Thursday, June 4, 2009

This Day in 1989, June 4, the Day of Massacre

After a fateful night, the morning of June 4, 1989, was a mixture of anger, despair, and confusion in Beijing. Martial law troops were on all the main streets and intersections and in a trigger happy mood. Gun fires could be heard all over this ancient capital.

At Chang'an Avenue east of Tiananmen Square, hundreds of residents staged a standoff in front of an equal number of soldiers. The civilians shouted "Fascists!" and repeatedly attempted to approach the soldiers. They were met by barrages of gun fire. Many fell to ground. This agonizing scene repeated many times throughout the late morning.

Elsewhere, angry residents were able to hunt down a few soldiers who had been separated from their troops. Several soldiers were beaten to death, burned, and hung on buses or overpasses. At Muxidi, where the most intensive battle was fought the night before, a column of more than seventy armored personnel carriers was mysteriously abandoned on the street. Thousands of residents surrounded and burned them.

In the afternoon, a simple announcement was cladestinately broadcast by Radio Beijing's English broadcast:

Please remember June the Third, 1989. The most tragic event happened in the Chinese capital, Beijing.

Thousands of people, most of them innocent civilians, were killed by fully-armed soldiers when they forced their way into city. Among the killed are our colleagues at Radio Beijing. The soldiers were riding on armored vehicles and used machine guns against thousands of local residents and students who tried to block their way. When the army convoys made the breakthrough, soldiers continued to spray their bullets indiscriminately at crowds in the street. Eyewitnesses say some armored vehicles even crushed foot soldiers who hesitated in front of the resisting civilians. [The] Radio Beijing English Department deeply mourns those who died in the tragic incident and appeals to all its listeners to join our protest for the gross violation of human rights and the most barbarous suppression of the people.

Because of the abnormal situation here in Beijing there is no other news we could bring to you. We sincerely ask for your understanding and thank you for joining us at this most tragic moment.

Most students who were at Tiananmen Square the night before had safely retreated to the campus area, where there was no military in sight. Bodies crashed by tanks at Liubuko were displayed at the University of Political Science and Law. Impromptu memorial services were held at many schools.

At Peking University, student leaders held a last meeting before they dispersed into hiding or on the run. The Preparatory Committee there issued a series of statements in the name of Beijing Students Autonomous Federation and dispatched student reporters to hospitals and other campuses to collect the names and numbers of the dead. They would soon cease their operation as well.

The student leaders were missing Guo Haifeng, who was arrested the night before at Tiananmen, the only student leader captured thus far.

Separately, Fang Lizhi and his family are seeking contacts with the American Embassy for refuge. After being turned away on the first contact, they would spend the night hiding in a hotel.

Days of 1989

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