Thirty years ago today, the 1989 Democracy Movement in Beijing reached its end. Using tanks and bullets, the Chinese government massacred as many as 10,000 peaceful student protestors in Tiananmen square and across Beijing over several days in early June.
Students who feared the direction of the authoritarian Chinese state had spent several weeks camped out in Tiananmen square, at the centre of Beijing, demanding freedom of the press and accountability for government officials. Protests spread across the city, until in early June the government mobilised thousands of troops from all over China and marched towards the square – a process lasting several days and costing many lives.
Although protestors had managed to slow the advance of the troops, and in some cases had convinced soldiers to lay down their weapons, the military reached the square in the early morning of the 4th of June. Hundreds of students had already been slaughtered.
Following the government’s announcement that they would continue using deadly force to clear the square, many students remained, sitting peacefully at the base of the monument in the centre of the square.
This still from the short film “Black Night in June” shows two of the last remaining protestors sitting at the base of the monument, waiting for the soldiers to arrive.
We don’t know how many of those last students at the monument were killed in the military’s push into the square. The remains of the slaughtered students were pulped by military vehicles and hosed down the drains. Those who did survive were imprisoned or later executed.
I imagine that if these two young freedom fighters are not already dead, they are very likely rotting in a Chinese prison, being tortured or simply being used for organ harvest.
These people are my heroes. They are divine martyrs. They stood in the face of evil and stupidity; and even knowing that their individual lives would not make any difference, they sacrificed themselves to resist it.
Their actions were not hopeless. Even though the Chinese government still refuses to acknowledge the massacre or apologise to the families of the thousands who were murdered in cold blood, the legacy of these protestors will live forever.
Their sacrifice is a ripple that propels an eternal wave of defiance.