Wednesday, June 4, 2014
1989 Occupation of Tiananmen Square in Shanghai, PR China
"Tiananmen: the massacre that wasn't; What really happened 25 years ago in Tiananmen Square?"
2014-06-04 by Brian Becker from "Liberation News" [http://www.pslweb.org/liberationnews/news/what-really-happened-in.html]:
Tank set on fire by protesters outside of Tiananment Square, June 4, 1989
Twenty-five years ago today, every U.S. media outlet, along with then President Bush and the U.S. Congress were whipping up a full scale frenzied hysteria and attack against the Chinese government for what was described as the cold-blooded massacre of many thousands of non-violent “pro-democracy” students who had occupied Tiananmen Square for seven weeks.
The hysteria generated about the Tiananmen Square “massacre” was based on a fictitious narrative about what actually happened when the Chinese government finally cleared the square of protestors on June 4, 1989.
The demonization of China was highly effective. Nearly all sectors of U.S. society, including most of the “left,” accepted the imperialist presentation of what happened.
At the time the Chinese government's official account of the events was immediately dismissed out of hand as false propaganda. China reported that about 300 people had died in clashes on June 4 and that many of the dead were soldiers of the Peoples Liberation Army. China insisted that there was no massacre of students in Tiananmen Square and in fact the soldiers cleared Tiananmen Square of demonstrators without any shooting.
The Chinese government also asserted that unarmed soldiers who had entered Tiananmen Square in the two days prior to June 4 were set on fire and lynched with their corpses hung from buses. Other soldiers were incinerated when army vehicles were torched with soldiers unable to evacuate and many other were badly beaten by violent mob attacks.
These accounts were true and well documented. It would not be difficult to imagine how violently the Pentagon and U.S. law enforcement agencies would have reacted if the Occupy movement, for instance, had similarly set soldiers and police on fire, taken their weapons and lynched them when the government was attempting to clear them from public spaces.
In an article on June 5, 1989, the Washington Post described how anti-government fighters had been organized into formations of 100-150 people. They were armed with Molotov cocktails and iron clubs, to meet the PLA who were still unarmed in the days prior to June 4.
What happened in China, what took the lives of government opponents and of soldiers on June 4, was not a massacre of peaceful students but a battle between PLA soldiers and armed detachments from the so-called pro-democracy movement.
“On one avenue in western Beijing, demonstrators torched an entire military convoy of more than 100 trucks and armored vehicles. Aerial pictures of conflagration and columns of smoke have powerfully bolstered the [Chinese] government's arguments that the troops were victims, not executioners. Other scenes show soldiers' corpses and demonstrators stripping automatic rifles off unresisting soldiers,” admitted the Washington Post in a story that was favorable to anti-government opposition on June 12, 1989.
The Wall Street Journal, the leading voice of anti-communism, served as a vociferous cheerleader for the “pro-democracy” movement. Yet, their coverage right after June 4 acknowledged that many “radicalized protesters, some now armed with guns and vehicles commandeered in clashes with the military” were preparing for larger armed struggles. The Wall Street Journal report on the events of June 4 portrays a vivid picture:
“As columns of tanks and tens of thousands soldiers approached Tiananmen many troops were set on by angry mobs … [D]ozens of soldiers were pulled from trucks, severely beaten and left for dead. At an intersection west of the square, the body of a young soldier, who had beaten to death, was stripped naked and hung from the side of a bus. Another's soldier corpse was strung at an intersection east of the square.”
The massacre that wasn't -
In the days immediately after June 4, 1989, the New York Times headlines, articles and editorials used the figure that “thousands” of peaceful activists had been massacred when the army sent tanks and soldiers into the Square. The number that the Times was using as an estimate of dead was 2,600. That figure was used at the go-to number of student activists who were mowed down in Tiananmen. Almost every U.S. media reported “many thousands” killed. Many media outlets said as many 8,000 had been slaughtered.
Tim Russert, NBC's Washington Bureau Chief, appearing later on Meet the Press said “tens of thousands” died in Tiananmen Square.
The fictionalized version of the “massacre” was later corrected in some very small measure by Western reporters who had participated in the fabrications and who were keen to touch up the record so that they could say they made “corrections.” But by then it was too late and they knew that too. Public consciousness had been shaped. The false narrative became the dominant narrative. They had successfully massacred the facts to fit the political needs of the U.S. government.
"Most of the hundreds of foreign journalists that night, including me, were in other parts of the city or were removed from the square so that they could not witness the final chapter of the student story. Those who tried to remain close filed dramatic accounts that, in some cases, buttressed the myth of a student massacre,” wrote Jay Mathews, the Washington Post's first Bureau Chief in Beijing, in a 1998 article in the Columbia Journalism Review.
Mathews' article, which includes his own admissions to using the terminology of the Tiananmen Square massacre, came nine years after the fact and he acknowledged that corrections later had little impact. "The facts of Tiananmen have been known for a long time. When Clinton visited the square this June, both The Washington Post and The New York Times explained that no one died there [in Tiananmen Square] during the 1989 crackdown. But these were short explanations at the end of long articles. I doubt that they did much to kill the myth.”
At the time all of the reports about the massacre of the students said basically the same thing and thus it seemed that they must be true. But these reports were not based on eyewitness testimony.
What really happened -
For seven weeks leading up to June 4, the Chinese government was extraordinarily restrained in not confronting those who paralyzed the center of China's central capital area. The Prime Minister met directly with protest leaders and the meeting was broadcast on national television. This did not defuse the situation but rather emboldened the protest leaders who knew that they had the full backing of the United States.
The protest leaders erected a huge statue that resembled the United States' Statue of Liberty in the middle of Tiananmen Square. They were signaling to the entire world that their political sympathies were with the capitalist countries and the United States in particular. They proclaimed that they would continue the protests until the government was ousted.
With no end in sight the Chinese leadership decided to end the protests by clearing Tiananmen Square. Troops came into the Square without weapons on June 2 and many soldiers were beaten, some were killed and army vehicles were torched.
On June 4, the PLA re-entered the Square with weapons. According to the U.S. media accounts of the time that is when machine gun toting PLA soldiers mowed down peaceful student protests in a massacre of thousands.
China said that reports of the “massacre” in Tiananmen Square were a fabrication created both by Western media and by the protest leaders who used a willing Western media as a platform for an international propaganda campaign in their interests.
On June 12, 1989, eight days after the confrontation, the New York Times published an “exhaustive” but in fact fully fabricated eyewitness report of the Tiananmen Massacre by a student, Wen Wei Po. It was full of detailed accounts of brutality, mass murder, and heroic street battles. It recounted PLA machine gunners on the roof of Revolutionary Museum overlooking the Square and students being mowed down in the Square. This report was picked up by media throughout the U.S.
Although treated as gospel and irrefutable proof that China was lying, the June 12 “eyewitness” report by Wen Wei Po was so over the top and would so likely discredit the New York Times in China that the Times correspondent in Beijing, Nicholas Kristoff, who had served as a mouthpiece for the protestors, took exception to the main points in the article.
Kristoff wrote in a June 13 article, “The question of where the shootings occurred has significance because of the Government's claim that no one was shot on Tiananmen Square. State television has even shown film of students marching peacefully away from the square shortly after dawn as proof that they were not slaughtered.”
“The central scene in the [eyewitness] article is of troops beating and machine-gunning unarmed students clustered around the Monument to the People's Heroes in the middle of Tiananmen Square. Several other witnesses, both Chinese and foreign, say this did not happen,” Kristoff wrote.
“There is also no evidence of machine-gun emplacements on the roof of the history museum that were reported in the Wen Wei Po article. This reporter was directly north of the museum and saw no machine guns there. Other reporters and witnesses in the vicinity also failed to see them.
“The central theme of the Wen Wei Po article was that troops subsequently beat and machine-gunned students in the area around the monument and that a line of armored vehicles cut off their retreat. But the witnesses say that armored vehicles did not surround the monument - they stayed at the north end of the square - and that troops did not attack students clustered around the monument. Several other foreign journalists were near the monument that night as well and none are known to have reported that students were attacked around the monument,” Kristoff wrote in the June 13, 1989 article.
The Chinese government's account acknowledges that street fighting and armed clashes occurred in nearby neighborhoods. They say that approximately three hundred died that night including many soldiers who died from gunfire, Molotov cocktails and beatings. But they have insisted that there was no massacre.
Kristoff too says that there were clashes on several streets but refutes the “eyewitness” report about a massacre of students in Tiananmen Square, “... Instead, the students and a pop singer, Hou Dejian, were negotiating with the troops and decided to leave at dawn, between 5 A.M. and 6 A.M. The students all filed out together. Chinese television has shown scenes of the students leaving and of the apparently empty square as troops moved in as the students left.”
Attempted counter-revolution in China -
In fact, the U.S. government was actively involved in promoting the “pro-democracy” protests through an extensive, well-funded, internationally coordinated propaganda machine that pumped out rumors, half-truths and lies from the moment the protests started in mid-April 1989.
The goal of the U.S. government was to carry out regime change in China and overthrow the Communist Party of China which had been the ruling party since the 1949 revolution. Since many activists in today's progressive movement were not alive or were young children at the time of the Tiananmen incident in 1989, the best recent example of how such an imperialist destabilization/regime change operation works is revealed in the recent overthrow of the Ukrainian government. Peaceful protests in the downtown square receive international backing, financing and media support from the United States and Western powers; they eventually come under the leadership of armed groups who are hailed as freedom fighters by the Wall Street Journal, FOX News and other media; and finally the government targeted for overthrow by the CIA is fully demonized if it uses police or military forces.
In the case of the “pro-democracy” protests in China in 1989 the U.S. government was attempting to create a civil war. The Voice of America increased its Chinese language broadcasts to 11 hours each day and targeted the broadcast “directly to 2,000 satellite dishes in China operated mostly by the Peoples Liberation Army.” (New York Times June 9, 1989)
The Voice of America broadcasts to PLA units were filled with reports that some PLA units were firing on others and different units were loyal to the protestors and others with the government.
The Voice of America and U.S. media outlets tried to create confusion and panic among government supporters. Just prior to June 4 they reported that China's Prime Minister Li Peng had been shot and that Deng Xiaoping was near death.
Most in the U.S. government and in the media expected the Chinese government to be toppled by pro-Western political forces as was starting to happening with the overthrow of socialist governments throughout Eastern and Central Europe at the time (1988-1991) following the introduction of pro-capitalist reforms by Gorbachev in the Soviet Union in 1991.
In China, the “pro-democracy” protest movement was led by privileged, well-connected students from elite universities who were explicitly calling for the replacement of socialism with capitalism. The leaders were particularly connected to the United States. Of course, thousands of other students who participated in the protests were in the Square because they had grievances against the government.
But the imperialist-connected leadership of the movement had an explicit plan to topple the government. Chai Ling, who was recognized as the top leader of the students, gave an interview to Western reporters on the eve of June 4 in which she acknowledged that the goal of the leadership was to lead the population in a struggle to topple the Communist Party of China, which she explained would only be possible if they could successfully provoke the government into violently attacking the demonstrations. That interview was aired in the film the “Gate of Heavenly Peace.” Chai Ling also explained why they couldn't tell the rank and file student protestors about the leaders' real plans.
"The pursuit of wealth is part of the impetus for democracy,” explained another top student leader Wang Dan, in an interview with the Washington Post in 1993, on the fourth anniversary of the incident. Wang Dan was in all the U.S. media before and after the Tiananmen incident. He was famous for explaining why the elitist student leaders didn't want Chinese workers joining their movement. He stated "the movement is not ready for worker participation because democracy must first be absorbed by the students and intellectuals before they can spread it to others."
Twenty-five years later – U.S. still seeks regime change and counter-revolution in China -
The action by the Chinese government to disperse the so-called pro-democracy movement in 1989 was met with bitter frustration within the United States political establishment.
The U.S. imposed economic sanctions on China at first, but their impact was minimal and both the Washington political establishment and the Wall Street banks realized that U.S. corporations and banks would be the big losers in the 1990's if they tried to completely isolate China when China was further opening its vast domestic labor and commodities market to the direct investment from Western corporations. The biggest banks and corporations put their own profit margins first and the Washington politicians took their cue from the billionaire class on this question.
But the issue of counter-revolution in China will rear its head again. The economic reforms that were inaugurated after the death Mao opened the country to foreign investment. This development strategy was designed to rapidly overcome the legacy of poverty and under-development by the import of foreign technology. In exchange the Western corporations received mega profits. The post-Mao leadership in the Communist Party calculated that the strategy would benefit China by virtue of a rapid technology transfer from the imperialist world to China. And indeed China has made great economic strides. But in addition to economic development there has also developed a larger capitalist class inside of China and a significant portion of that class and their children are being wooed by all types of institutions financed by the U.S. government, U.S. financial institutions and U.S. academic centers.
The Communist Party of China is also divided into pro-U.S. and pro-socialist factions and tendencies.
Today, the United States government is applying ever greater military pressure on China. It is accelerating the struggle against China's rise by cementing new military and strategic alliances with other Asian countries. It is also hoping that with enough pressure some in the Chinese leadership who favor abandoning North Korea will get the upper hand.
If counter-revolution were to succeed in China the consequences would be catastrophic for the Chinese people and for China. China would in all likelihood splinter as a nation as happened to the Soviet Union when the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was toppled. The same fate befell the former Yugoslavia. Counter-revolution and dismemberment would hurtle China backwards. It would put the brakes on China's spectacular peaceful rise out of under-development. For decades there has been a serious discussion within the U.S. foreign policy establishment about the dismemberment of China which would weaken China as a nation and allow the United States and Western powers to seize its most lucrative parts. This is precisely the scenario that cast China into its century of humiliation when Western capitalist powers dominated the country.
The Chinese Revolution has gone through many stages, victories, retreats and setbacks. Its contradictions are innumerable. But still it stands. In the confrontation between world imperialism and the Peoples Republic of China, progressive people should know where they stand – it is not on the sidelines.
"Troops 'laughing' in Tiananmen crackdown: US document"
2014-06-03 from "AFP" [www.afp.com], published at [www.sinodaily.com/reports/Eyewitness_Tiananmen_the_night_dreams_became_nightmares_999.html]:
Troops deployed from China's provinces laughed as they shot randomly at pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square, according to a US account declassified Tuesday for the 25th anniversary.
The US documents, released by the National Security Archive at George Washington University which obtained them under the Freedom of Information Act, showed chaos and confusion sweeping across China as authorities crushed the student movement on the night of June 3-4, 1989.
A classified US military report quoted an unnamed source, who observed Tiananmen Square from a hotel room, as calling the crackdown "brutal" with an intention to inflict high casualties.
Troops belonging from the 27th Army, who did not speak the Beijing dialect, "were laughing and shooting at random at any assembly of persons they encountered," the document quoted the source as saying.
The cable also quoted the source as witnessing plainclothes police seizing individuals in a restaurant as part of a "one-by-one crackdown" in Beijing ahead of the main offensive in Tiananmen Square.
But the documents showed that information was sketchy. One US intelligence cable the day after the crackdown quoted a source -- implied to be an official from a foreign government close to China -- as saying that supreme leader Deng Xiaoping had died. In reality, Deng died in 1997.
Another US cable, showing the feeling of crisis spreading through China, said that the military flew foreign currency into the Shanghai branch of the state-run Bank of China as customers raced to withdraw cash following the Tiananmen violence.
Soldiers killed hundreds of unarmed civilians in Tiananmen Square, with some estimates putting the death toll at more than 1,000.
China's government has tried to quash public memories of the crackdown and has stepped up surveillance, censorship and detentions of activists ahead of the 25th anniversary.
"A government without a future"
2014-06-03 from "AFP" [www.afp.com], published at [www.sinodaily.com/reports/Taiwan_urges_China_to_face_up_to_history_of_Tiananmen_999.html]:
Chen Guangcheng, one of China's most prominent activists who dramatically escaped from house arrest in 2012 for the safety of the US embassy, urged commemorations of the Tiananmen Square movement as he addressed a think tank in Washington.
Speaking in English in public for the first time, the blind-since-birth self-taught lawyer hailed Hong Kong -- which is part of China but autonomous -- for its annual June 4 vigils and for recently opening the first museum on the Tiananmen crackdown.
"Every candlelight vigil makes the perpetrators shudder in fear. It gives people courage to think and speak aloud again," Chen said, speaking forcefully in clear but careful English as he read his speech in Braille at the conservative American Enterprise Institute.
"A government that cannot face its own history is a government without a future," Chen said, asking how a government that disrespects its citizens can be expected to "treat other countries any better."
Chen said he was 17 years old at the time of the Tiananmen crackdown and was not enrolled in school due to his blindness. But Chen said he sympathized as he listened to the radio and would have joined the protests if he were a student.
"H.K. rallies for Tiananmen 25th anniversary as Beijing clamps down"
2014-06-04 from "AFP" [www.afp.com], published at [www.sinodaily.com/reports/HK_rallies_for_Tiananmen_25th_anniversary_as_Beijing_clamps_down_999.html]:
China on Wednesday imposed smothering security in central Beijing on the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown, as tens of thousands gathered in Hong Kong for potentially the biggest commemoration yet seen in honour of the student protesters killed in 1989.
The White House called for China's Communist authorities to account for those killed, detained or missing in connection with the June 1989 assault, which remains a taboo topic for a nation that refuses to allow political reform in line with its dramatic economic transformation.
Evening candlelit vigils were due to take place in Macau and Taipei as well as Hong Kong, where organisers said a record crowd as large as 200,000 people would attend a vast gathering in a downtown park.
Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou, whose democratically elected government still proclaims itself to be the true representative of China, described the events of 25 years ago as an "enormous historical wound".
Ma called on Beijing to "speedily redress the wrongs to ensure that such a tragedy will never happen again".
Likewise, the United States will continue to "urge the Chinese government to guarantee the universal rights and fundamental freedoms that are the birthright of all Chinese citizens", a White House statement said.
Hundreds of unarmed civilians -- by some estimates, more than 1,000 -- were killed during the June 3-4 crackdown of 1989, when soldiers on foot and in tanks crushed months of peaceful protests by students who were demanding political liberties to match China's nascent economic opening up.
Thousands of police and other security forces, some armed with automatic rifles, have been deployed across the Chinese capital this week. There were numerous police trucks on and around Tiananmen Square Wednesday, with fire engines and ambulances also visible.
Some security officers had fire extinguishers placed ready nearby. Security has also been heightened recently after a spate of attacks that authorities blame on separatists from the far-western region of Xinjiang.
Tourists and vendors criss-crossed the vast public square in the heart of the city, but uniformed and plainclothes officers were stationed at every corner and checking the ID cards of passers-by.
An AFP journalist was ordered to delete photos of scuffles between police and frustrated pedestrians waiting to enter the main part of the square Wednesday morning.
- 'Serious consequences' -
In 1989 the demonstrations and subsequent crackdown played out on television screens across the world, and Beijing briefly became a pariah in the West.
But 25 years later, the ruling Communist Party's authority is intact and its global clout continues to rise in line with the country's rapid growth, which has taken China to second place in the global economic rankings behind only the United States.
UN human rights chief Navi Pillay on Tuesday called on China to "finally establish the facts surrounding the Tiananmen Square incidents".
Hong Lei, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, condemned both Pillay's statement and earlier remarks by the US government as interference in China's "internal affairs".
Since 1989, China has worked hard to erase public memories of the bloodshed, censoring any mention of the incident from online social networks and detaining scores of activists, lawyers, artists and relatives of victims in recent weeks.
Among those detained ahead of this year's anniversary is prominent human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang, who along with four others was taken away by authorities last month after attending a private seminar discussing the crackdown.
Around 80 academics from 12 countries -- including some of the world's foremost China experts -- penned an open letter to President Xi Jinping on Wednesday pressing for the release of the five.
Many foreign news outlets have received warnings from police and the foreign ministry against newsgathering related to the anniversary -- or risk "serious consequences" including the possible revocation of their visas.
- Social networks scrubbed -
Under pressure from authorities, Chinese online social networks quickly deleted any perceived references to the crackdown, banning terms including "Tiananmen", "student movement", "6/4" and "25th anniversary".
A handful of mentions managed to slip past the censors, however, including one posting that showed an image of a candle and the date June 4, 1989.
Asked about the anniversary, university students declined to be interviewed or suggested they did not know much about it.
"I know about it but I don't really understand what it is," said a student near Peking University. "At this time, we were not even born!" she added.
The state-run Global Times on Wednesday made references to the anniversary in an editorial in its English-language edition, but the Chinese-language version only alluded to it.
"Chinese society has never forgotten the incident 25 years ago but not talking about it indicates the attitude of society," the English-language editorial said.
"US calls on China to account for Tiananmen on anniversary"
2014-06-04 from "AFP" [www.afp.com], published at [www.sinodaily.com/reports/HK_rallies_for_Tiananmen_25th_anniversary_as_Beijing_clamps_down_999.html]:
The United States on Wednesday called on China to account for those killed, detained, or missing in the Tiananmen Square crackdown of 1989, as Washington marked the 25th anniversary of the pro-democracy revolt.
"Twenty-five years ago, the United States deplored the use of violence to silence the voices of the peaceful demonstrators in and around Tiananmen Square," the statement from the White House said.
It comes as tensions simmer between the two countries on issues ranging from alleged hacking by the Chinese military into private US firms to displeasure in Washington with what it calls Beijing's aggressive behavior in the South China Sea.
"Twenty-five years later, the United States continues to honor the memories of those who gave their lives in and around Tiananmen Square and throughout China, and we call on Chinese authorities to account for those killed, detained, or missing in connection with the events surrounding June 4, 1989," it added.
The US government and people welcome China's economic progress over the past decades, and want to maintain good relations, the White House said. But America will not be shy about airing its differences with China, it added.
The United States, it said, will "urge the Chinese government to guarantee the universal rights and fundamental freedoms that are the birthright of all Chinese citizens."
"Taiwan leader urges China to redress Tiananmen wrongs"
2014-06-04 from "AFP" [www.afp.com], published at [www.sinodaily.com/reports/HK_rallies_for_Tiananmen_25th_anniversary_as_Beijing_clamps_down_999.html]:
Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou on Wednesday described the Tiananmen crackdown as "an enormous historical wound", urging China to redress the wrongs of the crushed pro-democracy protests 25 years ago.
Ma made the call in his annual statement marking the anniversary of the 1989 crackdown but was not scheduled to make an appearance at a candle-lit vigil in Taipei later Wednesday, his office said.
"Facing such an enormous historical wound, I sincerely hope that the mainland authorities will seriously consider and speedily redress the wrongs to ensure that such a tragedy will never happen again," the leader said in his yearly statement.
Ma reiterated calls on Beijing to treat its dissidents well and to tolerate different opinions.
He also urged Beijing to continue carrying out political reforms such as abolishing the forced labour camps last year and to make more efforts to promote democracy and human rights protection.
"We hope to see it take more actions to realise democracy and the rule of law and protect human rights," said Ma.
Taiwan's government has repeatedly urged China to learns lessons from the 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters when troops killed hundreds of unarmed civilians -- by some estimates more than 1,000.
The Mainland Affairs Council, Taiwan's top China policy-making body, on Tuesday renewed calls on China to face up to history and protect the rights of dissidents.
Reacting to Ma's statement, Yang Jianli, a prominent US-based Chinese dissident who fled China after the protests, offered praise for his call "for a speedy redress of the wrong of the June 4th incident".
The vigil in downtown Taipei is expected to attract some 2,000 people, according to organisers.
Ties between Taiwan and China have improved markedly since Ma took office in 2008 on a Beijing-friendly platform, following eight years of tensions under the previous pro-independence government. He was reelected in 2012 for a final four-year term.
Beijing however still claims the island as part of its territory awaiting reunification by force if necessary although they have been governed separately since the end of a civil war in 1949.