Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Soldier's Nightmare of the Night of the Massacre

In the last few days, a personal account of a former soldier who had participated in the final assault on Tiananmen during the night of June 3, 1989, had been circulating on Chinese-language web sites. As it's usually the case, the credibility of such writings was difficult to ascertain.

But the story has now made into AP news wire, accompanied by a picture of the soldier by the name of Zhang Shijun (张世军), who had also written an open letter with his real name and contact information. Here is an excerpt from the AP story:

On June 3, their orders came: Drive through to the square and get it cleared.

Heading east toward the square, Zhang and his comrades abandoned their vehicles as bricks and rocks flew at their heads and bullets were fired at them by unknown shooters from upper stories of apartment buildings. Members of his unit fired over the heads of civilians as a warning, according to Zhang, who said he was serving as a medic and was unarmed in the final assault.

Zhang said he knew of no deaths caused by the troops of the 54th army — a claim impossible to disprove as long as official files on the events remain closed. Most of the post-crackdown reports pinned the hundreds, possibly thousands of deaths among civilians and students on two other units, the 27th and 38th group armies based outside Beijing.

By daylight the next morning, Zhang said his unit established a cordon along the square's southern edge between a KFC restaurant and the mausoleum of communist China's founder, Mao Zedong.

Zhang said other details were still too sensitive to tell, suggesting atrocities such as the shooting in the back of unarmed students and civilians. While other eyewitnesses have made similar allegations, they remain impossible to independently confirm.

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