My Hearsay is Better Than Your Hearsay
We now have conclusive and overwhelming documentation that the events in Beijing in 1989 were very different from those reported in the Western press. Not only that, we have substantial evidence that the Chinese Government's version of these events had been true all along.|
That story is our subject here. In one sense, it is not an easy story to relate because of the unfortunate emotional baggage Tiananmen Square has carried for more than two decades, and because both China and these events tend to become overwhelmed by ideology.
Let's enter this ideology classroom and begin by posting on the blackboard some facts that are not in dispute. First among them would be that I was not in Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989.
And neither were you.
Hence the subtitle of this editorial. We are both depending on hearsay, on what we have read, on what we have been told and, more importantly, on what we have chosen to believe.
This leads us to another fact that is not in dispute - this one being that you don't "know" what happened in Tiananmen Square. It's true you can make the same claim about me, but right now we're talking about you.
You have no personal knowledge of the events of that day. You don't know what happened, because you weren't there. Everything you have is hearsay. You may have watched the news on that day or read newspaper articles, but it's unlikely you have ever met anyone who was actually present and could give you a first-hand account of events.
And, from whatever information you've acquired, you will have chosen to "take sides". If you're a Westerner, you have most likely chosen to believe that many terrible things happened that day.
But to do this properly, let's separate your choice to take sides from your hearsay evidence - which as you are aware, would anyway be totally inadmissible in a court of law. Even in your country.
So, on your side of the fence, we have two factors:
(1) I read and heard about a bunch of really bad stuff that happened that day.
(2) I choose to believe that those things were true.
We're going to deal with the first of these. You can do what you want with the second. The first is hearsay evidence that can at least be examined and compared with other sources and an assessment made of credibility. The second is founded on ideology, and ideological debates have no resolution so we won't waste our time there.
Well, one thing we know, though it wasn't widely reported at the time, is that there were two events that occurred in Beijing on June 4, 1989. They were not related.
One was a student protest that involved a sit-in in Tiananmen Square by several thousand university students, and which had lasted for several weeks, finally terminating on June 4.
The other was a worker protest, the origin and detail of which are unimportant for our purposes. But essentially some number of workers was unhappy with their lot in life and with the amount of government attention and support, or lack thereof, which they were receiving. And they arranged their own protest, independently of anything related to the students.
Since these two events occurred simultaneously, and were conflated in the Western mass media reporting of the time, we will have to deal with these simultaneously as well.
Soldiers were sent to the Square on the day prior, but these soldiers were carrying no weapons and by all documented reports (including those of the US Embassy in Beijing, thanks to Wikileaks) had only billy sticks.|
By all reports, there was no animosity between the students and the soldiers. Neither had a philosophical dispute with the other, nor did they see each other as enemies. In fact, both photos and reports show that the students were protecting the soldiers who were being chased by angry mobs of uninvolved bystanders. You will see some photos later.
That was when the government sent in the tanks and opened fire on these protestors.
From everything I know, I can find no fault here.|
We can let ideology interfere with interpretation, and claim that the Chinese military used "excessive force", even in self-defense, but that seems a useless claim. In a number of recent cases in the US, a dozen or more police fired 50, and in one case in Miami, more than 100, bullets into an unarmed man, with the courts later claiming this "was not an excessive use of force". So let's be fair and tar everyone with the same brush.
And in any case, soldiers were being attacked by a violent mob, (today, we call them "terrorists") and were dying horrible deaths. We cannot blame the remaining soldiers for opening fire and killing those who were killing them. And yes, several hundred people died in that event.
Here is an eyewitness report from someone who was there, an exerpt from Tiananmen Moon:
There was a new element I hadn’t noticed much of before, young punks decidedly less than student-like in appearance. In the place of headbands and signed shirts with university pins they wore cheap, ill-fitting polyester clothes and loose windbreakers. Under our lights, their eyes gleaming with mischief, they brazenly revealed hidden Molotov cocktails."
Who were these punks in shorts and sandals, carrying petrol bombs? Gasoline is tightly rationed, so they could not have come up with these things spontaneously. Who taught them to make bottle bombs and for whom were the incendiary devices intended?
Editor's Note: As with the student supplies, the Coleman gas stoves, the manuals, instructions, training, strategy and tactics, the logistics and many other elements, there is little question the providers were not domestic Chinese.
He is not human, kill him, kill him!” said a voice. “Get back, get back!” someone screamed at the top of his lungs. “Leave him alone, the soldiers are not our enemy!”|
After the limp bodies of the soldiers were put into an ambulance, the thugs attacked the ambulance, almost ripping off the rear doors in an attempt to remove the burned soldier and finish him off. After that, charred bodies of soldiers were hung from a lamp post, and a large amount of ammunition was taken from the APC.
From a Chinese Government Report on the Worker's Riot
Rioters blocked military and other vehicles before they smashed and burned them. They also seized guns, ammunition and transceivers. Several rioters seized an armoured car and fired its guns as they drove it along the street. Rioters also assaulted civilian installations and public buildings. Several rioters even drove a public bus loaded with gasoline drums towards the Tiananmen gatetower in an attempt to set fire to it.
When a military vehicle suddenly broke down on Chang'An Avenue, rioters surrounded it and crushed the driver with bricks. The rioters savagely beat and killed many soldiers and officers. At Chongwenmen, a soldier was thrown down from the flyover and burned alive. At Fuchengmen, a soldier's body was hung upside down on the overpass balustrade after he had been killed. Near a cinema, an officer was beaten to death, and his body strung up on a burning bus.
Over 1,280 vehicles were burned or damaged in the rebellion, including over 1,000 military trucks, more than 60 armoured cars, over 30 police cars, over 120 public buses and trolley buses and over 70 motor vehicles of other kinds.
The martial law troops, having suffered heavy casualties before being forced to fire into the air to clear the way forward. During the counter-attack, some rioters were killed, some onlookers were hit by stray bullets and some wounded or killed by armed ruffians. According to reliable statistics, more than 3,000 civilians were wounded and over 200, including 36 college students, were killed. As well, more than 6,000 law officers and soldiers were injured and scores of them killed.
There were reports of sporadic gunfire later the following morning around the perimeter of the square, but that was after all the students had already left, and the cause of that gunfire has not been determined.|
Tanks and bulldozers did enter the Square the following morning, flattening all the tents and rubbish that had piled up during the previous three weeks, pushing the garbage into huge piles and setting them afire. This was the apparent origin of claims that "thousands of students" were crushed by tanks streaming through the Square, but this was just the clean-up crew and the students were long gone when the tanks and other heavy machinery arrived.
From a Chinese Government Report on the Student Sit-in
At 1:30 AM on June 4, the Beijing municipal government and the martial law headquarters issued an emergency notice asking all students and other citizens to leave Tiananmen Square. The notice was broadcast repeatedly for well over three hours over loudspeakers. The students in the Square, after discussion among themselves, sent representatives to the troops to express their willingness to withdraw from the square and this was approved by the troops.
At about 5 AM several thousand students left the square in an orderly manner through a wide corridor in the southeastern part of the square vacated by the troops, carrying their own banners and streamers. Those who refused to leave were forced to do so by the soldiers. By 5:30 a.m., the clearing operation of the square had been completed. During the whole operation not a single person was killed.
There were in fact news reports at the time, confirming that there never was any "Tiananmen Square Massacre", no "crackdown", and that no students died. One of these was written by Nicholas Kristoff of the NYT, but the Times buried his report on an inside page and instead ran with the more exciting front-page version of tanks crushing thousands of students and gunfire killing thousands more.
Many foreign reporters filed live reports directly from the Square, stating clearly that, while gunfire could be heard in the distance, there was no violence in the Square either by or toward the students. All reports from the Square were that the event ended peacefully.
However, there was a large group of foreign (mostly US) journalists reporting "live from the Beijing hotel", and describing the view through their windows of all the gunfire, the deaths, the piles of student bodies. Unfortunately, and as other foreign reporters pointed out later, Tiananmen Square cannot be seen from the Beijing Hotel.
Those live reports were fabricated by journalists who apparently believed something was happening, lacked the courage to go and see for themselves, and who told their editors the most likely events according to their convictions and imaginations.
"A USA Today article (June 26, page 7A) called Tiananmen the place “where pro-democracy demonstrators were gunned down.” The Wall Street Journal (June 26, page A10) described “the Tiananmen Square massacre” where armed troops ordered to clear demonstrators from the square killed “hundreds or more.” The New York Post (June 25, page 22) said the square was “the site of the student slaughter.”|
"The problem is this: as far as can be determined from the available evidence, no one died that night in Tiananmen Square. A few people may have been killed by random shooting on streets near the square, but all verified eyewitness accounts say that the students who remained in the square when troops arrived were allowed to leave peacefully. (Some people), most of them workers and passersby, did die that night, but in a different place and under different circumstances."
You can read this excellent article titled "The Myth of Tiananmen: And the Price of a Passive Press": Click Here.
He notes a widely disseminated piece by an alleged Chinese university student writing in the Hong Kong press immediately after the incident, describing machine guns mowing down students in front of the square monument (somehow Reuter's Earnshaw chatting quietly with the students in front of the same monument failed to notice this.)
Mathews adds: "The New York Times gave this version prominent display June 12, just a week after the event, but no evidence was ever found to confirm the account or verify the existence of the alleged witness. And for good reason, I suspect. The mystery report was very likely the work of U.S. and British black information authorities ever keen to plant anti-Beijing stories in unsuspecting media."
Earnshaw notes how a photo of a Chinese soldier strung up and burned to a crisp was withheld by Reuters. Dramatic Chinese photos of solders incinerated or hung from overpasses have yet to be shown by Western media. Photos of several dead students on a bicycle rack at the barricade are more convincing.
Here is a link to an article on this site, titled "Birth of a Massacre Myth: How the West Manufactured an Event that Never Occurred". It contains much detailed information on the source of the rumors and false claims. You can Click Here.
In addition, and I must say, to the great surprise of many of us, the US government, the NYT and all the US and foreign media, knew at the time that there was never any student massacre in Tiananmen Square. The reason we now know this truth is Wikileaks, who published all the cables sent from the US embassy in Beijing to Washington that night, confirming that there was no violence in the Square and no massacre of anybody.
But that knowledge didn't prevent the US and other Right-Wing governments, dozens of US, UK, German, Canadian, Australian politicians, and all the Right-Wing media, from repeating this story endlessly for more than 20 years. In fact, the NYT features an annual "celebration" of its version of the "Tiananmen Square Massacre" in what can only be a deliberate and persistent attempt to perpetuate the fraud.
For all those years, the NYT and others knew the story was a lie, but they repeated it nonetheless. And not simply "newspapers" or TV stations, but the individuals doing the writing and reporting, all knew, or had to know, the stories were a lie.
Here is a link to another article titled "US Embassy confirms China's version of Tiananmen Square events: Cables obtained by Wikileaks confirm China's account". To read it, you can Click Here.
For a short period, the Western media downgraded the 1989 student protests in Beijing from The Tiananmen Square Massacre to The Beijing Incident. But then, despite this knowledge, the media have once again started to impart conspiracy and horror into Tiananmen Square and characterize it as a massacre of students.
This falsification of history, which appears deliberate since the facts have become well known, deludes a new generation and prejudices it against China. The distortion of the happenings within Tiananmen Square reduces the media's credibility and leaves its open to charges of grossly misrepresenting significant current events for cheap political gain.
Whenever I raise this issue with Western acquaintances (or strangers), I almost invariably receive the same response: "But I saw all the photos." Well, yes, I saw all the photos too. But anyone with even a passing familiarity with Beijing would instantly recognise that those photos were not taken in Tiananmen Square. The one most burned into my mind was one of some bicycle racks strewn on the pavement with one or two young bodies lying on them. Those photos are real enough, but they were taken at the barricades, miles from the Square, where all the violence actually occurred.
The despicable part of this propaganda campaign is that those who published the photos had to know their location and source, but deliberately printed them with captions claiming they were the result of the Chinese government "cracking down" on the students in Tiananmen Square. If this is not truly despicable journalism, I don't know what would be. And these photos are still pushed onto an unsuspecting international public today. Given this, what conclusions should we draw about the American standards of a free press, freedom of speech, "democracy" and human rights?
It seems plausible that the student protests in China during the late 1980s may, at their origin, have been spontaneously generated, but there is no shortage of evidence - facts not in dispute - that the entire student movement was quickly hijacked by the US.
"One thing I have been kept thinking was the role of the VOA. Many students were the fans of the radio station before, during and shortly after the student movement. Even when we were on the square many students were listening to their programs as if only they could tell us what was going on.|
I remember at one stage it said the PLA stationed in Beijing was in a defensive position and then it asked some questions such as “Who are they waiting for and why are they in a defensive position?” I immediately drew a conclusion that there was a rebelling PLA force coming to support us!! Until I double checked with my cousin I realized how stupid I was to draw that conclusion."
In case you don't know, the VOA is funded and operated by the NED - the National Endowment for Democracy - which is a front company funded by the CIA that does much of that agency's dirty work not involving actual killing - although sometimes it does that, too. The NED was founded as a vehicle to avoid the CIA's increasingly bad reputation.
Allen Weintein, one of the founders of the NED explained to the Washington Post in 1991, "A lot of what we do now was done covertly by the CIA 25 years ago.” And like the CIA and USAID, the NED and a number of similar organizations - including the VOA - receive funding from the US Congress.
In the end, the students abandoned not only the Square, but both their revolutionary imaginations and the VOA as well.
The irony is the imminent death of Voice of America, as far as China is concerned. The US has finally realised the futility of broadcasting propaganda into China and this year (2011) the Obama Administration is planning to shut down VOA broadcasts from Hong Kong.
And not before time.
She has since converted to Christianity and spends her time with a so-called "charity", funded by the CIA-controlled NED, called "All Girls Allowed", as a forum to complain about China's one-child policy.|
Several of these "student leaders" appear to have been rewarded handsomely for their efforts to destabilise their country, with prestigious university degrees, good jobs, and sometimes CIA (NED) salaries for simply continuing to protest.
The "general commander" of the student protesters, Chai Ling fled China after completing her handiwork in Tiananmen Square. As a reward by the US for her destabilisation efforts in China she was given an honorary degree in political science from Princeton university and a job with the management consultancy of Bain & Co.
After the Government declared martial law, Chai Ling and the protest organizers were still distributing leaflets inciting armed rebellion against the Government, calling upon their followers to "organize armed forces and oppose the Communist Party and its government", even making a list of names of people they wanted to eliminate. They claimed they would never yield and "would fight to the finish" with the government, scheming until past the end, to provoke a bloody incident in Tiananmen Square.|
Just so it doesn't go unsaid, I believe my hearsay is better than your hearsay. I live in China and, by a happy accident of fate, have access to, and constant contact with, many hundreds of people who were university students in China during the period in question. I've spoken to more than a few of them at length about the events in Tiananmen Square, and they confirm my comments and the content of the articles linked above.
When we began this exercise, we had two factors on your side of the fence:
(1) I read and heard about a bunch of really bad stuff that happened that day.
(2) I choose to believe that those things were true.
I've tried to deal with the first of these, with the presentation of a small part of the (by now) huge volume of evidence confirming that nothing other than a student protest occurred in Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989. You can still do what you want with the second part - your own ideology. You will believe what you will.
It has been 22 years since the June 4, 1989 Tiananmen incident. While the Western media has over the years toned down this ‘massacre’ myth, they are still using vague language to keep the ‘massacre’ narrative alive. For example, even NPR’s recent anniversary piece echoed an Associated Press article, described it as "the crushing of the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy movement."
Now that Wikileaks and other documentation have confirmed what the Chinese government has always said - that no massacre occurred at the Square - the NYT, the UK Telegraph and other Western media are instead spinning this as, "the soldiers fired upon the protesters OUTSIDE of the Square”.
With declassified U.S. government documents and other Westerner accounts, Gregory Clark in his well researched 2008 article published in the Japan Times, "Birth of a massacre myth," explained how the New York Times and other Western media were still pushing that narrative despite all evidence concluding otherwise.
Recent Wikileaked U.S. embassy cables proved the U.S. government knew there was no bloodshed in Tiananmen Square and, by extension, so did all of the major Western media. Apparently, condemnation of China by the White House is okay, while lying along in concert with the media.
Since the release of those cables, many Western reporters who concocted the original reports on which this entire sordid myth was based, have now come out of the woodwork to admit their sins. James Miles of the Economist tells us "We got the main story right, but some of the details wrong", the 'details' of course, being the student deaths.
Jay Matthews, who was the Washington Post bureau chief at the time, tells us of several of the (deliberate) failings of Western reporters and confirms much of the truth.
Westerners are hopelessly trapped in a view of the world constructed for them by their media. As Martin Jacques said, the West have not had to understand the developing world, because they have the might to not care. The hard truth for the Chinese from this tragedy is that progress comes from stability.
With Tunisia, Egypt, and other Arab states in turmoil, the Western media have been keen to play up a possible ‘Jasmine Revolution’ in China. I can see people like Andrew Jacobs of the New York Times or the BBC journalist who got dragged away from Wangfujing think their careers will be catapulted into the stratosphere if indeed a 1989-scale protest breaks out in China.
Or for people like Jon Huntsman, an opportunity to position himself in the midst of it to maximize his credentials back home for his 2012 ambitions.
Above comments extracted from an editorial at Hidden Harmonies
June Fourth, 1989: Another Look (From Hidden Harmonies) Read Here.
Birth of a Massacre Myth: How the West Manufactured an Event that Never Occurred Read Here.
The Myth of Tiananmen: And the Price of a Passive Press Read Here.
US Embassy confirms China's version of Tiananmen Square events: Wikileaks Cables confirm China Government's account Read Here.
Tiananmen Square protesters: where are they now?: Benefitting from CIA Financing Read Here.
UK Telegraph article "No Bloodshed in Tiananmen Square" Original Article.