Wednesday, June 4, 2008

NYT Archive 1989: Crackdown

As troops opened fire in Beijing nineteen years ago, New York Times' series reports changed from "Upheaval in China" to "Crackdown in China". But on that day, not much reporting actually made it before the deadline. No death toll was given. There was not yet a comprehensive coverage of the crackdown itself, saving a "reporter's notebook" by Nicholas Kristof:
The violence against students and workers in Tiananmen Square was most obvious today, because for the most part they were the ones getting killed. But they, too, were violent against the police and army troops, although less effectively so.
Clutching iron bars and bricks, the students glared at soldiers 100 yards away on the other side of the square. It was dark, although the fire from an armed personnel carrier that students had set ablaze cast an eerie glow over part of the square, and the troops and their rows of vehicles could be dimly discerned in the haze.
From time to time, a group of them would advance on the soldiers to throw rocks and otherwise harass them. And then often, they would be shot and killed. It was an unequal competition.
Whenever the students got their chance, spotting an unarmed group of soldiers, they attacked with bricks and iron bars. However, the soldiers, most of whom had guns, tended to stick together.
Until now, students had emphasized the need for nonviolent tactics, and today some still begged their friends to put down their bricks and iron bars. But many students seemed to have crossed their personal Rubicon today, and those who previously had clutched leaflets and megaphones today picked up firebombs.
President George H. W. Bush and other American officials immediately condemned the crackdown. 300 people sieged on the Chinese Consulate at New York. More reactions were seen in Hong Kong and Taiwan. In Taiwan particularly, on the day their President acknowledged Communist control of China, the events and tragedy at Tiananmen were actually bringing people across the strait together.

As the brief history of this movement was outlined, NYT also published an extensive report on the reasons behind it. The lengthy piece was obviously written before the crackdown and being published for the Sunday edition.

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