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Twenty Years Ago…

I can’t believe it’s been twenty years.

Twenty years ago, I was on my way with a group of friends to The Great Wall.  It was May 4, 1989 – we were a few days into our two week stay in China and had been visiting with the local students in Bejing who warned us to “get out of town for a while, we’re going to have a little demonstration.”  Little demonstration…indeed.  Did you know that it takes 15 solid minutes for 100,000 people to cross an intersection?  It does, I timed it.  As I said, we were on our way out of town when our taxi was cut off by the students on their way to the very first of the demonstrations that occurred that spring in the square.

Photo Credit:  Me.

Photo Credit: Me.

Orderly, noble, quiet.  No shouting, no rioting.  It was beautiful, inspiring. So many hopeful people in one place.  A tangible seriousness filled the air and kept the vivid banners of red and gold flying high as they went, their feet moving forward together towards a common ideal.  100,000 cried out in one voice and demanded “DEMOCRACY!”

Photo Credit:  Me.

Photo Credit: Me.

They wanted what we in “the west” had, the ability to freely access information, freedom of the press, political reform.  Unbelievable demands of a totalitarian government.

On May 4th though, they couldn’t know for certain what was ahead.  I will tell you this, the students I was with feared that a June 4th type of event might occur.  When they went out on that warm and smog-tinged Thursday morning, they felt the shadow of that event watching, waiting.  They figured at some point the government would act and it would act within it’s character – swiftly, efficiently, and without mercy.  They went anyway.  They went, for four weeks! and cried out before the whole world the injustices in their country.

Their voices were heard.  And then, their voices were silenced.  On June 4th, 1989 the Republic of China stopped listening and brought the protesters to heel brutally and crushingly back under the boots of oppression and tyranny.

Photo Credit: Jeff Widener / Associated Press

Photo Credit: Jeff Widener / Associated Press

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WIKI:  Tiananmen Square Protests of 1989

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  1. June 4, 2009 at 8:17 am

    Can’t believe you were actually there to see a bit of history that no one will forget!

    • June 4, 2009 at 4:34 pm

      It’s funny…at the time we knew it was a huge deal. I was even afraid of having my film confiscated! We had no idea just how big it really was though. Didn’t see that until we got back to the states.

      The PRC media did their best to make the protesters look violent and riotous…but they were not. Not by a long shot. I was so horrified when we got back and watched everything unravel the way it did.

      I have often wondered over the years how many of the wonderful people I met in Bejing lived through it.

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