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© 1995, Long Bow Group Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Major funding for this program was provided by
The National Endowment for the Humanities,
The Ford Foundation and The Rockefeller Foundation.
Produced in association with the Independent Television Service (ITVS).
The Gate of Heavenly Peace
Within a week of June 4th the Army was firmly in control of the city. The government then began a much harder job: reestablishing its authority and credibility.
Arrests began immediately.
Those caught throwing rocks at the troops, or setting fire to Army vehicles, were tried and summarily executed.
The government compiled wanted lists of leading participants in the movement. Pictures of the 21 most-wanted activists were shown repeatedly on TV.
When the most-wanted list was broadcast, I was on a boat bound for Nanjing. I wasn't the kind of person who could take life on the run. I wanted to return to Beijing and hide because I had so many friends there. I thought, if I got arrested, so be it. As soon as I came back to Beijing they got me.
GOVERNMENT FOOTAGE OF DAI QING
Despite her efforts to dissuade students from prolonged street action, Dai Qing was among those arrested. She was jailed for ten months.
CHINESE GOVERNMENT VOICE-OVER
Dai Qing and others went to the Square adding fuel to the fire of dongluan.
WANG DAN - 4 1/2 years in prison
The crime of counter-revolution is very peculiar. What counts is not your actions, but your intention. I said, "My intention was to help our country democratize." But they said, "Everything you did shows that your intention was to overthrow the government, so you're a counter-revolutionary." Case closed.
HAN DONGFANG - 22 months in prison
When I was in jail I debated with my interrogators. They insisted that the movement was premeditated and well-planned. I told them it wasn't. I said that if conditions existed in our country for people to premeditate and plan such a huge movement, then the Communist Party would have been long gone, vanished without a trace.
Liu Xiaobo, the teacher and critic who took part in the final hunger strike, was jailed for twenty-one months.
CHINESE GOVERNMENT VOICE-OVER - EDITORIAL ON LIU XIAOBO
Let's examine Liu Xiaobo's deeds during the student unrest. Let's see how this evil mastermind conspired with reactionary forces at home and abroad to manipulate the students and instigate dongluan.
History will not conform to the will of reactionaries. The people, only the people, are the true masters of China!
When I left, I thought I'd never see my daughter again. She stood in the doorway. She grabbed my clothes. So I played with her and said, "Bye-bye."
No one else was at home. If my mother knew I was leaving, she would never have let me go. I slipped out when she went out to do the shopping. I said to my daughter, "Say bye-bye to Mama," and pretended not to be sad.
After I left Beijing, I was among farmers. They said to me, "Son, don't be afraid. We'll hide you now, just like we hid the Communists during the War against Japan. Back then weren't the Japanese all powerful? And we didn't let them find the Communists. And now the Communists are all powerful, but we'll never let them find you."
Almost as soon as the struggle over Tiananmen Square ended, the struggle over the story of what had happened there began.
The official account was this:
No one had died during the clearing of the Square at dawn on June 4th. In the approaches to the Square, "ruffians inciting a violent counter-revolutionary insurrection" had been killed, as had a small number of innocent bystanders.
The government went to extraordinary lengths to hunt down and punish anyone whose story strayed from the official line.
One outraged bystander telling atrocity stories to a crowd was interviewed by ABC News.
XIAO BIN, interviewed by ABC News
Is this what the People's Government does? Using tanks to crush people?
The Chinese government intercepted the satellite relay and used part of the interview in a nationwide broadcast. It called on informers to turn the man in.
He was spotted in his hometown, hundreds of miles from Beijing.
CHINESE BROADCAST, XIAO BIN INFORMANTS
She said, "Look at that man! We just saw him on TV!" I said, "Where?" She said, "There!" I looked and there he was!
CHINESE GOVERNMENT VOICE-OVER
This vicious counter-revolutionary instigator is Xiao Bin.
He is a 42-year-old laid-off worker.
I realize that I've committed a crime. I've taken a stand against the people. So of course I'm a counter-revolutionary. However the Party decides to deal with me, I accept it.
Xiao Bin was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
His case was a warning to all: there was only one correct version of events, the government's version.
Protesters who had been at the Square gave differing accounts of what had happened.
Chai Ling, now hiding somewhere in China, sent her story out via Hong Kong.
HONG KONG ANCHORWOMAN
And now here is the full 40-minute message in which Chai Ling recounts what happened between June 3rd and June 4th.
CHAI LING, in taped message
I am Chai Ling, Commander-in-Chief of the Defend Tiananmen Headquarters. I am still alive.
I am the most qualified person to speak about what happened in the Square between June 2nd and June 4th.
... Only later did we find out that some students still had illusions about the government and the army. They thought at worst they would be forcibly removed by the soldiers. They were exhausted and asleep in their tents. These students were crushed by tanks.
... Some say two hundred students died. Others say a total of four thousand people died in the Square. I don't know the exact numbers.
Some people said that two hundred died in the Square and others claimed that two thousand died. There were also stories of tanks running over students who were trying to leave. I have to say that I did not see any of that. I don't know where those people did. I myself was in the Square until six-thirty in the morning.
I kept thinking, are we going to use lies to attack an enemy who lies? Aren't facts powerful enough? To tell lies against our enemy's lies only satisfies our need to vent our anger, but it's a dangerous thing to do. Maybe your lies will be exposed, and you'll be powerless to fight your enemy.
Chai Ling's 40-minute message ended with a call for the Chinese people to rise up.
CHAI LING, in taped message
The more frenzied the fascists become in their brutal suppression, the closer we are to the birth of a true people's, democratic republic! The final moment has come for the survival of our nation! Compatriots, awaken! Down with fascists! Down with military rule! The people will be victorious!
There was no mass uprising.
In the weeks after June 4th, the government tried to clean away the evidence of the movement and its suppression. People stopped talking publicly about what they had seen and done in the spring of 1989.
At one point just about everyone got involved in the movement. Even many party organizations took part. But as soon as it became clear that the government was in control, the movement disappeared as quickly as it had emerged. So many people started saying the opposite of what they really thought. And they rationalized it: I have no choice but to go along.
This situation is not essentially different from what happened at the height of the movement -- words became more radical day by day and actions more irresponsible -- because in a crowd no one felt the need to take individual responsibility. And when the tide suddenly turned, they didn't have the inner strength to stand by what they had said.
These two extremes are actually two sides of the same coin.
The legacy of the movement at Tiananmen is that it made us think. There are two ways of going about change. One is the large-scale mass movement, romantic and grand, which aims to solve major problems overnight. The other method is gradual, grassroots, solidly grounded. It looks for cracks in the system and introduces specific democratic practices which don't necessarily carry a big label saying "democracy."
Which one is more effective in changing China? In changing the course of Chinese history?
I compare the 1989 Democracy Movement to an unripe fruit. People were so hungry that they were desperate. When they suddenly discovered a fruit, they pounced on it, and swallowed it whole. Then they got a stomach ache and a bitter taste in the mouth. So should they have eaten the fruit? You can say they shouldn't have, but they were hungry. And if you say that they should have, what they ate was still green, inedible.
Shortly after June 4th, Deng Xiaoping appeared on television to praise the Army for its heroic efforts.
CHINESE TV ANNOUNCER
Deng Xiaoping, Chairman of the Central Military Commission, gave a warm reception to the officers of the Martial Law Troops.
Deng Xiaoping had presided over a decade of profound economic transformation. And he had many times shielded reform from the attacks of hard-liners. Even after the crackdown of 1989 he would continue to push for reforms.
More than once, Deng had suffered from the absolute power wielded by top leaders in China.
But his reforms stopped short of limiting his own power -- for good and for evil.
Faced with a crisis, he reached for the old weapons.
Deng may have wanted to be remembered as a man who understood the needs of the Chinese people, the Grand Architect of Reform, but the Beijing massacre will forever be a part of his legacy.
DENG XIAOPING speaking to Martial Law officers
I propose that we stand for a moment of silent mourning for the martyrs.
In the government's account, Tiananmen Square was now returned to the People.
Once again the revolution had been sanctified by the blood of martyrs. State ceremonies paid tribute to the soldiers who died, and honored their families.
All this talk about children being the flowers of the motherland, the hope of the nation, is all for show. When they feel that it is in the interest of the Party and the state, they bring on swords, machine guns and tanks.
So I can't watch this stuff on TV. It hurts too much. A life is a life -- why are people treated differently? All my son asked for was a little equality. And it cost him his life.
YOUNG PIONEERS TAKING OATH AT THE MONUMENT
Beloved revolutionary martyrs, may you rest in peace!
The Young Pioneers will remember you!
The people will remember you!
The motherland will remember you!
Let our brilliant red scarves serve as our pledge.
We love the Chinese Communist Party!
We love the socialist motherland!
We love the People's Liberation Army!
We will carry on the cause of Communism!
Communism was once a shared ideal held in the face of oppression and injustice.
The actual political and social systems built in its name fell far short of its original promise. For a long time before the killings in Beijing, Communism was losing credibility around the world.
It no longer grips the minds and imaginations of the Chinese people.
But the Communist Party has not thereby lost its power.
Power without faith leaves a vacuum that can quickly fill with anger, resentment, and despair.
GARBAGE DUMP MUSIC VIDEO
GARBAGE DUMP LYRICS
This world we live in is like a garbage dump.
People are like insects,
All fighting one another.
We eat our conscience,
And we shit ideology.
Is there any hope?
Is there any hope?
Is there any hope?
Is there any hope?
After my son's death, I became suicidal. I had to struggle to get through each day. I thought about other mothers like myself, and young wives who'd lost their husbands, young children who'd lost their fathers. I wanted to look for them so that we could give each other comfort and support.
Should we simply wait for another chance to start a Democracy Movement like 1989? Would that save China? I don't think so. The only way to change our situation is for each one of us to make a personal effort. Every small action counts.
When people abandon hope for a perfect future and faith in great leaders, they are returned to the common dilemmas of humanity.
And there -- in personal responsibility, in civility, in making sacred the duties of ordinary life -- a path may be found.
On the 100th day after my son's death, I brought his ashes back home. He's been here ever since.
One day I want him to be buried with the others who fell with him. I'm hoping that day will come, and I'm working towards it.