‘In the Streets, Anguish, Fury and Tears’


Thirty years after the deadly Tiananmen Square crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators, the Chinese government has been largely successful in suppressing public knowledge of it at home. But with each passing year, more information and images come into the open elsewhere.

In the last month alone, a former journalist for the Chinese military broke her silence and urged a national reckoning; a student witness revealed almost 2,000 photographs he took of the protests in Beijing; and a collection of previously secret party speeches and statements about the crackdown was published in the semiautonomous Chinese territory of Hong Kong.

“Everyone who took part must speak up about what they know happened,” said the former journalist, Jiang Lin.

Here is how The Times covered the crackdown in 1989, including work by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn that won the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting.

Biggest Beijing Crowds So Far Keep Troops From City Center; May 21, 1989, by Nicholas D. Kristof

Huge throngs, possibly amounting to more than one million Chinese, took to the streets today to defy martial law and block troops from reaching the center of the capital, effectively delaying or preventing the planned crackdown on China’s democracy movement.

Facing the People, the Soldiers Fall Back; May 21, 1989, by Sheryl Wu Dunn

When a small convoy of military trucks used to launch tear gas and to spray water on rioters rolled through eastern Beijing early this morning, the soldiers met their first unexpected challenge. An old woman street cleaner rushed up and lay down on the road in front of the trucks.

Image
The front page on June 6, 1989.

The Reasons Why; The New York Times Magazine, June 4, 1989, by Nicholas D. Kristof

The outlook for China’s immediate future is murky, but most Chinese seem to expect that whatever the near-term setbacks, the nation has been set on the road toward less control by the Communist Party. The uprising of the last six weeks, whether it is renewed or repressed, seems to mark a turning point, and it happened with startling, and seemingly inexplicable swiftness. No one predicted that the convulsions would happen when they did, and not even China’s most famous savants can safely predict what will happen next.

The same day his article appeared in the magazine, Mr. Kristof reported from Beijing for The Times when Chinese troops used bloody force to retake the center of the capital from pro-democracy protesters.



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