Twenty years later

Has it really been twenty years since the Tiananmen Square massacre?

A couple of highlights from the seemingly endless retrospection. Firstly, the recollections of Graham Earnshaw, who covered the event for Reuters:

It is clear that Deng [Xiaoping] decided that he had to send a very clear message to the people of China, particularly the students, that the Communist Party would not tolerate a challenge to its monopoly on political power, and that it was prepared to kill ruthlessly to ensure it stayed supreme.

Tiananmen led to a New Deal between the party and the people. Deng and the Communist Party elite knew they had almost lost it completely in the midst of their pathetic outdated power struggle. […]

The deal that resulted was this: You, the people of China, agree not to challenge our authority. In return, we, the Communist Party, pledge to butt out of your lives and provide you with steadily rising living standards. Two restrictions only — stay out of politics and don’t have more than one child. The people of China took the deal.

And from the NYT, the stories of four photographers who shot photos of the “Tank Man of Tiananmen” and how they smuggled the photos out for the world to see. JRE likes photojournalism, and this is one of the greatest examples of the craft. Charlie Cole of Newsweek writes:

After taking the picture of the showdown, I became concerned about the PSB’s surveillance of our activities on the balcony. I was down to three rolls of film, with two cameras. One roll held the tank encounter, while the other had other good pictures of crowd and PLA confrontations and of wounded civilians at a hospital.

I replaced the final unexposed roll into the one of the cameras, replacing the tank roll, and reluctantly left the other roll of the wounded in the other camera. I felt that if the PSB searched the room or caught me, they would look even harder if there was no film in the cameras.

I then placed the tank roll in a plastic film can and wrapped it in a plastic bag and attached it to the flush chain in the tank of the toilet. I hid my cameras as best I could in the room. Within an hour, the PSB forced their way in and started searching the room. After about five minutes, they discovered the cameras and ripped the film out of each, seemingly satisfied that they had neutralized the coverage.

Update: related and utterly compelling, Peter Cave reports for ABC News from the firing line in Tiananmen Square.

All of this “seemingly endless retrospection” is a good thing. Without it, the Chinese government’s brutality toward its own citizens might disappear down the memory hole – and that would be an even worse tragedy.

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