In memory of the victims of the brutal crushing of the demonstration on Tiananmen Square 17 years ago

04.06.2006 |

It is seventeen years since the brutal crushing of the student demonstrations on Tiananmen Square in Peking, when after six weeks of protests, the authorities brought the army and tanks onto the streets. The exact number of students killed is still unknown, but the figure is in the hundreds, or possibly thousands. In Peking on 4 June it has become standard to see many law enforcement officers than usual. They particularly guard the centre of the Chinese capital. For seventeen years it has been strictly forbidden to mention the breaking up of the demonstration on Tiananmen Square.  The “Peking Spring” of 1989 for thousands of young people ended in persecution and arrest. The demonstrators had demanded that corruption be fought in the higher echelons of power, an end to the totalitarian methods of governing the country, and a cancellation of the reforms which had led to inflation and unemployment. Many of those who took part in the protest are still not able to work. And there are few young people now who only heard about the events on Tiananmen Square who would dare talk about what happened.

The fate of most of the students, as well as the soldiers who fulfilled the authorities’ order to shoot at their fellow citizens, is not known. They are still kept away from journalists. However the events did have some result, human rights activists are convinced. Thanks to them, Peking’s policy has gradually begun to change.

Dai Kink, human rights activist:

- I think that the authorities in China still need to do three things – clearly tell people what really happening, stop propagandizing fabricated stories and make the regime more transparent. Then we will be able to stop such things happening in the future. Up till now, not one politician has mentioned 4 June.

The footage showing the violent crushing of the demonstration on Tiananmen Square seventeen years ago were shown by western television companies. The video changed the attitude of Europeans and Americans to the Chinese authorities for a long time. Reservations remain about China’s regime to this day. The west is still waiting for an acknowledgement by the Chinese authorities of their mistakes which caused the death of so many people and shattered thousands of lives.

Hanna Horozhenko, Channel 5

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