CLIO mr brice - page 24

A group of parents of the students approached the
square, and were shot at by the tanks, with dozens shot
in the back as they attempted to escape. Students set fire
to army trucks and yelled “fascists stop killing.”
Soon, all the nearby hospitals were filled with the
injured, and protesters were being carried into children’s
hospitals on park benches and other makeshift
stretchers. Ambulances attempted to drive into the
square, but were turned away, or shot at by the army;
there are two reported deaths of ambulance drivers.
Many of those killed were civilians uninvolved in the
protests. The ferocity of the attack on the protesters
shocked the country. Demonstrators struggled to
understand how their own government could be killing
their people so ruthlessly.
Following the initial military crackdown, all other
protests were quelled, and mass arrests began. Less well-
connected and affluent protesters who were tried for
‘counter- revolutionary crimes’ were executed, as they
could not afford lawyers of a high enough standard to
grant their freedom. Student leaders were rounded up
by the military or police, and often beaten or otherwise
abused. Some received prison sentences of as long as
13 years. Many university students and professors were
politically stigmatised, some to never be employed
again.
The entire surface of Tiananmen Square was later
resurfaced, to remove the bloodstains left in the square
from the massacre.
Even though the Tiananmen protests have long since
past (the 25th anniversary being in June last year) and
there are no physical remains left in the square itself,
the June 4th massacre cannot be put to rest due to the
cloud of doubt that seems to envelope the whole event.
When considering the tragic violation of human rights
within the massacre, the high, bloody death toll and
extreme government intervention is what first comes
to mind. However, arguably of more poignancy is the
continuation of ambiguity due to the severe oppression
of expression displayed by the CCP. This oppression
ultimately undermines the Chinese voice and ability
to mourn for their loved ones which is what makes the
event a continuing tragic issue.
Uncertainty around the event became clear to us
when researching the massacre. Journalistic reports,
eyewitnesses and other accounts are all linked by a
common thread of inconsistency.
Media coverage in Beijing at the time was severely
restricted and Martial law prohibited the use of
cameras, video cameras or the recording of interviews.
International journalist’s work was subjected to
scrutinizing censorship and only once their footage had
been screened word by word, could clearance be given.
It cannot be doubted, therefore, that the extent of
restriction and censorship played a perpetual role in the
now vague nature of this controversial massacre.
The restrictions in one instance were less successful than
the authoritarian regime had hoped: journalists in the
hotel Peking were under house arrest but still managed
to produce possibly the most heart wrenching photo
of the whole massacre (The Tank Man). Despite this,
following the trend of ambiguity around the massacre,
this man lacks a character or story as the identity and
fate of ‘Tank Man’ is unknown.
Another area of ambiguity is the death toll. According
to police, those slaughtered in Beijing “included
university professors, technical people, officials, workers,
owners of small private enterprises, retired workers, high
school students and grade school students, of whom
the youngest was nine years old.” Official figures for the
death toll range from 200- 300, but unofficial estimates
have reached as high as several thousands, with many
eyewitnesses and journalists seeing estimates this high as
reasonable. Accepting a number which is significantly
smaller than the true death toll is infinitely significant
to the victims of the massacre, and to their families and
friends. To be forgotten by history, to be eradicated
from records and books, is to be denied existence.
As a new generation grows up in China, unaware of this
tragedy of the past, we are reminded of the terrifying
power the CCP holds over the people of China in a
way we can only imagine in Orwell-esque nightmares.
Despite the fact that we in Britain can learn without
fear about the night of July 4, 1989, many are not aware
of this event or of its true horror. For all those who were
slaughtered while protesting, peacefully and unarmed,
for the basic human rights we so often take for granted
today, we have a duty to remember this conflict.
By Emma Gillespie and Claire Goldring
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