at the best. I think that the spread of internet helped. In official media, it is still a taboo.

    Let us face it, the government is not yet ready to re-open this chapter of history at the moment. I read an editorial article in World Journal today, the most widely circulated Chinese newspapaer in America, and I liked their ideas. Too bad I could not find a link. Some preparation work is needed to re-open 6/4 or 89, but when the country is ready, it will unleash additional new energy into the society because it will projects its confidence and it will heel old wounds, which will further unite the country in her march towards greatness. I await this day, and is ready to contribute to getting to this day.

  13. Buxi
    June 5th, 2008 at 05:03 | #13

    yo,

    Well, now you ask a good question. I think it’s unlikely many Chinese know who “tank man” is, before coming overseas. He comes after 6/4 itself, and although he’s a symbol for the West, most Chinese don’t know who he is.

    As far as keeping silent, I think it’s mostly at least mistrust of the foreign media. As you’ve probably seen in these articles, many Chinese believe foreign “forces” (led by the foreign media: VOA and BBC) were at least partly responsible for Six Four.

    Because 6/4 is a banned topic in mainland China, I really can’t tell you with any conviction how widespread knowledge is amongst those born after 1989. Do students at a third-rate technical school in Guangxi know what happened on that day…? I suspect many probably don’t. (How many American junior college students know what happened on December 7th, 1941?)

    But if you’re talking about the larger universities in major cities, Beida, Tsinghua, Jiaoda, Kejida, Renda… I think basic familiarity is pretty widespread amongst those with any sort of political interest. I don’t know of anyone who’s come overseas in the last 10 years and said, “wait… there was a violent government crackdown on Six Four?”

    Instead, most mainland Chinese who’ve come overseas in the last decade instead say they had a worse impression of Six Four while they were in China… because they assumed they couldn’t get to all of the information, and government censorship suggested the government *must* be guilty. But after coming overseas and studying everything available overseas, most tend to develop a worse opinion of the student movement, and especially the student leaders.

    Does anyone have any more concrete information on how informed the young in mainland China are today?

  14. Nimrod
    June 5th, 2008 at 06:58 | #14

    This guy towards the end of the video (2:25) wants to show he knows and doesn’t even like to be asked about it.

  15. Buxi
    June 5th, 2008 at 07:12 | #15

    Haha, awesome. That guy gave the perfect response.

    This quote caught my attention too:

    http://in.reuters.com/article/topNews/idINIndia-33894620080604

    “You think today is still a sensitive day?” one woman selling souvenirs on the square said. “That was a long time ago. It was a period of chaos that the government handled well.”

    Kind of odd that the Western media brought out Ma Jian to write all of the editorials about June 4th this year. Couldn’t find former student leaders willing to write the editorial…?

    I’ve heard that Ma Yingjiu gave a pretty positive speech in his commemoration of Six Four. Perhaps someone could find it and translate? I’m curious how it REALLY compares in Chinese to last year’s version. Combined with Joseph Zen’s speech in Hong Kong… it’s really amazing how much the political atmosphere in “greater China” has changed this year.

  16. Phil
    June 5th, 2008 at 07:35 | #16

    I can’t really speak for e.r., but I’d like to give my own answer to Nimrod’s question: “So what do you propose to do?”
    I think what e.r. was proposing is a moral position, not a call to action. The position is, being very sure in your own mind that whoever it was who ordered troops to fire on students that day was wrong. No ifs, no buts, no contingent circumstances.
    Now, perhaps this is a “western” way of thinking about things. It’s not practical, as I say, it’s not a call to any particular kind of action. Because it’s not practical, you may feel frustrated with it – perhaps you think this moralizing is useless. I disagree, because there is obviously a body of opinion out there that says it was OK. That souvenir seller people are quoting; a good friend of mine who reckons the protests were stirred up by Taiwanese spies; a guy translated by Buxi a few posts on. These people are all being gooey moral relativists, and I (and apparently e.r.) disagree with them, and think it’s important to hold onto strong and clear moral values in the face of their dithering. One such value is: armies killing peaceful protesters is wrong.
    Now, if one has such a conviction, what do we then do about it? This is a separate question. And the answer for most is nothing. I’ve done nothing to aid Tsquare victims or pressure the government about the issue. Others do, as you well know. The fact that I do nothing does not mean that my judgment is invalid. It may mean that I’m a bit of a coward; it may mean that I have other priorities, or that I’m just too busy. But the judgment itself is sound, right, and worthy of defence. And these days, it seems to need a bit of defence.

  17. e.r.
    June 5th, 2008 at 08:01 | #17

    Perfect, Phil.

    First, call “murderers” the murderers and “victims” the victims. Then, we can talk.

    Regards.

  18. Buxi
    June 5th, 2008 at 15:30 | #18

    One such value is: armies killing peaceful protesters is wrong.

    Posters on Chinese message boards have been going around and around on this. There are people who are saying what you and e.r. are saying.

    But if armies killing peaceful protesters is wrong… is the killing of violent rioters breaking the law also wrong? There weren’t many peaceful protesters on Chang’an that day (although there were certainly some).

    And we have many videos to prove it, although in the West at least, you’ll see the Tank Man much more often than the rioters smashing in the heads of two soldiers sitting in their truck, after it broke down. Have you seen that video..? Just watched it again this week, and it’s a pretty terrifying sight.

    Was violence against the PLA justified, because they shot first? Did they shoot first? Does the PLA have the right to use force even if it wasn’t in self-defense?

    None of these are black/white questions, and on this issue, I absolutely am a moral “relativist”.

  19. tommydickfingers
    June 6th, 2008 at 01:51 | #19

    buxi – can you post the video of the soldiers being killed? If there is proof, we in the west deserve to see it. Does this really exist? Also how many soldiers were killed versus students/civilians? I would like to you provide some balance instead of keep referring to both students and soldiers.

    Personally, I always felt more sorry for the soldiers (young country boys who had no choice) than I did for the student (who knew what they were doing, although did not deserve to die). Of course, the majority of the dead were citizens caught in the crossfire and they are the ones who deserve most sympathy.

    The answers to your last three questions:
    Yes, a ‘people’s’ army that fires against the people should be attacked.
    Yes. students did not have guns.
    Not sure if you have phrased this right, but NO, whether in self defence or not. You don’t use a tank to swat a fly.

  20. AC
    June 6th, 2008 at 02:53 | #20

    @tommydickfingers

    buxi – can you post the video of the soldiers being killed? If there is proof, we in the west deserve to see it.

    A few days before 64 (can’t remember the date and time, it’s been 19 years), a soldier was killed near Fuxingmen (not far from Muxudi, where a lot of people were killed later), his body was later torched. Every one in China at the time saw it on national TV.

  21. Nimrod
    June 6th, 2008 at 03:53 | #21

    Yeah, that body was torched as badly as those contractors of Fallujah, and it was on CCTV for quite some time. Should be able to find a clip of it.

  22. CLC
    June 6th, 2008 at 04:26 | #22

    I remember the CCTV documentary was broadcasted in August, 1989. It showed the recovery of some charred bodies from a military truck. A dead soldier was hanging under an overpass. Very gruesome imagess. It has never been shown since then in China, but someone may be able to find a youtube clip.

  23. Phil
    June 6th, 2008 at 05:10 | #23

    Buxi
    That’s not moral relativism, that’s lies and sniveling rationalization.

    Yes, the PLA shot first, because the students didn’t have guns. Did they act in self defence? How can a massacre be self defence? Does the PLA have the right to use force against the citizens of the country? Depends on your constitution. In most countries the answer is yes – but never lethal force.

    You disagree with the students’ aims, so you’re trying to make them out to be violent criminals. Problem is, that’s a lie. They weren’t violent criminals. The violent criminals are the people who ordered the army to fire on the students – and arguably the soldiers who fired on them. Remember the Beijing garrison refused to do it, and they had to draft in out-of-town units to actually do the killing.

    You can disagree with the students, but don’t try to rewrite history in that particularly ugly way by accusing the victims. It’s a standard CPC ploy, and I’m disappointed to see someone who claims to be a thinking person attempting it.

    Why can’t you argue for support for the CPC without resorting to falsehood – and rather nasty falsehood at that. Go and tell Ding Zilin to her face that her son was a violent criminal.

  24. Buxi
    June 6th, 2008 at 05:13 | #24

    Here are the most relevant videos… should I make this a blog post?

    – first, a short clip from state TV.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rv3Qmamsv84

    The scenes show:
    0:00 – setting buses on fire in order to block incoming convoy,
    1:10 – throwing rocks at and chasing a military convoy refusing to use force.
    1:30 – a military truck lit on fire
    1:45 – a military unit (not using force) being chased and beaten
    2:15 – a military unit being escorted away from rioters by (probably) students. See the blog post “I admire myself the most.”
    2:30-4:30 – the most blood-curdling scene… a crowd stoning a military convoy. The engine on one truck apparently dies. Crowd stones both soldiers to death (driver tries to flee at one point but fails)… rest of convoy drives by, given explicit orders to not stop or engage. The anti-“tank man” scene.

    – a 30 minute government documentary in three parts; this has many of the gruesome images, might be what CLC was referring to.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=otTbOxLesg0
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-BeAZugeiBk
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Y6JK6WZi8Y

    Most of the images speak for itself, even if you don’t understand Chinese. Reportedly some rioters had guns. The APC you see attacked/surrounded (0133?) was on Tiananmen itself, and I believe Western journalists reported on it. It was disabled, attacked with molotov cocktails. The soldiers inside eventually fled outside, and were beaten to death. Note that it also shows the Tank Man at 7:00 of the first video.

    At 4:45 of the first link, you can see images of the PLA soldier who was hung, burned, disemboweled, and then castrated. Just realize you see much more detail about him in the 3rd video, including his picture. His name is Liu Guogeng, a 25 year old from Shandong.

    One of the MITBBS posters said that was one of the greatest regrets of his life; he saw the corpse, and wishes he had cut it down and buried it instead of allowing it to lie there for 2-3 days. (Some say the government intentionally left it up for that long.)

    All in all, I believe 14 PLA soldiers were killed, and something like another 10+ armed police were killed. Reportedly more were missing. No one knows the final body count, it’s one of those state secrets.

    Ever see that video footage of students peacefully marching off the square from the 2nd link in the West…?

    And well, of course the narration is the government’s version. This isn’t necessarily the whole picture… this is just the other side of the coin from the one you’ve always seen in the West.

    I do want to correct one thing that AC said, though. (Even if you were there and I wasn’t. :P) Or at least, based on what I’ve heard on MITBBS, most beileve it’s pretty conclusive that no PLA soldiers were killed *before* 64. This then leads into a big moral debate of who first killed someone from the other side…

  25. Buxi
    June 6th, 2008 at 05:25 | #25

    Go and tell Ding Zilin to her face that her son was a violent criminal.

    FYI, one of the online debates this week was whether young hotheads in Beijing should confront Ding Zilin at her memorial and tell her precisely that (most Chinese said absolutely not; she lost her son). I admit I don’t know what he was doing when he was killed. Do you know for a fact her son wasn’t one of the ones beating soldiers to death in that first video?

    Yes, the PLA shot first, because the students didn’t have guns. Did they act in self defence? How can a massacre be self defence? Does the PLA have the right to use force against the citizens of the country? Depends on your constitution. In most countries the answer is yes – but never lethal force.

    You accuse me of falsehoods. What falsehoods, exactly? It’s a massacre because you call it a massacre?

    Are you sure the rioters didn’t have guns? I have a book on 6/4 published by Time in the early ’90s, and there’s a photo of a protester brandishing an AK47 for a Western journalist. Want me to scan it in for you? Even if they didn’t have guns, did they have rocks? Did they have gasoline? Did they have metal poles and knives?

    I don’t claim that the army fired in self-defense. What I said above, and what I will stand by, is that there weren’t many “peaceful” protesters on Chang’an street that day. Am I wrong? Other than calling names and asserting I’m lying, other than your strongly held convictions, do you have evidence otherwise? Are you going to contradict the eyewitness reports of those who were there?

    Frankly, there were probably 1000 different confrontations in Beijing that night, and each one probably ended in a different way. In some, PLA soldiers were beaten to death. In many others, unarmed protesters were shot to death. That’s the true nature of 6/4, not this “massacre” you accept as gospel truth.

  26. MN
    June 6th, 2008 at 06:16 | #26

    Maybe the video poster of the government documentary linked by Buxi said it best.

    由解放軍縂政治部拍攝的珍貴官方片斷,雖然片中官方有意”忽略”了部隊使用過份武力的片段,但也提醒我們重新思考,支聯會年年反復播放的片段中,是否也有意”忽略”了部分史實?偏聼則暗兼聼則明,無論大陸抑或港澳臺和海外的華人都應該對所謂”反革命暴亂” 或者”屠城”的偏激看法作一次重新的認識。

    From the precious government video of the PLA political department. Although in the video the government side intentionally “ignored” the section of the excessive force used by the military, but this video reminds us to reconsider. When Hong Kong Alliance party annually showed 64 videos, did they also intentionally “ignored” part of the history? If both don’t listen, then misunderstandings ensues. If both listen, then reasonable things happen. No matter if you are from the mainland, HK or Macau, or are an oversea Chinese, everyone should rethink the so-called “counter revolution” or “massacre” extremist views again.

  27. tommydickfingers
    June 6th, 2008 at 10:04 | #27

    “What I said above, and what I will stand by, is that there weren’t many “peaceful” protesters on Chang’an street that day.”

    I don’t think anyone has ever claimed the eventual protests were peaceful (certainly not those on chang’an). you expect peaceful protests when a corrupt government turns its tanks on the people? how silly. people were pissed off. and quite right.

  28. tommydickfingers
    June 6th, 2008 at 10:11 | #28

    One more thing:

    You write: the engine on one truck apparently dies. Crowd stones both soldiers to death

    I see no evidence of that. I see people stoning a truck but see no-one killed. I think sticking to facts is best way forward under such emotional scenes.

  29. AC
    June 6th, 2008 at 14:28 | #29

    @Buxi

    I do want to correct one thing that AC said, though. (Even if you were there and I wasn’t. :P) Or at least, based on what I’ve heard on MITBBS, most beileve it’s pretty conclusive that no PLA soldiers were killed *before* 64. This then leads into a big moral debate of who first killed someone from the other side…

    Thanks for the correction and the video clips. As I said, it has been a long time since 89, memory gets fuzzy after a while.

    I think it’s a good idea to make this a separate blog post. Many in the West didn’t get to see these. It maybe government propaganda, but I think the views can make their own judgment.

  30. AC
    June 6th, 2008 at 14:29 | #30

    …but I think the viewers can make their own judgment.

  31. June 6th, 2008 at 15:08 | #31

    If I had to weigh the evidence, I’d say the pictures seem pretty inconclusive – you can’t really see anything. Soldiers certainly were killed that day though.

  32. Buxi
    June 6th, 2008 at 15:57 | #32

    tommydickfingers,

    What came first? A government “turning” its tanks on the people, or rioters violating the law and assaulting police officers? If the armored personnel carriers following this truck had instead driven through the mob attacking their comrades… would you have blamed them? Why do you think they drove around and kept again?

    You can claim that we don’t see anyone actually killed in that truck. Fine, as I said, 1000 different encounters, and this is only one of them. Do you believe this is the only time in Beijing that rioters attacked police officers trying to do their job? If we are to stick to facts, have you seen clear videos of PLA soldiers massacring unarmed, peaceful protesters? Where are they?

    AC is right. Viewers should make their own judgment. But I wanted to stay away from publicizing just the government’s version, so someone should really setup a blog post with both sides of the stories in one…

    If someone wants to help dig up Youtube videos with the other side of the story, maybe we’ll do that.

  33. CLC
    June 6th, 2008 at 20:18 | #33

    Speaking of using a tank to swat a fly, it seems several American Generals, including Douglas MacArthur, Dwight Eisenhower and George Patton, pioneered this in their suppression of the bonus army (http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/treasures/trm203.html).

    By the way, one of the protesters, Joe Angelo, saved George Patton’s life during the World War I. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Angelo).

  34. Nimrod
    June 6th, 2008 at 20:39 | #34

    Fact of the matter is, just before the final confrontation, both sides of the story had already become true. The government had decided to clear the square, come what may, by imposing martial law. The students (that still remained) had decided to rebel against the state by resisting martial law, come what may (this, unlike the demonstrations, is not protected by law). I don’t doubt that those that stayed prepared to fight the clearing of the square even before a single shot was fired. Think about what that means.

  35. Charles Liu
    June 6th, 2008 at 21:39 | #35

    There’s ER and his/her “thousand students died” BS. Come on, it’s been nearly 20 years:

    – Chinese government DID release casualty figure of 241.
    – Declassified NSA intel estimated casualty at 180-500.

    If you don’t believe the Chinese, how about American spies on the ground?

    http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB16/documents/13-01.htm

    The only thing I’d like to point out is according to a western journalist, Garham Earnshaw, the shots he heard in the morning as people left the square were warning shots.

  36. June 7th, 2008 at 01:10 | #36

    @Buxi – I thought the BBC video was fairly clear, especially the footage from the hospital.

  37. yo
    June 7th, 2008 at 01:11 | #37

    Charles,
    Thanks for the resource. As for these documents, I’m not sure what to make of them. I’m still going through them but they are somewhat hard to follow and they are contradictory sometimes, perhaps independent authors were wiring their own reports, things being updated, my guess, it’s tough to say. It seems like the US diplomats and their sources(I feel a more appropriate term as opposed to “spies”) were just as in the dark as others and were limited in their perspectives. I would like to add that documents later also state that causalities figures of army personnel/civilians were above 1 thousand.
    http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB16/documents/32-01.htm

  38. June 7th, 2008 at 01:21 | #38

    @Charles Liu – How about the way it is almost impossible to know the number of deaths unless you actually count the bodies? You have, of course, seen the way in which the initial estimates for people killed in accidents or acts of terrorism are often at first low (reflecting a single report from the scene) then high (reflecting an upper-limit estimate) and are then usually lower again when the actual number of dead has been counted. You should also remember that the KMT representative to the League of Nations gave the inital estimate of 25,000 dead for the Nanjing massacre – this was an early estimate, the number of bodies counted by the League of Nations people after the war was 150,000-200,000, and the number claimed at the Nanjing massacre memorial was 300,000. So which was correct? Whatever figure is correct, the enshrining of class A war criminals at Yasukuni is still a great wrong. Likewise, it doesn’t matter whether the number of people killed in Tiananmen was 500 or 3,000, continued rule by the people who killed them is a great wrong.

  39. June 7th, 2008 at 01:24 | #39

    @CLC – So the fact that the event has happended once in the US means that Chinese peiople can do it over and over? Is this your meaning?

    Too often I see the argument “The US has done X, so China can do Y” – what kind of morals is this?

  40. Buxi
    June 7th, 2008 at 01:25 | #40

    @yo,

    The term “casualties” usually refers to both killed and wounded. No contradiction there.

    @FOARP,

    As I said, the BBC video you linked earlier isn’t coming up for me. Is it not available on Youtube?

    Likewise, it doesn’t matter whether the number of people killed in Tiananmen was 500 or 3,000, continued rule by the people who killed them is a great wrong.

    The people who killed them are still ruling? Last time I looked, when Premier Wen Jiabao stepped on the square in 1989, he was there next to Zhao Ziyang apologizing to the students.

    Who exactly did he kill?

    EDIT: Here’s a video of Zhao Ziyang’s speech. A younger Wen Jiabao is standing behind his left shoulder.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ZxjV0s2CrA

  41. yo
    June 7th, 2008 at 01:43 | #41

    Buxi,
    Good point. I double checked and they are a little conflicted. They say the casualties were probably over a thousand(so you are right, no contradiction) but they go on and say that a casualty estimate given by the Chinese red cross is “not unreasonable” and that’s near 10,000 killed or wounded on both sides. That’s an increase of a factor of 10 which is no insignificant jump. I don’t know how these guys are coming up with their numbers.

  42. Buxi
    June 7th, 2008 at 01:46 | #42

    @FOARP,

    Too often I see the argument “The US has done X, so China can do Y” – what kind of morals is this?

    It’s not always about morality.

    When we use “the US has done X”, we usually mean it as… an open, democratic society of educated, wealthy, religious people with a functioning, legitimate legal system has also made the mistake of doing X.

    Therefore, perhaps “X” is a reflection of the human condition, a common mistake difficult to avoid.

    In other words, this isn’t justification for what China has done, but a plea for humility, a plea for recognition of how hard it is for humanity to do well even when it means well.

  43. S.K. Cheung
    June 7th, 2008 at 04:41 | #43

    To Buxi:
    “In other words, this isn’t justification for what China has done, but a plea for humility, a plea for recognition of how hard it is for humanity to do well even when it means well.”
    -that’s an excellent point. Humans are fallable…but it’s how one learns from prior mistakes, and the mechanisms devised to prevent the future repeating of such mistakes, that should be the better measure of one’s worth.

  44. EugeneZ
    June 7th, 2008 at 06:23 | #44

    It seems that some are trying to defend the government’s killings on the night of 6/3. I think that is a waste of time at this point. Although there are some anecdotal eye witness reports about the events on that fateful night, many crucial questions are un-answered, which only the government is in the position to answer. For examples:

    (1.) Decision process within the party leadership to fire at the protesters/rioters instead of using less lethal law enforcement means. What was said, who said it? Based on what facts and arguments?
    (2.) Who (down to names of the generals) managed the orders? Was there mis-management or misinterpretation of the orders?
    (3.) How many died? how many injured? who were they? how many arrests? who were they? what happened to those arrested?
    (4.) What kind of roles did the foreign forces play in the events? How did the student leaders get out? Was there any conspiracy between people like Cai Ling and the foreign forces?

    Someone suggested that we move on because it has been so long. But I want to ask a question – what does “moving-on” mean? Individually, most of us who were active participants did move on, we went on to pursue our lives, unrelated to the 6/4 events, most went on to establish successful careers, start families, and live generally affluent and fullfilling lives. But as a nation, we are not ready to move on from the 6/4 historical event, not by any thin stretch of means.

    Preparation work needs to be done to have the case re-openned, all facts laid out in the open, and all parties engage in robust debates, then we can come to the conclusions about what happened during that spring and let the real heeling begin.

    I am more interested in laying out a convincing case in front of the party leadership that they need to confront this. Perhaps the party can form an independant study group and complete the fact finding within the next one year, then release a report at the 20th anniversery of the event.

    Or we can choose to do nothing and continue to have this kind of inconclusive discussion once a year …

  45. CLC
    June 7th, 2008 at 07:37 | #45

    @FOARP,

    As a person who participated the 89 student movement, I was against sending tanks to suppress protests then and I still find it repulsive now. I have never said it is a right decision and I have stated my position elsewhere.

    However, I do find we need to put things into perspective. And the fact that those commanding officers in the US went on to have very successful careers (one of them became the president) indicated that American people did not judge them by a single event. In a similar vein, I hope people can understand why many Chinese do not view 6/4 as an absolute black and white issue.

    And thanks Buxi for your excellent comment. You said what I meant to say, but much more eloquently.

  46. Buxi
    June 7th, 2008 at 16:23 | #46

    Someone suggested that we move on because it has been so long. But I want to ask a question – what does “moving-on” mean? Individually, most of us who were active participants did move on, we went on to pursue our lives, unrelated to the 6/4 events, most went on to establish successful careers, start families, and live generally affluent and fullfilling lives. But as a nation, we are not ready to move on from the 6/4 historical event, not by any thin stretch of means.

    Eugene,

    For me, I think “moving on” means ending the revolution that some wanted 19 years ago. There are still many people today that feel China can’t be allowed to continue under Communist Party rule, and some point to 6/4 as one of the reasons why. And the Communist Party, being the conservative being it’s always been, is locking down discussion on 6/4 because it still fears these people.

    China hasn’t moved on because some of the opponents of its government haven’t moved on.

    I think pushing to remember 6/4 makes completely sense. A lot of good people died that night. But I think opposing the current government and its current policies for 6/4 does not make sense. Hopefully, as the country matures, the government will have confidence that there won’t be another revolution (at least not because of 6/4). Then the opportunity will then exist to remember all of those who lost their lives. We’ve already seen the Chinese government make mature steps towards many of its “enemies” this year: Taiwan, Japan, Dalai Lama… I think that’s a good sign.

  47. EugeneZ
    June 8th, 2008 at 00:56 | #47

    Buxi,
    I am quite hopeful as well, I think that China and its government is on the right track overall. I would imagine that most of the 6/4 veterans should have realized upon refelction that the revolutional approach they advocated in 1989 was not in the best of interest for China, and should be rejected.

  48. S.K. Cheung
    June 8th, 2008 at 06:10 | #48

    To EugeneZ:
    “Preparation work needs to be done to have the case re-openned, all facts laid out in the open, and all parties engage in robust debates, then we can come to the conclusions about what happened during that spring and let the real heeling begin.”- sounds somewhat like the report on the JFK assassination. If that’s the case, it’ll be years yet before there is any official vetting of the “facts”.
    I like your questions though. If someone in the US armed forces screws up, they can count on reprimands, anywhere from a citation in their service record up to losing their rank and their command. I would be curious to know if any army leaders faced “penalties” for the 6/4 stuff…as a reflection of how the CCP viewed the events, at least circa 1989.

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