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Footage shows what really happened in lead-up to Tiananmen Square massacre | Four Corners

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48:25   |   Jun 03, 2019

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Footage shows what really happened in lead-up to Tiananmen Square massacre | Four Corners
Footage shows what really happened in lead-up to Tiananmen Square massacre | Four Corners thumb Footage shows what really happened in lead-up to Tiananmen Square massacre | Four Corners thumb Footage shows what really happened in lead-up to Tiananmen Square massacre | Four Corners thumb

Transcription

  • (FOUR CORNERS THEME)
  • (CROWDS CHEERING)
  • (MAN SPEAKS ON MEGAPHONE IN MANDARIN)
  • REPORTER: Thirty years ago the people of China dared to hope for a democratic future.
  • - Millions of Chinese for the first time, maybe the last time in their life.
  • A taste freedom in the air of Beijing.
  • - But on the night of June 3 1989 the People's Liberation Army
  • turned its guns on the people.
  • - We didn't think they'd use lethal weapons.
  • I can't imagine anyone in the West using live ammunition against their own children.
  • (GUNFIRE AND SCREAMING)
  • - We realised it's a war. They're out to kill us,
  • not to scare us.
  • (GUNFIRE)
  • - Thousands have been killed and injured, victims of a leadership that seems
  • determined to hang on to the reins of power at any cost.
  • - Three decades on the Chinese government
  • is determined to erase the memory of the Tiananmen massacre.
  • - We were so young and we experienced such a violent killing.
  • We were not allowed to openly shed a tear or light a candle for the dead.
  • - The momentous events of that spring were captured by the ABC in a trove of historic footage.
  • - The tanks, the armoured personnel carriers ...
  • - We watched in horror as the full force of the Chinese military crushed the democracy movement.
  • - Tonight on Four Corners we look back at the brutal crackdown
  • on the people's power revolution and how it changed China forever.
  • (CROWD SPEAKING MANDARIN)
  • - You know, the government has suppressed news, has suppressed the truth.
  • Of course we are struggling for democracy, for science, for law
  • (RADIO REPORT) China has not seen student demonstrations on this scale since the
  • chaotic cultural revolution of the 1960's. Some observers see the current
  • wave of unrest as the greatest challenge the Communist Party has had to face
  • since it came to power 40 years ago, and the students say they will not give up
  • until their demands for political reform are met.
  • - We really needed freedom, as a young generation, and we believed that democracy
  • can bring freedom.
  • We realised the government cannot do it without any pressure so I think we
  • must go to street, keep the government under pressure and let the government
  • do some political reform and bring democracy and freedom to China.
  • - There was sense of hope. We were hoping that with our participation we can alter
  • history to a much brighter direction.
  • We want the Chinese Communist Party to fulfil their promises to the Chinese people.
  • - Wu'er Kaixi was a very charismatic leader
  • who, when he spoke everyone stopped and listened. He was very much in demand.
  • People crowded around him like a rock star. He was definitely one of the
  • prime movers of the whole movement towards democracy
  • - People who took to the street in 1989, we didn't do it because o f hatred, because
  • of anger, because of grievances. We did it because of love, because of hope, and even
  • in our trust in the government that it would reform itself.
  • We felt that this is the time, finally, that we could speak out and express our
  • youthful idealism to to do something for the country and to help it to do better.
  • - The event that led to the protests, the catalyst, was the death of Hu Yaobang,
  • the former General Secretary of the Communist Party who had been purged
  • some years before for his liberal ideas, but they were the kind of liberal ideas
  • that appealed to the students - a greater say for the people, an end to corruption,
  • a greater degree of democracy.
  • The students latched on to the death of Hu Yaobang
  • as an opportunity to vent their feelings about corruption,
  • about a lack of say in the government of the country.
  • - Directly from Deng Xiaoping himself. He asked the People's Daily, which is the
  • party newspaper, to print an editorial declaring the students movement
  • "counter-revolutionary rebel". That's a very heavy labelling. When we heard that
  • we were very, of course, angry but I think, reasonably saying, scared at the same time.
  • Six of us called hunger strike. Wang Dan and I are among them, and then it was responded well.
  • The students - initially two thousand, then it became three thousand students
  • joining the hunger strike troops.
  • (RADIO REPORT) Hunger strikers accompanied by perhaps ten thousand supporters occupied
  • Tiananmen Square in the centre of the city.
  • - We must stay here to force the government to answer
  • our questions and our demands quickly.
  • - The students felt that we are using our precious life
  • to beg for the government to come out and talk to us and listen to us.
  • - I did not want to go on hunger strike. I don't agree with that measure of activism,
  • so I joined that picket line right at the foot
  • of the monument to the people's heroes.
  • Sometimes we would join hands,
  • protecting the hunger strikers and the student leaders who were sheltered, who
  • were in the tents. We made sure the traffic for the ambulances would be clear for them,
  • and also we wanted to protect the students and the leaders from foreign media.
  • (AMBULANCE SIREN)
  • - (During) these days in Beijing when you heard the siren of ambulance that ache everybody's heart.
  • When you hear the ambulance you know another hunger striker must have passed out.
  • - There were, at times, almost a million people on Tiananmen Square.
  • There would be (an) ambulance moving in and out every five minutes, for example.
  • It was seemingly chaotic, but at the same time the students had to keep order
  • because there were no police.
  • - That's what I did, I stepped in, so I was not on the hunger strike list but I was
  • coordinating the effort through this broadcast station on Tiananmen Square
  • called "the voice of the student movement".
  • - The announcer would tell us, "please do not sleep in, this is not a very good image
  • for the students. Please pick up your rubbish and we have to
  • keep the square clean and orderly."
  • - In the past, the citizens just keep silent. They never speak to the government.
  • They never dare to speak to the government, but now they stand up
  • and came to speak the truth to the government.
  • - You see the whole city, people really full of hope,
  • a lot of people they had come out.
  • You never see this before. People living in fear suddenly just realised
  • that people had come out. They don't really live in the shadows. They come out with
  • hopes and that they're really trying to get this country changed.
  • Millions of Chinese for the first time, maybe the last time, in their life
  • taste freedom in the air of Beijing and we were all bound by
  • this common ideal in a dream for a better China.
  • In that brief period the whole world was riveted by China.
  • - So another situation is the President of
  • Soviet Union, Gorbachev, visited Beijing, and there's quite a lot of journalists in Beijing.
  • and we think there's a golden chance with the light of the whole world
  • and no way won't China be a democracy.
  • China's president Yang Shangkun and an army of government and Communist
  • Party officials greeted the Soviet leader as he and his wife stepped down
  • from their chartered Aeroflot jet.
  • - The students protesting on the square,
  • they blocked quite a bit of the ceremony, the pomp and ceremony
  • that Deng (Xiaoping) wanted to put on for Gorbachev.
  • They couldn't use Tiananmen so Deng was furious.
  • I think it was probably very significant in that it would have hardened his resolve to
  • remove the students in any way that was necessary.
  • (REPORTER) How long have you been fasting? - About five days.
  • - And how long will you continue to fast?
  • - I will continue until our victory.
  • - There was a faction within the Communist Party that was sympathetic to the
  • student movement and the students' concerns.
  • That faction was led by Communist Party General Secretary Zhao Ziyang
  • and because of this division within the party, China was indeed paralysed for a number of weeks.
  • (RADIO REPORT) Zhao, Premier Li and two other senior members of the ruling Politburo,
  • visited hunger strikers in hospital this morning.
  • There are more now than a thousand hunger strikers in hospital and
  • another two thousand in Tiananmen Square.
  • (TV REPORT) The leaders expressed great concern for the health of the
  • students and said they understood the patriotic zeal behind the hunger strike.
  • - The government agreed to a televised dialogue which was an enormous
  • concession between Li Peng, Premier Li Peng,
  • and several of the students led by Wu'er Kaixi.
  • Wu'er Kaixi turned up in his pyjamas. He'd been in hospital,
  • the effects of the hunger strike ...
  • - He thought, you know, maybe this meeting is significant.
  • It's a turning point. It's the point that the government is going to say "OK, we heard you",
  • but no. Li Peng came in, gave us a monologue of lecture.
  • - He tried to scold us and the criticise us and decided this is a turmoil that
  • makes everything worse, and you have to withdraw from Tiananmen Square
  • and he didn't want to listen any concrete policy suggestions from our side.
  • - I was sitting there in my hospital gown and there was an oxygen mask and oxygen
  • tubes into my nose and I would say, you know, this is not the dialogue or meeting
  • we were anticipating. This is government putting up a gesture to blame the students.
  • So this is not going to lead to anything we want
  • - Yes I was firm. I was standing on my position strongly
  • as my role demands me to at that time.
  • - I was quite naive because we didn't know the true face of the Communist Party.
  • We never realised that this party will do anything to defend their power.
  • (RADIO REPORT) Beijing television viewers were treated this morning to extraordinary images.
  • There was Zhao Ziyang, boss of one of the world's most powerful political
  • machines, the 48 million strong Chinese Communist Party, down amongst the squalor
  • in Tiananmen Square pleading with students to end their protest.
  • - This was the last time, of course, that Zhao Ziyang was seen in public,
  • and we were told by sources that we had, very close to the Communist
  • Party and to the government of China, that Zhao Ziyang had indeed had been purged,
  • that the hardliners had won the struggle for control of China and that the
  • reformers, those who sympathised with the students, had lost.
  • (RADIO REPORT) The Chinese government has decided to impose martial law
  • in some areas in Beijing starting 10 o'clock Saturday morning.
  • The order says the move is taken in light of turmoil in the capital,
  • and it's aimed at restoring social order.
  • - They (told us) all that we are going to Beijing to be enforce martial law.
  • Even though I graduated from the military course, still I was (a) student.
  • I have sympathy with students.
  • Some officers like me still had sympathy with students.
  • They think democracy is right, we need democracy. (At) that time I think a lot of soldiers,
  • officers, agreed with students.
  • - It's not Chinese to use the enemy against the people,
  • against the students.
  • (PEOPLE CHEERING AND CLAPPING)
  • - We never expected the people would stand up to protect us,
  • and that night, when the government issued martial law, a lot of students,
  • including me, said that may be the last day of us.
  • The government will send the military troop to Tiananmen Square.
  • - Martial law troops trying to move in to remove the students,
  • and then all the people say "don't!"
  • " You are supposed to be the People's Liberation Army" and with
  • years of propaganda the PLA, People's Liberation Army,
  • are the son and daughters of the people.
  • - Tens of thousands of troops were surrounding Beijing.
  • I was not really afraid because I experienced people's will every day, you know,
  • such overwhelming support for the students.
  • - All the people, get up, come here, stop the service.
  • - I (was) sitting in the truck with a lot of soldiers but the people and the students were nice.
  • They just told the truth and that they want democracy, they just just tell us
  • and what happens in Tiananmen Square, so they just try to ask to go back, don't go to Tiananmen Square.
  • (SOBBING)
  • - Yesterday is good. We support them.
  • - What's amazing to me is that the protests in
  • 1989 brought out the best of human spirit among Chinese.
  • The totalitarian regime corrupts people's mind, morals and distracts mutual trust.
  • But Tiananmen, during that brief period, it was so peaceful.
  • People were just so friendly to each other.
  • - Everything the students and the other protesters, because they were joined by many others,
  • did was under very close surveillance. We learned later that the
  • authorities had turned the road traffic cameras on the protests and protesters;
  • cameras that had been supplied by Australia and Germany mainly, and they
  • were photographing them using those cameras. That all of the restaurants
  • around Tiananmen, where the students used to gather, had been wired for both
  • sound and in many cases for vision as well.
  • (RADIO REPORT) Good evening this is Radio Beijing's Capital service.
  • Massive demonstration erupted again Tuesday as
  • Beijing entered its fourth day of martial law. The troops ordered to carry out martial law
  • are still stranded in the suburbs of Beijing.
  • (CROWD CHANTING)
  • - We do not like Li Peng.
  • We do not like the the leadership now.
  • We do not like Deng Xiaoping.
  • (REPORTER) What's going to happen in China?
  • - We do not know yet, but we're hoping for the good.
  • We do not like (when) students die. They are the hope of China.
  • (CROWD CHEERING)
  • (RADIO REPORT) In Tiananmen Square, where this crisis began with student protests
  • for democratic reform, the numbers have thinned considerably and one report says
  • that at least 7,000 students have left the Square
  • which now looked for the world like a refugee camp.
  • (CROWD CHANTS)
  • - The crowds were dissipating, everyone was saying it's all over,
  • then the students decided to build what they call the "goddess of democracy",
  • so it was a plastic and styrofoam replica of the Statue of Liberty
  • which of course is this very heart of democracy,
  • and here it was about to be taken off to the symbolic heart of Chinese communism.
  • (REPORTER) The students have staged yet another act of defiance,
  • bringing the statue several kilometres to their heartbeat of freedom, Tiananmen Square.
  • - In the back of your mind all along there was a sense of
  • "I can't believe they're doing this."
  • The fact that there were hundreds of thousands of troops ringing the city
  • but they were still prepared to do this, I mean
  • it's an extraordinary, for want of a better word, provocation to actually have
  • a Statue of Liberty going down to the heart of communism
  • and erecting it in front of Mao Zedong.
  • (CROWD CHANTING)
  • - An army unit made yet another attempt to get to the square and push the students out.
  • This time the unit ran. They didn't come in vehicles or anything, they ran
  • four kilometres into town from the fringes of Beijing and of course
  • by the time they got there they were exhausted but they also ran into people,
  • not students, but into the people who didn't want the army turned against the kids.
  • (CROWD SINGING)
  • (REPORTER) Amazing as it may seem, people's power has turned back the People's Army
  • for the second time in two weeks.
  • (APPLAUSE)
  • - Even though there was tension in the air there was no sense that, you know, within
  • hours of that moment
  • there would be carnage.
  • (CROWD SHOUTING ANGRILY)
  • - The troops had got to the points that they were directed to reach and stopped
  • and waited for the order to go in.
  • Deng Xiaoping is the only person who can make that decision at that time.
  • He ordered massacre.
  • - I arrived about 4 p.m. on Tiananmen Square and I can smell tear gas in the air.
  • At that moment, it was the first time for me, I realised this is a different evening now.
  • - I thought this is the time for me to fight and to die as a revolutionary hero
  • then I hopped on a bike and cycled all the way to the square,
  • but the students and the civilians of Beijing were busy making roadblocks
  • to try to stop the military trucks.
  • It was like going through a war zone
  • (SIRENS)
  • (GUNFIRE)
  • (RADIO REPORT) Tanks are rolling in, down the main thoroughfare towards Tiananmen Square.
  • There's sporadic shooting, automatic weapons opened up, people were diving for cover
  • We can spot ambulances going in in a very like fashion; sirens blaring,
  • taking people, taking bodies, taking injured people.
  • (SCREAMING)
  • - We thought they would use riot control weapons; rubber bullets, hoses, water,
  • all that sort of thing. We didn't think they'd use lethal weapons.
  • Looking at it, I suppose, from a Western military viewpoint I can't imagine anyone in the
  • West using live ammunition against their own children.
  • - At one of the big intersections an APC just ran over a young girl on a bicycle.
  • And it was charging down anything and everything; barricades, people, and the
  • protesters had put up this steel barricades, and at first this APC got
  • stuck and the crowd started gathering around it, and hurling insults and rocks and
  • sticks and everything, and then it revved up and powered off but it only got a few
  • meters and it really stopped.
  • The crowd climbed up on top of the tank and were bludgeoning the people below and they
  • were wrecking the tank with iron bars and wooden bars and bricks and things like that.
  • I try to tell my colleagues, my soldiers, don't open fire but I can't stop the others,
  • I just only have a few soldiers, because I know it is going to be murder.
  • - We run into the hospital and there's so many people already there, and there's so many
  • people already dead there, and there's so many people wounded, lying on there.
  • We followed the doctor, we went to the room, there's an emergency room,
  • we're walking there, totally shocked. The floor (with) bodies there.
  • More than 100 bodies already there.
  • - We were surrounded. It was like a war zone.
  • We were hearing gunshots and seeing flares all around us
  • - Some students brought back some blood-stained shirts
  • describing the killings. Then that's when we realised it's a war.
  • They're out to kill us, not to scare us.
  • All the lights were switched off and we're just waiting.
  • We knew they were going to ambush us.
  • All of a sudden all the lights in Tiananmen Square were turned on
  • then immediately we heard this deafening noise that was the loudest noise I've ever heard in my life .
  • The tanks were rolling in from all directions.
  • I saw them flattening the tents on their way.
  • I saw with my own eyes the collapse of goddess of democracy statue,
  • then the tanks stopped at some point and the soldiers were hiding behind them, waiting.
  • - We wanted to leave there orderly, but that's impossible
  • I knew I'm telling the world what's happening in Tiananmen Square
  • and I knew I could be killed, jailed, and any of us talking to the camera could be in trouble,
  • but we did not hesitate to tell the truth to the world.
  • - The soldiers, just with their guns, and they have big sticks.
  • (They) pushed us, beat us, I shouted "get away, get away!"
  • - You think anybody got killed? - Of course. I'm sure, very sure,
  • many students were killed.
  • - How do you feel right now? - Feel right now? I'm very angry!
  • (RADIO REPORT) Trucks crammed with troops backed up as they waited for orders
  • to move into the square. At each intersection shots sprayed from the vehicle.
  • - The entire square was like a military compound. There were dozens and dozens of vehicles,
  • tanks, and APCs lined up. Lots of troops, helicopters coming and going ...
  • A column of tanks and armoured personnel carriers was coming out of Tiananmen
  • Square, right past our hotel, suddenly stopped.
  • There was a man holding shopping bags standing in front of the tank, the lead tank.
  • This man then climbs up on to the tank and squats down and starts remonstrating with the tank commander.
  • He then gets back down again. The tank tries to move, it tries to
  • manoeuvre around him and every time the tank moved, the man with his shopping bags
  • in each hand jumped in front of it.
  • Four or five other people on the side of the road rushed over, fearing for his
  • life obviously, and rushed him off, took him over the other side of the road
  • and he disappeared out of sight and he disappeared forever.
  • He took a stand. It became one of the most iconic images of the 20th century, of all time.
  • He has been an inspiration to so many people. The most obvious thing is to
  • think that you know he was caught and captured and killed, but we'd all like to
  • think that he melted away into the crowd and he's still out there somewhere safe.
  • (GUNFIRE)
  • - The whole international community pay attention to us, but those people they sacrificed
  • their life. Nobody know, even nobody knows their name, so they are really the hero.
  • - There was a list of twenty one of the country's most wanted,
  • headed by Wang Dan as one of the students' leaders.
  • - And I also don't think I really did a good job to lead this movement, and why they put
  • me on first, I don't understand.
  • - I was number two on the list. I was not so much surprised
  • and then I would probably take it as a great honor to be on that
  • list and then to be on that rank.
  • - I was ranked number five. I was in shock
  • but I was also profoundly proud of myself because what I did, out of duty as
  • a citizen, as a student, now it was officially recognised by this government.
  • It's being very important. I have, at that moment, a very strong sense of achievement.
  • - The security forces were taking advantage of all the intelligence they collected for weeks.
  • Photographs, names, addresses, everything else, and coming around and demanding that the
  • parents give up the student - knock on the door at 2a.m., "give us your son, he's wanted
  • for crimes against the state,"
  • and they'd take him off and as often as not
  • but two hours, three hours later, they'd come back and say he died either
  • trying to escape or he'd fallen downstairs or something.
  • - Young people confronting lines of armed troops, not in anger but in disbelief
  • that an army could unleash force on its own people with such cruelty.
  • Thousands have been killed and injured, victims of a leadership that seems determined to hang
  • on to the reins of power at any cost.
  • - In 1989 we were so young and we experienced such a violent killing and
  • witnessing or watching it and it's literally the killing of your peers,
  • of your generation, but we were not allowed to openly shed a tear, or light a candle
  • for the dead and we carry this wound, this open wound, up to today, 30 years later,
  • and we (are) still not allowed to openly talk about it.
  • On the surface Tiananmen seems to be totally remote and irrelevant to the
  • reality of a rising China, but Tiananmen remains the most taboo and most
  • sensitive subject in China today.
  • - They just try to cover up the truth.
  • They don't want any people to talk about this. They just want people forget,
  • to forget its truth.
  • Every day I live in nightmare. Even now, I getting better,
  • but I still dream of them. Some people killed, and ... yeah.
  • - The government was determined that there would not be hundreds or thousands
  • with deaths recorded as a result of Tiananmen, so they made the parents, to collect the body
  • for a funeral, but made them sign a statement to say that the child had died in an accident.
  • Otherwise they wouldn't release the body.
  • - And so the authorities can now say look here's the list of people who actually died at Tiananmen.
  • A couple of hundred maybe, not thousands.
  • - In 1992 Deng Xiaoping again came out and struck a deal with the Chinese people.
  • He said "OK, give us your cooperation. In exchange we'll give you your freedom."
  • Not political freedom, but economic freedom. Giving us our economic freedom in
  • exchange of our own political freedom, it's a lousy deal, it doesn't make sense,
  • nevertheless the deal has been carried out. The Chinese people took the deal.
  • - It's very important for the whole world to pay attention to what happened thirty years ago.
  • Today's China comes from 1989. If you really want to deal with
  • today's China, you have to understand where this China comes from,
  • and they come from 1989.

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Description

An incredible trove of footage from the ABC’s archive shows scenes of joy and optimism on the streets of China that have not been seen since the Communist Party’s brutal killing of its own people 30 years ago.

To mark the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, Four Corners has carefully pieced together vision and audio captured by ABC reporters and crew that show how the events unfolded in the Spring of 1989.

The film, Tremble and Obey, includes interviews with many of the key participants of the protest movement who were subsequently placed on China’s ‘most wanted’ list.

Read more about this story here: https://ab.co/315g48w

Watch more Four Corners investigations here: https://bit.ly/2JbpMkf

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