Thursday, June 4, 2009

Never Forget

June 4, 1989:

Claudia Rosett was there:

At the north end of the square, still standing as the troops formed up, was the tall, white Chinese statue of liberty built by the demonstrators five nights earlier. She was holding her torch in both hands and facing the huge portrait of Mao Zedong that hangs over the entrance to China's old imperial Forbidden City.

Near that statue, which China's rulers had labeled "an abomination," I watched a handful of young doctors working out of a makeshift medical tent -- themselves in the line of fire -- trying desperately, in blood-stained smocks, to treat demonstrators hit by bullets. During a half hour there, I saw seven wounded rushed in. Then I moved away, fearing it was too dangerous. Before I left, I asked one of the doctors if he had expected the army would open fire. He answered, "Of course."

From loudspeakers which the protesters had mounted on the monument, I listened to the Internationale, the stirring communist anthem that the demonstrators had appropriated as their own. From huge government loudspeakers mounted in the square came the official reply, "If you do not leave, we cannot guarantee your safety," followed by the warning the army had been ordered to clear the square by daybreak.

At 4:00 a.m. the streetlamps went out. In the dark, armored personnel carriers rolled forward into the square. The protesters on the monument held their ground. Just before 5:00 a.m. the lights came back on, revealing the soldiers, guns at the ready, preparing to rush the monument. With that, the protesters began filing off the monument and out the south end of the square. By dawn, the army had sealed off Tiananmen and the streets around it.

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