Thursday, June 5, 2008

NYT Archive 1989: The Day After

One day after the bloody crackdown, New York Times on June 5, 1989, put the death toll as "at least 300":
Army units tightened their hold on the center of the Chinese capital on Sunday, moving in large convoys on some of the main thoroughfares and firing indiscriminately at crowds as outraged citizens continued to attack and burn army vehicles.
It was clear that at least 300 people had been killed since the troops first opened fire shortly after midnight on Sunday morning but the toll may be much higher. Word-of-mouth estimates countinued to soar, some reaching far into the thousands. Outbreaks of firing continued today, as more convoys of troops moved through the city.
The bloodshed stunned Beijing and seemed to traumatize its citizens. Normal life halted as armored personnel carriers and troop trucks rumbled along debris-filled roads, with soldiers firing their automatic weapons in every direction. Smoke filled the sky as workers and students vented frustration and outrage by burning army vehicles wherever they found them separated from major convoys,in side streets or at intersections.

The area around central Tiananmen Square was completely sealed by troops who periodically responded with bursts of automatic-weapons fire whenever crowds drew close to the square

The killing, in fact, continued on this morning after as the "bursts of automatic-weapons fire" were aimed at protesting crowds.

The clearing of the Square itself was quite accurately reported by NYT, in two short paragraphs:
When troops finally seized Tiananmen Square early Sunday morning, they allowed the student occupiers who held on to the center of the square for three weeks to leave and then sent tanks to run over the tents and makeshift encampment that demonstrators had set up. Unconfirmed reports rapidly spread that some students had remained in the tents and were crushed to death.
The troops sealed off Tiananmen Square and started a huge bonfire. Many Beijing residents drew the conclusion, again impossible to verify, that the soldiers cremated corpses to destroy the evidence.
To this day, there has been no evidence that anyone died in the tents, although at least two casualties were confirmed happening within the Tiananmen Square itself.

In the aftermath, various estimates of the death toll spread:

The student organization that coordinated the long protests continued to function and announced today that 2,600 students were believed to have been killed. Several doctors said that, based on their discussions with ambulance drivers and colleagues who had been on Tiananmen Square, they estimated that at least 2,000 had died. But some of these estimates, based principally on antipathy for the Government, appeared to be high.
In a separate reports, Sheryl WuDunn described the scene in area hospitals and Nicholas Kristof compared this massacre to a similar one in Kwangju, South Korea.

As the West condemned the crackdown, the US Administration was reluctantly weighing its options. Chinese students in the US, on the other hand, demonstrated and demanded sanctions to their own country. In Hong Kong, as its citizens protested, the stock market plunged.

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