Written by Diane Gatterdam
(This post covers June 3rd 1989 from early morning-3:00 AM to Midnight)
Twenty-three years ago on this day Saturday June 3nd 1989, early morning at 3:00 am students on bicycles started streaming into the square from all directions.
By daybreak, hundreds and thousands of people gathered in the Square to protest and defend it. They were very angry. They said that the soldiers in the streets looked lost and when asked why they wanted to go into Tiananmen Square, they didn’t seem to know.
2 million people took to the streets to try to stop their advance.
By 12:00 noon the soldiers had finally fought their way out of the city proper leaving a lot of weapons behind them. When van doors were broken open people to their surprise found them filled with weapons.
As Shen Tong watched CNN with a French journalists in his hotel, they heard that the army had left abandoned trucks that were loaded with weapons including butcher knives, chains and clubs. The news reports showed tear gas being used near the Square.
Shen got in a taxi with the reporter from “Paris Match” to get to the Square. As they got out of the taxi they saw crowds of people running in the streets, with blood on their faces and fumes rising from the street.
He went to his parents’ house which was not far from the Square. When he got there a neighbor told him that as she was standing Liubukou Street the police charged the crowd, and she saw a tear gas canister explode and blow off a small boy’s legs.
Li Lu’s eye-wittiness account:
“We felt able to control what was happening in the Square but not take the full weight of responsibly of the city. We told the people to let he soldiers leave the city unhindered, and we sent teams of student to collect some of the abandoned weapons.
Soon they came back with the surprising report that none of the weapons were functional. Some of the guns had rusted barrels; most of had had their firing pins removed. This worried me even more; it could only be part of a deliberate plot, a set- up. I quickly decided to turn the weapons over to the police department and make sure to get a signed receipt.
At 2:00 pm to the west of the Square in front of Zhangnanhai, another bloody incident occurred. Students were picketing in front of the gate, when all of a sudden the gate opened and three hundred of the special police who guard the leaders rushed out and beat the students and through tear gas at them.
Students could be heard saying, “The people love the Peoples Police, and the Police love the people.” One policeman dragged a student screaming, ”Fuck you, we don’t love you,” and kicked him to the ground and beat him with his baton.
Similar incidents began to happen around the Square. More and more wounded people were carried into the student headquarters.
We felt the final showdown had come! Chai Ling, Feng Congde, and I decided to hold a press conference. We reported the troop movement of the night before, described the beatings at Zhangnanhai, and showed the police report for the weapons we had turned in.
I predicted that something serious would happen tonight, and requested that all journalists present pay attention and be ready to record the events for posterity.”
At 7:00 pm Shen Tong walked back toward the Square. On his way he saw one of the student marshals racing toward the Square, blood and sweat running down his forehead. Then he ran into a friend who described what he had just seen.
“The troops are coming from the northeast corner of the Second Ring Road and already at Muxidi. They are firing real bullets and the people are burning trucks” he said hardly taking a breath between sentences. “I just came from Muxidi. One of the students I was with died, I am covered with his blood! I’ve got to run to the Square and warn the others.”
All day warnings were coming nonstop on the television, radio and loudspeakers kept repeating.
“Citizens of Beijing, stay in your homes tonight. Students return to your colleges. The army is going to clear out Tiananmen Square tonight. Citizens of Beijing, stay in your homes….”
By 8:00 pm the warnings had become even direr:
“You will fail,” came another warning, “You are not behaving in the correct Chinese manner, this is not the West, you should behave like good Chinese, go home and save your life’s”
But instead, the citizens of Beijing, worried about the students in the Square. They came out of their homes and about 300,000 of them gathered around the Square, everyone watching to see what would happen next.
“On the night of June 3rd, I gave my last speech at Beijing Normal University. Before more than 20,000 people I said:
“Today, every Chinese faces a choice. Chinese history is about to turn a new page. Tiananmen Square is ours, the people, and we will not allow butchers to tread on it. We will defend Tiananmen Square, defend the students in the square, and defend the future of China.” We asked them to sing the “Anti-Japanese March” – our national anthem since 1949 which includes the lines, “The Chinese people have reached their most critical moment. Everyone must join the final rally. Arise! Arise!”
- Wuer Kaixi, 1989 Student Leader from Beijing Normal University
Like so many others Wu’er who had only days before advocated quitting the Square now returned to the Square to rejoin his colleagues.
Around 9:00 pm, a student rushed to the student headquarters, his shirt soaked with blood, crying over and over, “Just a baby 3 years old …” When he finally stopped crying, he spoke over the loudspeaker:
“My fellow students, People of Beijing, don’t trust the government any more. Don’t trust the army. Just now on the West Square the soldier’s hit whoever went past them including old people and children. An old man was injured. The soldiers wouldn’t even let his grandson go. I ran over and grabbed hold of the child, but a soldier hit him with a brick and he died in my arms. We must take revenge, we must take revenge.”
Li Lu held back his grief and took the microphone issuing the last emergency order of the headquarters:
“Today is June 3rd 1989. History will call this a day of national humiliation. We will remember this day forever. The government has once and for all torn off the veil covering its ferocious face.
They are sending in thousands of armed troops to suppress us, us who have no weapons.
We say down with the Li Peng’s Government and its atrocious rule!
We call on all people to strike. We call upon the students to return to Tiananmen Square where we will continue to raise the banner of justice overcoming evil. We appeal to all officers and soldiers who love their country to stand up to the atrocious rule. You must not shoot the people! We appeal to people everywhere to assist the just struggle of the students. The people will ultimately triumph. Truth will ultimately win.
LONG LIVE DEMOCRACY!
LONG LIVE THE PEOPLE!
LONG LOVE THE CHINESE NATION!”
The Flying Tigers began bring back reports that soldiers equipped with automatic weapons and backed up by armored vehicles were moving into the city center from all directions, all at once. It was estimated that 3 million people were now in the streets of Beijing.
With the army closing in, the student leaders decided to move all the students who had been hunger strikers out of tents and on to the steps of the monument, where they could all sit-in together. There were about 5000 that had been there since May 13th and many suffered from exhaustion and could barely move.
To those 5000 Chai Ling repeated through a loudspeaker, “Be peaceful, don’t swear back, don’t hit back, we must welcome the butchers knife with the most peaceful means…..”
About 10:00 pm another group of people burst into the headquarters tent, their clothes smeared with blood, their eyes wide open and stunned. Their hands trembled. One man stared in to the distance as if looking at some terrible image. Finally he told his story.
“At about 8:00 pm in the evening at the intersection of Muxudi and Gongshuzen, I saw the army start to march toward the square. People tried to stop them with their bodies only this time the soldiers, followed by tanks, pushed their way forward, bayonets raised.
A girl student from Beijing Normal University went up to the soldiers and said,
“The students aren’t rioters but patriots. We want to do good for our country.”
A soldier thrust his bayonet into her chest, and she fell down dead. The enraged people ran over to her, but the tanks kept coming, and opened fired.
Everywhere people were falling. At first we thought they must be using plastic bullets. We desperately tried to get our fallen comrades to stand up, but blood was running everywhere. Still people could not believe that the Peoples Government could have shot its own people. The tanks never stopped and ran over bodies. People cried and shouted, throwing stones but to no avail.”
The student leaders were all in tears.
At the workers’ tents Han Dongfang divided his workers into 5 contingents and dispersed them to key intersections along Chang’an Boulevard. He continued to counsel everyone on nonviolence. With troops pressing closer to Tiananmen Square and the reports of casualties mounting, several workers prepared for a show of armed resistance, no matter how pitiful by making weapons out of chair legs and siphoned off gasoline in soda bottles as Molotov cocktails.
They swore a final oath: “For democracy, for freedom, we are prepared to sacrifice until the last drop of blood is shed and fight till the last person falls.”
As troops forced their way toward the Square the violence escalated. Old men and woman, young girls and boys were brutally run over. Others who kneeled down in front of individual soldiers, pleading for mercy, were machine-gunned down.
People burned everything they could find to try to stop the troops, they even started fires on top of the tanks.
Troops raked the crowds with stun grenades, automatic weapons and armor piercing bullets. Men and Women in the apartments were slaughtered by the random and uncontrolled gunfire.
At 11:00 pm Shen Tong again left his parents’ house and headed for the Square. On Chang’an Avenue, people were dousing the abandoned army trucks with gasoline and setting them on fire.
“I wanted to get a group of students together to try to persuade people to go back to their homes because troops were only a few blocks away.
While I was standing on Chang’an Avenue my uncles found me and tried to drag me home. By now there were dead and wounded people all over the sidewalks and under the trees and the alleys off the avenue could no longer hold all of the wounded.
I followed a young man near me who took the bloody shirt off a corpse and walked toward a personnel carrier to show what their comrades had done. By the time we got up to the truck, a middle aged woman and a young girl were with us.
The woman said,” You soldiers, how can you do this?” she said.
What regiment are you from I ask? They didn’t answer.
Do you know where you are? I asked.
Do you know you are in Beijing? They didn’t answer.
Do you know you are on Chang’an Avenue, do you know the history of Chang’an Avenue? In 1949 The Peoples Liberation Army liberated the city from the Guomindang, no shots were fired on Chang’an Avenue. You are the Peoples Liberation Army and you are shooting your own people!
I was talking nonstop, desperately trying to get them to understand. The young man held up the bloody shirt and cried, but no words out of their open mouths.
An officer got up, took out his pistol, and pointed it at me.
I was still talking and didn’t pay attention to what he was doing, but one of my uncles came up and grabbed me and said “ Come on Yuan Yuan, lets go home.”
All of a sudden someone pulled me backward.
Then a shot rang out, and everyone started screaming. I turned around to see the girl who had been standing next to me falling straight back to the ground.
I hadn’t even noticed her standing there, and now her face was completely gone, there was nothing but a bloody hole…”
Tanks now entered Tiananmen Square in Beijing…
In the “People’s” Republic Of China, THE PEOPLE WERE NOW THE ENEMY…