Saturday, June 7, 2008

NYT Archive 1989: Government's Death Toll Estimation

Three days after the massacre, Beijing was still like a war-time city. On June 7, 1989, New York Times changed their overall theme of China coverage to "Turmoil in China". In the lead story, the government spokesperson Yuan Mu was quoted commenting the government's estimate on the death toll:
Mr. Yuan, whose appearance suggested that Mr. Li is still in power, also estimated today that 300 people had been killed and 6,000 wounded in the military crackdown in the capital. Most independent estimates are higher, ranging from several hundred to 1,500 or more, and the accepted wisdom among many Chinese is that tens of thousands of civilians were shot or beaten to death since troops attacked Tiananmen Square, in the heart of Beijing, early Sunday morning.
The official estimates were also regarded as suspect because Mr. Yuan said that most of the injuries were suffered by troops, rather than by the civilians whom the soldiers raked with submachine-gun fire.
Yuan Mu's 300 also included both soldiers and civilians. "He said that only 23 students were known to have died." Artillery and gun shots could still be heard in the city, disrupting attempts to return to normal life. There were wild speculations that Qiao Shi, a lesser known official, might emerge as the next leader.

In the rest of the country, Shanghai stood at a standstill. Widespread unrest were reported all over the country. Foreigners were scrambling to leave, with emergency airlifts provided by their governments.

Diplomatically, Japan suspended economic development and cultural missions to Beijing but ruled out whole-sale sanctions. Britain reaffirmed that it will handover Hong Kong to China on schedule in 1997. The Soviets took the side of Chinese government and condemned Western pressure.

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