Tiananmen Square: The Failure of an American-instigated 1989 Color Revolution

Tiananmen Square: The Failure of an American-instigated 1989 Color Revolution

Beijing: June 04, 1989

By Larry Romanoff



There are few places in China that seem more burned into the consciousness of typical Westerners than Tiananmen Square, and few events more commonly mentioned than the student protests of 1989. But the stories are wrong on several levels. It was never reported in the Western media that there were two separate events that occurred in Beijing on June 4, 1989. One was a student protest that culminated in a sit-in in Tiananmen Square by several thousand university students, which had lasted for several weeks and finally terminated on June 4. The other was a one-day worker strike that occurred (perhaps not by chance) also on June 4, when a group of workers unhappy with their lot in life, organised their own protest independently of the students, and in a different place. For reasons that will become apparent, the workers’ protest is the necessary focus for understanding the events of that date, so I will begin there.

The Workers’ Revolt


#A group of workers gathered, and barricaded several streets in Muxidi, an area in Beijing five or six kilometers from Tiananmen Square, the barricades attended by several hundred mostly adult workers, with an undetermined few young people. However, there was a third quite large group present that to my knowledge has never been clearly identified, though it is obvious from the photos they were not workers and certainly not young students. (1) Thugs or anarchists might be an appropriate adjective, but the facts seem to support the conclusion (and my own personal judgment) that they were mercenaries. (2)

The government sent in busloads of soldiers, accompanied by a few APCs to clear the barricades and re-open the streets to traffic. (3) The violence began when the third group attacked the young men attempting to clear the barricades. They were well-prepared, armed with at least hundreds and perhaps thousands of gasoline bombs, and immediately torched dozens of buses and the few APCs – with the soldiers still inside. Many soldiers in both types of vehicles escaped, but many others did not, and many burned to death. There are countless photos of dead soldiers burned to a crisp, some hung by the thugs from lampposts, others lying in the street or on stairs or sidewalks where they died, others hanging out of bus windows or the APCs, having only partially escaped before being overcome by the flames. There are documented reports and photos showing that the group of thugs managed to get control of one APC, and drove it through the streets while firing the machine guns on the turret. (4) It was only then that the government sent in armed soldiers and military equipment.

Government reports and independent media personnel generally claim a total of 250 to 300 civilian deaths before the violence subsided, but a similar number of soldiers had already been killed. When police or military are attacked in this way, they will surely use force to defend themselves and cannot be faulted for that. If you or I were the military commander on the scene, watching our men being attacked and burned to death, we would have done the same. From everything I know, I can find no fault here.

Here is an eyewitness report from someone who was there, an excerpt from the book ‘Tiananmen Moon’: (5)

“There was a new element I hadn’t noticed much of before, young punks decidedly less than student-like in appearance. In the place of headbands and signed shirts with university pins they wore cheap, ill-fitting polyester clothes and loose windbreakers. Under our lights, their eyes gleaming with mischief, they brazenly revealed hidden Molotov cocktails. Who were these punks in shorts and sandals, carrying petrol bombs? Gasoline is tightly rationed, so they could not have come up with these things spontaneously. Who taught them to make bottle bombs and for whom were the incendiary devices intended?

Someone shouted that another APC was heading our way. My pace quickened as I approached the stalled vehicle, infected by the toxic glee of the mob, but then I caught myself. Why was I rushing towards trouble? Because everyone else was? I slowed down to a trot in the wake of a thundering herd of one mass mind. Breaking with the pack, I stopped running. Someone tossed a Molotov cocktail, setting the APC on fire. Flames spread quickly over the top of the vehicle and spilled onto the pavement. I thought, there’s somebody still inside of that, it’s not just a machine! There must be people inside.

Someone protectively pulled me away to join a handful of head-banded students who sought to exert some control. Expending what little moral capital his hunger strike signature saturated shirt still exerted, he spoke up for the soldier. “Let the man out,” he cried. “Help the soldier, help him get out!” The agitated congregation was in no mood for mercy. Angry, blood-curdling voices ricocheted around us. “Kill the mother fucker!” one said. Then another voice, even more chilling than the first screamed, “He is not human, he is a thing.” “Kill it, kill it!” shouted bystanders, bloody enthusiasm now whipped up to a high pitch. “Stop! Don’t hurt him!” Meng pleaded, leaving me behind as he tried to reason with the vigilantes. “Stop, he is just a soldier!” “He is not human, kill him, kill him!” said a voice. “Get back, get back!” someone screamed at the top of his lungs. “Leave him alone, the soldiers are not our enemy!” After the limp bodies of the soldiers were put into an ambulance, the thugs attacked the ambulance, almost ripping off the rear doors in an attempt to remove the burned soldier and finish him off. After that, charred bodies of soldiers were hung from a lamp post, and a large amount of ammunition was taken from the APC.” (6) 

From a Government Report on the Worker’s Riot:

“Rioters blocked military and other vehicles before they smashed and burned them. They also seized guns, ammunition and transceivers. Several rioters seized an armored car and fired its guns as they drove it along the street. Rioters also assaulted civilian installations and public buildings. Several rioters even drove a public bus loaded with gasoline drums towards the Tiananmen gatetower in an attempt to set fire to it. When a military vehicle suddenly broke down on Chang’An Avenue, rioters surrounded it and crushed the driver with bricks. The rioters savagely beat and killed many soldiers and officers. At Chongwenmen, a soldier was thrown down from the flyover and burned alive. At Fuchengmen, a soldier’s body was hung upside down on the overpass balustrade after he had been killed. Near a cinema, an officer was beaten to death, and his body strung up on a burning bus.

Over 1,280 vehicles were burned or damaged in the rebellion, including over 1,000 military trucks, more than 60 armored cars, over 30 police cars, over 120 public buses and trolley buses and over 70 motor vehicles of other kinds. The martial law troops, having suffered heavy casualties before being forced to fire into the air to clear the way forward. During the counter-attack, some rioters were killed, some onlookers were hit by stray bullets and some wounded or killed by armed ruffians. According to reliable statistics, more than 3,000 civilians were wounded and over 200, including 36 college students, were killed. As well, more than 6,000 law officers and soldiers were injured and scores of them killed.” (Cables from the US Embassy in Beijing confirmed the basics of this report as well as the casualty estimates). (4)

Though conclusive direct evidence is still thin, it appears a certainty the revolt had considerable outside help. In addition to the curious timing, there is too much evidence of advance preparation for violence and supply of the weaponry used. Gasoline was tightly rationed at the time, and unavailable in the volume required for this event. Black hands arranged the supply lines and provided instructions for the manufacture and use of the gasoline bombs which were almost unheard of in China before that time.

There are also too many signs of external incitement in the still-unidentified third group, whose violent actions in no way represented the sentiment of the attending public. The enormity of violence unleashed at Muxidi requires considerable prior emotional programming and could not possibly have originated spontaneously from a simple workers’ strike, almost a guarantee of external interference. Disaffected citizens in any country may parade and protest from real or imagined grievances, but burning young soldiers to death and stringing their charred bodies from lampposts, are not the acts of naive students wanting “democracy” or of workers protesting an inadequate social contract. (7) They are almost always the result of substantial programmed incitement from behind the scenes, usually directed to regime change.

The Student Protest

Briefly, the students congregated in the Square and waited for an opportunity to present various petitions dealing with social policy, perceived corruption, idealism, in fact the same things that we as students all had on our list of changes we wanted to make in the world. Since the government did not immediately respond, the students camped in the square and waited. Government officials held talks with the students for several weeks, and finally set a June 4 deadline for evacuation of the Square. Soldiers were sent to the Square on the day prior, but they were unarmed and carried only billy sticks. By all reports, there was no animosity between the students and the soldiers. Neither had a philosophical dispute with the other, nor did they see each other as enemies. In fact, photos and reports show the students protecting the soldiers from angry bystanders.

Discussions were held between the students and the soldiers at repeated times during the evening and throughout the night. Almost all of the students were persuaded to leave the Square during the evening, and the small remainder left the following morning. Tanks and bulldozers did enter the Square the following morning, flattening all the tents and rubbish that had piled up during the previous three weeks, pushing the garbage into huge piles and setting them afire. This was the apparent origin of claims that “thousands of students” were crushed by tanks streaming through the Square, but this was just the clean-up crew and the students were long gone when the bulldozers and heavy machinery arrived. There is overwhelming documented evidence from a multitude of reputable sources (8-15) that no violence occurred in the Square, that no students were killed, and that there never was any “Tiananmen Square Massacre”. Gunfire was apparently heard in the distance, but the few reports of gunfire from within the Square itself were later quickly discredited and, as mentioned above, the soldiers in the Square were not armed. (16)

From Roberto Petitpas on Vimeo.

Subtitled in CH, DE, EN, FI, FR, HZ/HR, NL, PT, RO, SI, SP, RU



(scrolling the page, after the videos) or by the end of this article

The Ever-Present Black Hand

It seems plausible that the student movement in China during the late 1980s may, at its origin, have generated spontaneously, but there is no shortage of evidence that the entire movement was quickly hijacked by agencies of the US government long before the students gathered at Tiananmen Square. It has taken some time to open locked doors and ferret out details, but it is no longer in dispute that the leaders of China’s student movement were trained in Hong Kong and Guangdong by Col. Robert Helvey, an officer of the Defense Intelligence Agency of the Pentagon, who spent 30 years instigating revolutions throughout Asia on behalf of the military and the CIA. (17)

There is little reason to question the assertion that a major part of US foreign policy then, as today, lay in attempts to destabilise China and perhaps instigate a massive revolution that would open the door to US influence and control. It is increasingly clear today that the student movement in 1989 was a major part of that strategy, orchestrated by the US State Department with the full approval of then President George Bush. (18)

I live in China and was for many years the editor of a widely-read newsletter that gave me trusted access to about 2,500 middle and high-level corporate executives who were university students in China during the period in question, many of whom were involved in the student movement, and more than a few of whom were at Tiananmen Square. I’ve spoken to many of them at length about the student movement and the events of the time. In addition to confirming my observations and conclusions, their comments and testimony strongly suggest that the very idea of a mass confrontation with the government, and the selection of Tiananmen Square as the venue, did not originate with them but were orchestrated ”from somewhere outside”.

It is necessary to understand that the student movement in China in 1989 was categorically not a “pro-democracy movement”. At its origin the student protest was primarily pragmatic civics, and secondly Chinese cultural. The students visioned themselves intellectual protesters, not political activists, with no thought of their government replicating the political structure of the West. From my discussions with many former students, the references to ‘democracy’ were imposed upon them by their CIA handlers as the best method of realising their practical and cultural ends. And these cultural ends were not necessarily very deep. Wu’er Kaixi, one of the student leaders, responded to questions about his participation by saying (in different words) “Because we want to wear Western brands and take our girlfriends to bars like the Americans do.”

Many of the students with whom I spoke, particularly those who were actually present at the Square, have told me of the supplies provided for them by various US government sources. They especially mentioned the countless hundreds of Coleman camp stoves – which at the time were far too expensive for students in China to acquire, and many commented on the well-established supply lines of these and other items. Adding to the student supplies were manuals, instructions, training, strategy and tactics, and the patiently inflammatory rhetoric of the VOA broadcasts from Hong Kong. It is not possible to sensibly challenge the assertion that the puppet-masters were American.

According to a government report, many Americans were active in stage-managing the student leaders, in violation of the martial law decrees operative in parts of Beijing at the time. John Pomfret, now of the Washington Post, was an AP correspondent in Beijing, and an important information conduit for the ringleaders, and Alan Pessin, a VOA correspondent in Beijing at the time, violated the restrictions by his illegal VOA news coverage, and repeatedly dispatched distorted reports, spreading false rumors and encouraging both rebellion and violence among the students. (19)

John Promfet

Alan Pessin

What Really Happened in Tiananmen Square 25 Years Ago

Most university students of that day will tell you of the influence of the VOA and the picture it painted of “freedom and democracy”. They tell of listening to the VOA in their dorms late into the night, building in their imaginations a happy world of freedom and light. The Voice of America:

“The world’s most trusted source for news and information from the United States and around the world.”

They also confirm that the VOA was broadcasting to the students 24 hours a day from their Hong Kong station during the weeks of the sit-in at Tiananmen Square, offering provocative encouragement and giving advice on strategy and tactics.

One of the original participants in the student sit-in wrote this:

“We settled down and continued with our study. We dated, found our loved ones, and many sought to go abroad. By the time we graduated there was almost no discussion about the student movement and we no longer listened to the VOA. One thing I have been kept thinking was the role of the VOA. Many students were the fans of the radio station before, during and shortly after the student movement. Even when we were on the square many students were listening to their programs as if only they could tell us what was going on. I remember at one stage . . . I realized how stupid I was . . .”

Another student made these comments:

“But it was true that the 1989 student movement was being manipulated by someone, wasn’t it? The students had nothing but emotions and superficial knowledge of politics. We started only demanding the cleaning up of corruption by officials, yet the slogans were somehow led through a transformation into ones “demanding democracy”.

There is a huge difference in political implication between these two classes of demands. So what was democracy? What kind of democracy was practiced in the west? What kind of democracy would befit China? Frankly, I (we) didn’t have clue. In other words, I didn’t know what I really wanted. I simply had this … resulting impulse to go onto the street and shout slogans. It was as if I participated just to participate and I was moved by the simple fact of experiencing a students movement. And then things got out of control. But because the student leaders refused to change stance, the students wouldn’t back off. So the whole thing dragged on. Yet a miracle happened, those “leaders” somehow managed to escape unharmed. For many years since 1989, I had been reluctant to accept that I and the other students were actually so stupid and naive to be truly manipulated by others behind the scene.”

The perception in the West, and also in China, has always been that the student congregation in Tiananmen Square was spontaneous, idealistic and, above all, peaceful. It may at its origin have been idealistic, but it was in no way spontaneous and, by May and June, the underlying peacefulness was rapidly coming to an end. In 1995, two American filmmakers at the Longbow Group, Dr. Carma Hinton and Richard Gordon, released a now-famous documentary on Tiananmen Square titled “The Gate of Heavenly Peace”. (20) Chai Ling, the Tiananmen students’ self-proclaimed “Supreme Commander”, for years pursued lawsuits against the film company (21), primarily because the documentary included incriminating video dated May 28, 1989, of her in an interview with American journalist Philip Cunningham:

“The students kept asking, ‘What should we do next? What can we accomplish?’ I feel so sad, because how can I tell them that what we are actually hoping for is bloodshed, for the moment when the government has no choice but to brazenly butcher the people (i.e. the students: Ed.). Only when the Square is awash with blood will the people of China open their eyes. Only then will they really be united. But how can I explain this to my fellow students? I can’t say all this to my fellow students. I can’t tell them straight out that we must use our blood and our lives to call on the people to rise up. Of course, the students will be willing. But they are still such young children! And what is truly sad is that some students, and famous well-connected people, are working hard to help the government, to prevent it from taking such measures. For the sake of their selfish interests and their private dealings they are trying to cause our movement to collapse and get us out of the Square before the government becomes so desperate that it takes action.”

If this isn’t clear, Chai Ling is openly stating her intention to provoke the government to a violent military solution, filling Tiananmen Square with the blood of the students – for the express purpose of “uniting the people” to incite a widespread political revolution. She then laments that (1) she cannot reveal to the students that their lives are meant to be sacrificed for this cause, and (2) “what is truly sad” is that some people, “for the sake of their selfish interests” are seeking to avoid bloodshed by preventing the government from resorting to violent measures, and seeking to disband the student protests before they themselves turn violent.

Cunningham then asked, “Are you going to stay in the Square yourself?” “No, I won’t.” “Why?” Chai replied, “Because my situation is different. I want to live. . . . I believe that others have to continue the work I have started. A democracy movement can’t succeed with only one person!” And finally, “I might as well say it – you, the Chinese, you are not worth my struggle! You are not worth my sacrifice!”

In the video there is a damning reference to American cold-bloodedness in directing the student protests, a literal confession by Chai Ling that, after the students had already voted to end their protest and leave the Square, her Hong Kong handlers still pushed her and the students to remain in the square and continue to agitate until they provoked their own bloodshed, encouraging them to sacrifice their lives as the only way to attract the world attention and sympathy which had somehow now become crucial to their cause. Transcripts and video of her entire interview along with reader comments are available online. (22)

The American plan was to incite the students to not only irritate but eventually enrage the Chinese government sufficiently to provoke a violent crackdown against the students, with the expectation this would in turn provoke the general population into a ‘color revolution’ resulting in the overthrow of the government and the collapse of China. In accord with this plan, the students were pushed to begin demanding “democracy”, quickly followed by insistent and intractable demands that the government step down. As part of the process, the students were given details on the construction of a huge papier-mâché “goddess of democracy” statue in the Square. In an intelligence summary prepared for then US Secretary of State James A. Baker dated June 2, 1989, the hope was noted that the statue would “anger top leaders and prompt a response”, stating that the students (or, factually more likely, the US government) hoped the erection of the statue would provoke “an overreaction by authorities (and) breathe new life into their flagging movement.” (23) In all cases in all countries, students and young people are co-opted into a US attempt at regime change. Westerners may not easily appreciate that Beijing in 1989 was not different in any material aspect.

After the Government declared martial law, Chai Ling’s American puppet-masters rapidly escalated their offensive by having her distribute leaflets inciting armed rebellion against the Government, calling upon the students and the general public to “organize armed forces and oppose the Communist Party and its government”, going so far as to actually make a list of names of government officials they planned to kill, encouraging the students to obtain firearms for the purpose. She claimed they would never yield and “would fight to the finish” with the government, scheming until past the end to provoke a bloody incident in Tiananmen Square.

China was spared a national catastrophe primarily by the patient and non-threatening stance of the government which served to dampen the inflammatory rhetoric emerging from the VOA and their handlers in Beijing and the urging toward bloodshed by their stage managers in Hong Kong. The result was that when the deadline approached for the evacuation of the Square, the students abandoned their “Supreme Commander” and agreed to leave peacefully, meaning that the Americans simply ran out of time. My feeling is that China was protected by Providence, because the specter of violence and bloodshed may have been very near indeed. (24)

Intricate plans had been made in advance to spirit the student leaders out of China when the hoped-for bloodshed began. Operation Yellowbird (25)was a Hong Kong-based CIA scheme to help the leaders of the student protests and of the violence at Muxidi to escape arrest under the diplomatic protection of the American Embassy, by offering political sanctuary, by the advance issue of US passports, and by arranging their escape from China. The CIA was central in this, but the UK MI6 and the French intelligence agencies were also involved. When the protests failed and the students dispersed, the primary leaders fled first to Hong Kong, then to the US. (26) Some of the leaders of the violence in Muxidi were helped to flee, while others where sheltered in the American Embassy in Beijing, the Americans refusing to surrender them to the Chinese authorities. (27)

As well, for their efforts to destroy their own country, these student leaders were handsomely rewarded by the Americans with prestigious university degrees, good jobs, and CIA salaries for continuing to incite political instability in China. Chai Ling was given an honorary degree in political science from Princeton university and a job with the management consultancy of Bain & Co., as well as being the salaried head of an NGO especially created for her and tasked with condemning China’s then one-child policy. Wu’er Kaixi, who was actually a troublesome and unstable Uigur named Uerkesh Daolet, was rewarded with a free pass to Harvard university. Liu Xiaobo remained in China on a CIA stipend of $30,000 per year, tasked with irritating the Chinese government under direction from the US State Department.

The Path Forward

The Americans succeeded, perhaps beyond their wildest expectations, with the inflamed violence in Muxidi, but failed miserably in their main effort which was the provocation of bloodshed in Tiananmen Square, which offered the possible prize of a revolution and the overthrow of the government.

The most immediate problem faced by the US State Department was that their success in Muxidi was not a particularly useful victory from a political standpoint since it had no long-term propaganda value. Nobody in the West, especially when seeing photos of the carnage produced, would have much sympathy for a workers’ revolt in a far-away country, and it would have ceased being news within a day or two. What the Americans wanted, and badly needed, the prize they were hoping for, was photos of dead student bodies and student blood in thestreets since these infallibly draw universal condemnation. But, with the peaceful resolution in Tiananmen Square, these didn’t exist, so they gathered the photos of the carnage and dead bodies from Muxidi and presented those to the world as evidence of a student massacre in Tiananmen Square by the Chinese government, a totally fabricated story.

By the time the students voted to evacuate the Square and even before the violence in Muxidi had subsided, plans were already well in place for more than the evacuation of the leaders. Without exception, the Western media in all countries immediately published identical claims and photos, consistently omitting all the contradictory evidence. Every photographer who took photos at Muxidi knew where he took them, and he and the media editors knew full well those photos were not taken in Tiananmen Square. It is not possible that more than 200 newspaper editors and more than 100 TV station news managers in more than 30 countries mis-captioned the same photos in the same way by carelessness or accident. This is why the Western media suppressed entirely the facts of the violence in Muxidi, and unanimously refused to publish photos of the soldiers burned to a crisp and hanging from lamp posts. They needed the facts and photos for their already-planned “Tiananmen Square Student Massacre” story.

It has been 30 years since the June 4, 1989 student protests in Tiananmen Square. In spite of all the categorical documentation proving there was never any student massacre in China, the US Government and its handlers refuse to let go of their prize because of its powerful political propaganda value, having enabled the West for decades to define China as being “ruled by the jackboot, the rifle, and the thought police”. This has been unquestionably one of the greatest propaganda victories in history, turning a US State Department-sponsored color revolution, albeit a failed one, into a whip that could lash China non-stop for 30 years. It was so successful that the Western media, led by the NYT but followed by nearly everyone, publish in June of every year a kind of “anniversary story” to continue to milk it for its residual propaganda value. This false story has been hammered into the consciousness of Westerners for 30 years, to the point where it is nearly impossible to discuss Tiananmen Square due to the enormous emotional baggage it carries.

Some missing pieces of this story began to fall into place when, in 2011, Wikileaks released all the cables sent to Washington from the US Embassy in Beijing on June 4, 1989, confirming that the student movement ended peacefully and that there had been no violence, no student massacre in Tiananmen Square and, importantly, confirming some important basics of the violence at Muxidi. As well, some highly-respected international journalists, as well as foreign camera crews, and some foreign diplomats, who were present in Tiananmen Square at the time of the student dispersal, have written books and articles testifying that the student sit-in ended peacefully and that the stories of a student massacre at Tiananmen Square are pure fiction.

Faced with this release of evidence, Western media editors and prominent columnists are attempting to prolong this myth by fabricating an entirely new one, this being that it was the students who rigged and manned the barricades at Muxidi to prevent the military from proceeding to Tiananmen Square to kill the students there,so the Chinese government instead massacred the students at Muxidi. (28) There is no evidence whatever to support those claims, and it should be obvious from the above narrative that they are false on all counts. (29) (30)

If there were a massacre in Beijing on June. 4, 1989, it was at Muxidi, not at Tiananmen Square, and the massacre was of soldiers, not students, with all evidence indicating it was engineered by the US Department of State and the CIA. While the American government deserves to take the blame for orchestrating these events, the blame must be shared since the Americans were themselves puppets. The conspiracy against China was wider and deeper than I’ve indicated here.



Mr. Romanoff’s writing has been translated into 32 languages and his articles posted on more than 150 foreign-language news and politics websites in more than 30 countries, as well as more than 100 English language platforms. Larry Romanoff is a retired management consultant and businessman. He has held senior executive positions in international consulting firms, and owned an international import-export business. He has been a visiting professor at Shanghai’s Fudan University, presenting case studies in international affairs to senior EMBA classes. Mr. Romanoff lives in Shanghai and is currently writing a series of ten books generally related to China and the West. He is one of the contributing authors to Cynthia McKinney’s new anthology ‘When China Sneezes’. (Chapt. 2 — Dealing with Demons).


His full archive can be seen at

https://www.bluemoonofshanghai.com/ and https://www.moonofshanghai.com/

He can be contacted at:



(1) From the photos, some appear to be Xinjiang Uigurs, of which there are five distinct groups, four being eminently sociable, the last seeming genetically predisposed to almost any kind of crime.

(2) To produce a unit of this kind would normally involve prior training and cash payment. One reason the US Consulates in China insist on cash-only payments for US visa applications from Chinese citizens (1,000 RMB each) is that this money bypasses the banking system and is freely available for black operations, today producing more than 800 million RMB per year that leaves no paper trail.

(3) Military use for civilian purposes is a normal operation in China for typhoon and flood evacuations, landslide and earthquake rescues, and other similar emergencies. These are not armed soldiers in military vehicles, but simply able-bodied men available on command in the large numbers often required for such occasions. In Muxidi, these were all young men, most appearing from the photos to be perhaps in their early 20s. They were not armed, and arrived at the scene in ordinary city buses. 

(4) The Morning Intelligence Summary for June 4, 1989, for US Secretary of State Baker, described the violence in Muxidi, and referred to how civilians “swarmed around military vehicles. APCs were set on fire, and demonstrators besieged troops with rocks, bottles, and Molotov cocktails.”

(5) I haven’t a link for the availability of this book. I believe it is out of print but may be obtainable as a download from secondary or tertiary websites. 

(6) If we read carefully, it is evident from even this minuscule report that the third group, the ‘mercenaries’, were not acting in concert with either the workers or the students but were unknown outsiders acting against and above the public wishes and pursuing their own agenda of violence for which they had come prepared, and functioning as a team in the carnage they unleashed.

(7) The strikingly similar pattern of uncontrolled violence by China’s Xinjiang Uigurs several years ago, where they bombed police stations, randomly burned hundreds of cars and buses, and killed indiscriminately hundreds of people (mostly police), were not, as the Western media claimed, spontaneous rebellions against intolerance by Beijing, but the result of a deliberate process of emotional programming. After the rebellion was put down, the government found in the hands of these people thousands of foreign-supplied “Otpor” manuals, inflammatory DVDs, instructions on bomb-making, and more, all clearly part of a planned program. The rioting in Hong Kong today exhibits the same fundamentals.

(8) A mere glance at any of the published photos displaying violence or mayhem, will permit anyone with even a passing familiarity with Beijing to see instantly that none of those photos were taken in Tiananmen Square. It was only the world’s lack of knowledge of China that permitted the US government and the international media to perpetrate this enormous fraud. 

(9) One cable sent on June 22, 1989 from the US Embassy in Beijing to the US Department of State in Washington, was a document that, in the words of its authors, “attempts to set the record straight” about the events of the night of June 3-4. It claims that, contrary to the reports in the Western media, any deaths did not occur in Tiananmen Square, but elsewhere. It also confirmed the casualty estimates. The contents of this cable were suppressed for more than 20 years until Wikileaks released it.

(10) In addition to the reports and chronicles from the Chinese government, the cables from the US Embassy in Beijing, and the written testimony of a number of respected journalists and diplomats who were present at the Square, a Spanish News camera crew took live video, which I believe is still available, of the peaceful clearing of the square. The video has never been shown.

(11) The Spanish Ambassador to China, Eugenio Bregolat, was present at the Square with the camera crew and wrote a book on the event, in which he vents his anger at the Western media for fabricating the massacre story. Publishers in English-speaking countries unanimously refuse to print a translation, and Amazon refuses to carry the original.

(12) The Columbia Journalism Review conducted a detailed study in 1998, and published an article written by Jay Matthews, titled “The Myth of Tiananmen And the Price of a Passive Press”; the Columbia Journalism Review; June 4, 2010; https://archives.cjr.org/behind_the_news/the_myth_of_tiananmen.php?page=all

(13) In 2009, James Miles, who was the BBC correspondent in Beijing at the time, admitted he had “conveyed the wrong impression” and that “there was no massacre on Tiananmen Square”, claiming “we got the main story right, but some of the details wrong”.

(14) New York Times, June 05, 1989. Article by Nicholas Kristoff confirming a peaceful end to the student sit-in.

(15) Birth of a Massacre Myth; How the West Manufactured an Event that Never Occurred; Japan Times; Monday, July 21, 2008, By Gregory Clark; https://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2008/07/21/commentary/birth-of-a-massacre-myth/

(16) “Live Reports” were published from some Western reporters detailing the view from their windows of the Beijing hotel of hundreds of students being mowed down by machine guns. Their reports were ridiculed and condemned by others who revealed that the Square cannot be seen from the Beijing Hotel. Similar claims were made by Wu’er Kaixi, the Uigur student leader, also discredited when foreign reporters stated that he was seen in a far side of Beijing at the time he claimed to have seen those events.

(17) Helvey organised student revolutions in Vietnam and Myanmar, along with Otpor! in Serbia, Kmara! in Georgia, Pora! in Ukraine, Czechoslovakia’s “Velvet revolution” in 1989, then spreading his talents to Africa and South America. Helvey was associated with Gene Sharp in the George Soros-funded Einstein Institute, formed in 1983 as an offshoot of Harvard University to specialise in organising student political protests as a form of US colonial warfare. It was Sharp and Helvey who created the Otpor manuals that began the process of the destruction of Jugoslavia. 

(18) Near the end of May, 1989, Wan Li, the Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, was in Washington for a meeting with then President George Bush, in which Wan raised the issue of the student protest in Beijing. The record of the meeting is too heavily redacted to create much understanding or draw conclusions but, after the meeting, Wan abruptly cut short his US visit, returned home, and publicly supported the dire necessity for the government’s prior declaration of martial law. 

(19) The VOA is operated by the NED – the National Endowment for Democracy – a front company funded by the CIA that does much of that agency’s dirty work not involving actual killing – although sometimes it does that, too. The VOA is funded for its public activities by the US State Department, and by the CIA for its participation in black ops.

(20)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiananmen _(documentary

(21) Longbow lawsuit: The New Yorker; May 7, 2009 The American Dream: The Lawsuit

(22) TAM Transcript Index; Chai Ling; http://www.tsquare.tv/film/transcript_complete.php

(23) Tiananmen Square, 1989: The Declassified History; Edited By Jeffrey T. Richelson and Michael L. Evans; National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 16; Published – June 1, 1999; http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/index.html 

(24) For the potential showdown in Tiananmen Square, the workers’ protest, and the mercenary violence in Muxidi, it is difficult to believe the simultaneity was accidental. The theory that appears to fit all the known facts is that the workers’ revolt, with the mercenary violence separately coordinated and injected into the picture, was timed to coincide with the hoped-for Tiananmen bloodshed with the intent of reducing much of Beijing to violence and anarchy, resulting in a range of unpleasant possibilities. It nearly happened just this way.

(25) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Yellowbird

(26) In those days, travel to Hong Kong was not quick and easy as today, so some clever logistics were necessary, Chai Ling claiming to have been shipped to Hong Kong in a suitcase.

(27) Many diplomatic problems resulted from the US government’s interference in China’s internal affairs at the time. In addition to stoking revolutionary fires in the students and fueling the violence at Muxidi, the US government was condemned for providing sanctuary in the US Embassy for several of the Chinese riot leaders, and on June 11 a US Embassy cable reported that Chinese radio and TV stations read official letters on the air, accusing the US government of not only actively supporting political rebels but providing refuge for the “criminals who created the violence” at Muxidi. (18) The Western media entirely censored all such news.

(28) US Embassy confirms China’s version of Tiananmen Square events; Cables obtained by Wikileaks confirm China’s account. UK Telegraph, By Malcolm Moore, Shanghai; 04 Jun 2011;


(29) Students were not involved in arranging the protest at Muxidi though a few may have been in attendance. The square already had a contingent of soldiers and was in no need of reinforcement, the military may have entered Muxidi with guns firing, but students were not the target, and in any case the students had already voted to clear the square before the violence erupted at Muxidi.

(30) It should be noted that the truncated version of the famous “tank man” photo, which was taken a day or two later, of a single young man apparently defying several military tanks, was used to embellish the hoax. The wide-angle view of that photo shows a long string of military vehicles on a totally unrelated passage down Chang’An Avenue and through the Square and, in any case, they were clearly leaving, not arriving.

Interview with Juan Restrepo – RTVE correspondent for more than three decades and a direct witness to the events in Tiananmen Square.

ROLL the page until you find the interview


The original source of this article is Global Research

Copyright © Larry RomanoffMoon of Shanghai, 2020


Clearance of the Tiananmen Square on June 4 1989 – CN from Roberto Petitpas on Vimeo.

Clearance of the Tiananmen Square on June 4 1989 – DE from Roberto Petitpas on Vimeo.

Clearance of the Tiananmen Square on June 4 1989 – EN from Roberto Petitpas on Vimeo.

Clearance of the Tiananmen Square on June 4 1989 – FI from Roberto Petitpas on Vimeo

Clearance of the Tiananmen Square on June 4 1989 – FR from Roberto Petitpas on Vimeo.

Clearance of the Tiananmen Square on June 4 1989 – HR from Roberto Petitpas on Vimeo.

Clearance of the Tiananmen Square on June 4 1989 – NL from Roberto Petitpas on Vimeo.

Clearance of the Tiananmen Square on June 4 1989 – PT from Roberto Petitpas on Vimeo.

Clearance of the Tiananmen Square on June 4 1989 – RO from Roberto Petitpas on Vimeo.

Clearance of the Tiananmen Square on June 4 1989 – ES from Roberto Petitpas on Vimeo.

Clearance of the Tiananmen Square on June 4 1989 – RU from Roberto Petitpas on Vimeo.

 Subtitles in CH, DE, EN, FI, FR, HZ, NL, PT, RO, SI, SP, RU







Unarmed soldiers with protesters

Chinese military and the protesters singing
songs to one another in a friendly duel. This was the climate for many weeks.
The Chinese government and most of the protesters never expected the situation
to escalate.

The influence of westerners in Tiananmen Square
is obvious, looking at all the large signs in English, expressing American

Here’s a picture of protesters giving food to
the Chinese soldiers.


 Those who came to
mourn Hu Yaobang, the beloved communist leader. In the
beginning, these entirely comprised the group at Tiananmen Square. These
students and workers were communists who loved Mao
. They were not
looking to be rescued by America.



Then there those who
just came out to hang out, socialize and have fun.



Juan Restrepo: «El periodismo no puede ser un oficio de fanáticos y partisanos»

 Guzmán Urrero

26 minutos de lectura

Juan Restrepo — Aunque últimamente parece que lo olvidamos, el centro del periodismo no reside en el negocio de las opiniones, sino en los hechos y en su descripción equilibrada. Ese compromiso con la verdad es lo que impulsa la admirable carrera de Juan Restrepo, corresponsal de RTVE durante más de tres décadas y testigo directo de algunos de los acontecimientos decisivos de nuestra historia reciente. Entre otras experiencias cargadas de significado, Restrepo encabezó el único equipo televisivo presente en la plaza de Tiananmen durante aquella trágica noche del 3 al 4 de junio de 1989. Dialogar con él equivale a recuperar los principios esenciales de este oficio que nos permite poner la realidad entre comillas. Y es que, como decía Ciryl Connolly, «el mejor periodismo es la conversación de un gran conversador».



Juan Restrepo: «Journalism cannot be a job for fanatics and partisans»

  Guzman Urrero

26 minute reading

Juan Restrepo  — Although lately we seem to forget it, the center of journalism does not lie in the business of opinions, but in facts and their balanced description. This commitment to the truth is what drives the admirable career of Juan Restrepo, RTVE correspondent for more than three decades and a direct witness to some of the decisive events in our recent history. Among other experiences full of meaning, Restrepo headed the only television team present in Tiananmen Square during that tragic night of June 3-4, 1989. Talking with him is equivalent to recovering the essential principles of this profession that allows us to put reality between quotation marks. And, as Ciryl Connolly said, “the best journalism is to talk with a great conversationalist.”

…… ..

EXCERPT OF THE INTERVIEW TO Juan Restrepo journalist of RTVE

Juan Restrepo — Desde Manila empecé a cubrir Extremo Oriente hasta que en 1989, una serie de circunstancias hicieron que me tocara ser testigo, precisamente en el país que más me interesaba, de un acontecimiento que fue un hito en la historia contemporánea de China.

Juan Restrepo — From Manila I began to cover the Far East until in 1989, a series of circumstances made me to witness, precisely in the country that most interested me, an event that was a milestone in the contemporary history of China.

Gusman Urrero — A eso iba a referirme ahora… En la madrugada del 3 al 4 de junio de 1989, te encontrabas en la Plaza de Tiananmen junto al cámara José Luis Márquez y al asistente Fermín Rodríguez. Fuisteis los únicos periodistas testigos de aquel desalojo. Aquel día obtuviste una exclusiva mundial, una de esas que pasan a la historia de la profesión. Antes de que actuase el Ejército, ¿llegaste a pensar que el movimiento estudiantil iba a acabar con el régimen comunista?

Gusman Urrero — That’s what I was going to refer to now … In the early morning of June 3-4, 1989, you were in Tiananmen Square with cameraman José Luis Márquez and assistant Fermín Rodríguez. You were the only journalists who witnessed that eviction. That day you got a world exclusive, one of those that go down in the history of the profession. Before the Army acted, did you ever think that the student movement was going to end the communist regime?

Juan Restrepo Sí, lo pensé. Y no solo yo, lo pensaron muchos colegas que estuvieron allí aquellos más de dos meses de crisis y lo pensaron muchas cancillerías en el mundo. Lo que estaba pasando en los países de influencia soviética y en la propia Unión Soviética nos hizo creer que China también se abriría, que el régimen comunista vivía sus últimos días. No contamos con que en China los parámetros son siempre diferentes a aquellos con los que medimos las cosas en Occidente.

Juan Restrepo Yes, I did. And not only me, and so did many colleagues who were there for more than two months of crisis, as well as many foreign ministries in the world. What was happening in the countries of Soviet influence and in the Soviet Union itself made us believe that China would also open up, that the communist regime was living its last days. We do not consider that in China the parameters are always different from those with which we measure things in the West.

Gusman Urrero (G.U.) — El asunto que llevó a tantos periodistas occidentales a China en ese momento fue el encuentro entre los dos grandes líderes del comunismo mundial. ¿Qué pasa cuando un gran acontecimiento se transforma, cuando hay que improvisar, cuando las circunstancias cambian? ¿Cambian también las condiciones de trabajo?

Gusman Urrero (G.U.) — The issue that brought so many Western journalists to China at that time was the meeting between the two great leaders of world communism. What happens when a great event is transformed, when you have to improvise, when circumstances change? Are working conditions also changing?

Juan Restrepo Como ya dije, tenía entonces mi sede en Manila como corresponsal en Extremo Oriente. Desde allí me desplazaba por la región con un equipo compuesto por una operadora de cámara norteamericana y su ayudante filipino. Trabajábamos en mucha armonía y, como ocurría siempre que había algún acontecimiento previsible, habíamos pedido visado para viajar los tres a Pekín, con motivo de la visita de Mijail Gorbachov a China el 15 de mayo de aquel año.

Juan Restrepo  — As I already said, I was then based in Manila as a correspondent in the Far East. From there I would travel around the region with a team made up of a North American camera operator and her Filipino assistant. We worked in great harmony and, as always happened when there was a foreseeable event, we had applied for a visa to travel the three of us to Beijing, on the occasion of Mikhail Gorbachev’s visit to China on May 15 of that year.

Nos preparábamos para salir cuando recibí un télex desde Torrespaña indicándome que debía dejar en Manila a mis dos colaboradores y que en Pekín trabajaría con los equipos que iban de Madrid, también a cubrir aquel encuentro entre los dirigentes de los dos grandes países comunistas del mundo, Gorbachov y Deng Xiaoping. Las instrucciones no me hicieron ninguna gracia, pero tuve que acatarlas y tuve que ir solo a Pekín a encontrarme con la gente que había ido desde Madrid.

We were getting ready to leave when I received a telex from Torrespaña telling me that I should leave my two collaborators in Manila and that in Beijing I would work with the teams that were going from Madrid, also to cover that meeting between the leaders of the two great communist countries of the world, Gorbachev and Deng Xiaoping. The instructions did not please me, but I had to follow them and I had to go alone to Beijing to meet the people who had come from Madrid.

Se daba la circunstancia de que el director de los Informativos había cambiado no hacía mucho debido a la dimisión de Pilar Miró, por el escándalo que se levantó con la compra de un vestuario personal. Aquí debo añadir que aquel traspaso de poderes no había sido precisamente una ceremonia versallesca. El nuevo director de los Informativos, Diego Carcedo, que vino a reemplazar a Julio de Benito, llegó de Nueva York con un memorial de agravios importante en la maleta. Julio de Benito lo había cesado un año antes en la corresponsalía de TVE en Nueva York, según me contó el propio Julio, por instrucciones directas de Pilar Miró, porque a la directora general no le gustaba la forma en que el corresponsal en aquella ciudad cubría la enfermedad del presidente norteamericano. Ronald Regan tenía cáncer de nariz y la manera en que Carcedo informaba de aquel asunto tenía para Pilar un tonillo de guasa, por lo que terminó dando la orden de cesarlo en el cargo.

It happened that the director of the News had changed not long ago due to the resignation of Pilar Miró, due to the scandal that arose with the purchase of a personal wear (personal ladies’ clothing). Here I must add that the transfer of powers had not exactly been a Versailles ceremony. The new director of the News, Diego Carcedo, who came to replace Julio de Benito, arrived from New York with an important memorial of grievances in his suitcase. Julio de Benito had stopped him a year before in the TVE correspondent in New York, according to what Julio himself told me, by direct instructions from Pilar Miró, because the general director (Pilar Miró)did not like the way the correspondent in that city covered the illness of the American President. Ronald Regan had nose cancer and for Pilar the way in which Carcedo reported that matter was similar as a joke, so she ended up giving the order to dismiss him from office.

Pilar Miró estaba en las antípodas ideológicas de Reagan pero tenía claro que era el presidente de una nación amiga y merecía respeto. Carcedo, que por diversos motivos personales no quería salir de Nueva York, se las arregló para lo nombraran delegado de la Agencia EFE en aquella ciudad hasta que fue llamado por el nuevo director general en Madrid a asumir el cargo de director de Informativos. Llegó, pues, calentito con todos los que pertenecíamos al equipo de Pilar, de modo que cuando recibí la orden de viajar solo a China no pude ni plantear que se me permitiera llevar al equipo de Manila. Yo no era de la confianza del nuevo director de los Informativos.

Pilar Miró was in the ideological antipodes of Reagan but was clear that he was the president of a friendly nation and deserved respect. Carcedo, who for various personal reasons did not want to leave New York, managed to be appointed as delegate of the EFE Agency in that city until he was called by the new General Director in Madrid to assume the position of News’ director. So he arrived in a little bit touchy with all of us who belonged to Pilar’s team, so that when I received the order to travel alone to China, I couldn’t even suggest that I be allowed to take the Manila team. I was not trusted by the new Director of the News.

Llegué al hotel Sheraton Great Wall de Pekín, al nororiente de la ciudad, cerca de la zona de las embajadas, y allí me encontré con los colegas que habían ido desde Madrid. Por razones que no vienen ahora a cuento, el ambiente de trabajo era tenso, surgían entre ellos a diario pequeñas discusiones por las cosas más banales e intrascendentes. Recuerdo que, casi a diario, pasaba por nuestras improvisadas oficinas en el hotel un fotógrafo de la revista Interviú que, cuando las oía, decía que los de Televisión Española estaban en los momentos de catarsis diaria.

I arrived at the Sheraton Great Wall hotel in Beijing, in the northeast of the city, near the Embassies’ area, and there I met my colleagues who had come from Madrid. For reasons that are not relevant now, the work environment was tense, small discussions arose between them daily about the most banal and inconsequential things. I remember that, almost every day, a photographer from the Interviú magazine passed by our makeshift offices in the hotel who, when he heard our discussions, said that those from Televisión Española were in moments of daily catharsis.

Para mí aquello resultaba muy desagradable y más, como ya he dicho, habiendo tenido que prescindir del equipo con el que trabajaba en tanta armonía. Llevaba, además, más de dos años sin trabajar con cámaras de Madrid. Y aquí hace falta que me detenga nuevamente en el camino que llevamos hacia la noche de Tiananmen. En Televisión Española, en esa época –no sé cuales son las costumbres hoy–, había un soterrado enfrentamiento entre algunos cámaras –no todos, tengo que decirlo– y los redactores. Para empezar, no permitían que se les llamase “cámaras” sino “reporteros gráficos”. Además, había un grupito, entre los que estaba José Luis Márquez, que se consideraban los verdaderos factótum de la televisión. “Nosotros tomamos las imágenes, la televisión es imagen, por tanto nosotros somos los que hacemos la televisión” era más o menos su lema, y de manera incluso abierta, tendían a desatender lo que les pedía el redactor o a hacerlo de mala gana.

For me that situation was very unpleasant and more, as I have said, having had to do without the team with which I worked in harmony. In addition, I had not worked for more than two years with cameramen from Madrid. And here it is necessary for me to stop again on the way that we take to the Tiananmen night. In Spanish Television, at that time – I don’t know what the habits/trends (abitudini/tendenze) are today – there was a hidden confrontation between some cameramen – not all of them, I have to say – and the editors. To begin with, they did not allow themselves to be called “cameramen” but “photojournalists.” In addition, there was a small group, among which was José Luis Márquez, who considered themselves the true factotum of television. “We take the images, television is image, therefore we are the ones who make television” was more or less their motto, and even openly, they tended to disregard what the editor asked of them or to do it reluctantly.

A mí aquella actitud me resultaba impresentable. En todo trabajo hay jerarquías y por más que los cámaras españoles se considerasen por encima de los redactores, la manera de hacer televisión en todo el mundo funcionaba así: un redactor daba la orden y el cámara debía atender a lo que se le pedía, por más que ellos pensasen otra cosa. Si a esto se agrega la tensión que ya he descrito antes entre diversos miembros del equipo llegado de Madrid –redactores, productores, editores de imagen– tenemos el cuadro del ambiente en el que me tocó trabajar.

That attitude was unpresentable/smart to me. In all work there are hierarchies and no matter how much Spanish cameramen considered themselves above editors, the way of doing television around the world worked like this: an editor gave the order and the cameraman had to attend to what was asked of him, for more than they thought otherwise. If to this is added the tension that I have already described before between different members of the team from Madrid – editors, producers, image’ editors – we have the picture of the environment in which I had to work.

Todos llegamos antes de la visita de Gorbachov pero las manifestaciones callejeras y ocupación de la plaza por parte de los estudiantes y gentes del pueblo de Pekín llevaban desde el 15 de abril, cuando se supo la muerte de Hu Yaobang, que fue la espoleta que disparó la protesta contra el régimen de Pekín. Dos días antes de la toma de la plaza por el ejército, una columna de policías militares procedentes de las provincias, muy jóvenes e inexpertos, trató de despejar la plaza, y en las inmediaciones de Tiananmen fueron desarmados y sometidos públicamente a fuertes reprimendas por parte de los estudiantes en las horas de la madrugada.

We all arrived before Gorbachev‘s visit, but the street demonstrations and occupation of the square by students and people from the people of Beijing had been going on since April 15, when was learned the death of Hu Yaobang, who was the fuse that fired the protest against the Beijing regime. Two days before the army seized the square, a column of very young and inexperienced military police from the provinces tried to clear the square, and in the vicinity of Tiananmen they were disarmed and publicly subjected to strong reprimands by students in the early morning hours.

Aquello fue uno de los tantos episodios extraños que vivimos en Pekín esos días, pero lo traigo a cuento para ilustrar mejor lo que te he dicho hasta ahora. En un momento determinado, cuando estábamos grabando todas aquellas secuencias un poco surrealistas, se me ocurrió pedirle al cámara que hiciera unas tomas de un macuto con comida que había por allí tirado por el suelo. Lo recuerdo perfectamente. Entonces Márquez, absolutamente furioso, dejó la cámara en el suelo y se marchó. El ayudante, Fermín Rodríguez, tomó entonces el aparato e hizo lo que pudo, pues no podíamos perder lo que estaba ocurriendo en aquella calle.

That was one of the many strange episodes that we lived in Beijing those days, but I bring it to mind to better illustrate what I have told you so far. At a certain point, when we were recording all those somewhat surreal sequences, it occurred to me to ask the cameraman to take some shots of a bag with food that was lying around on the ground. I remember perfectly. Then Márquez, absolutely furious, put the camera on the ground and left. The assistant, Fermín Rodríguez, then took the device and did what he could, because we could not lose what was happening on that street.

Eran cerca de las tres de la mañana. Un episodio como estos en una televisión norteamericana, por ejemplo, habría valido para que el redactor llamase a su sede, informase de lo ocurrido y su protagonista terminase de patitas en la calle. En TVE no, allí podían ocurrir esas cosas y otras más graves y no pasaba nada. Yo ya había trabajado con José Luis Márquez en otras ocasiones. Habíamos viajado fuera de España, sabía que era un buen profesional, valiente cuando el asunto lo requería, intuitivo, pero con unas carencias personales que no quiero entrar ahora a calificar.

It was close to three in the morning. An episode like these on a North American television, for example, would have allowed the editor to call his headquarters, report what happened and his protagonist being fired. In TVE it is not this way, there could happen those things and other more serious and nothing happened. I had already worked with José Luis Márquez on other occasions. We had traveled outside of Spain, I knew he was a good professional, brave when the issue required it, intuitive, but with some personal shortcomings that I don’t want to mention.

Gusman Urrero — Sé que lo has relatado muchas veces, pero ¿podrías contarme algunas escenas significativas de las que fuiste testigo aquella noche?

Gusman Urrero — I know you have referred it many times, but could you tell me some significant scenes that you witnessed that night?

Juan Restrepo — Sí, lo he contado en numerosas ocasiones, pero esta vez estoy tratando de poner algo de contexto a las circunstancias de trabajo, no solo a los acontecimientos de aquella jornada, para que quede claro qué pasó con el material grabado por el equipo de TVE la noche del 3 al 4 de junio de 1989 en Tiananmen.

Juan Restrepo — Yes, I have told it on numerous occasions, but this time I am trying to put some context to the work circumstances, not only to the events of that day, so that will be clear what happened to the material recorded by the TVE team during the night of June 3-4, 1989 in Tiananmen.

Llegó el día 3 de junio y la tensión se palpaba en el ambiente. MárquezFermín y yo estábamos en la plaza abarrotada de gente al atardecer. No solo estudiantes sino gentes del común y muchos periodistas; fue un día soleado, pero a media tarde, unas nubes cubrieron el cielo de Pekín dándole al ambiente un aire un poco más pesado y agobiante, y para hacer más inquietante la atmósfera, algunos helicópteros militares empezaron a sobrevolar por la plaza y sus alrededores.

June 3 arrived and the tension was palpable/visible in the atmosphere. Márquez, Fermín and I were in the crowded square at dusk. Not only students but ordinary people and many journalists; It was a sunny day, but in the middle of the afternoon, some clouds covered the sky of Beijing giving a slightly heavier and oppressive air, and to make the atmosphere more disturbing, some military helicopters began to fly over the square and its surroundings.

La brigada 38 del ejército estaba ya dentro de Pekín y se hablaba de muertos y heridos. Por ahí hacia la 5:00 de la tarde, apareció un chico con una camisa ensangrentada y con el casco de un soldado en la mano. No supe lo que decía en aquel momento. Nuestra traductora no estaba con nosotros. La cosa es que aquello indicaba que algún incidente más o menos grave había sucedido fuera de la plaza y aquel chico traía noticias.

The 38th brigade of the army was already inside Beijing and there was talk of dead and wounded. Around 5:00 in the afternoon, a boy appeared with a bloody shirt and a soldier’s helmet in his hand. I didn’t know what he was saying at the time. Our translator was not with us. The thing is, that indicated that some more or less serious incident had happened outside the square and that boy was bringing news.

Nos fuimos para el hotel porque había que editar una pieza y dictar una crónica telefónica. Había empezado a oscurecer. Serían pasadas las 7:00 cuando llegamos al Sheraton. Me senté a escribir la crónica cuando recibí una llamada de Alicia Relinque, nuestra traductora, diciéndome que cerca del barrio de las legaciones diplomáticas un tanque había embestido a un grupo de personas, que había disparos y que había seguramente por lo menos heridos. Como a las 9:30 de la noche oí por una radio en inglés, no recuerdo cuál, quizá la BBC, que la plaza había sido desalojada completamente de periodistas. Me parece que la CBS radio fue el último equipo en salir de Tiananmen aquella noche.

We went to the hotel because a piece had to be edited and a telephone chronicle dictated. It had started to get dark. It would be after 7:00 when we got to the Sheraton. I sat down to write the chronicle when I received a call from Alicia Relinque, our translator, telling me that near the neighborhood of the diplomatic legations a tank had attacked a group of people, that there were shots being fired and that there were probably some wounded people. Around 9:30 at night I heard on an English radio, I don’t remember which one, maybe the BBC, that the square had been completely cleared of journalists. It seems to me that CBS radio was the last team to leave Tiananmen that night.

Un dato que avala la precariedad de los medios con que contábamos era no tener un coche contratado permanentemente y que nos movíamos en taxi en todo momento. A aquellas alturas, la mayoría de la gente llegada de Madrid a cubrir la visita de Gorbachov a Pekín ya había regresado y con ellos. Además, se habían llevado los equipos de edición. En Pekín solo quedábamos MárquezFermín y yo, y un productor, Santiago de Arribas, que se encargaba de gestionar todo lo relacionado con las trasmisiones y envío del material a Madrid.

One fact that supports the precariousness of the means we had was not having a permanently hired car and that we moved by taxi at all times. By this time, most of the people who had come from Madrid to cover Gorbachev‘s visit to Beijing had already returned and (taxis) with them. Also, they had been taken editing teams with them. In Beijing there were only Márquez, Fermín and I, and a producer, Santiago de Arribas, who was in charge of managing everything related to the transmission and shipment of the material to Madrid.

Llamé a Márquez y a Fermín a sus habitaciones y les dije que deberíamos intentar ir a la plaza. Era una locura visto después de lo que pasó, pero a mí me pareció en aquel momento de lo más normal. Salimos los tres del hotel poco antes de las 11:00 de la noche. Cuando llegamos al hall, éste estaba a oscuras y en silencio, semivacío. Un contraste impresionante con lo que había sido en los días anteriores que bullía de gente y animación. Allí estábamos hospedados varios equipos de televisión como la ABC, la BBC y la CNN, además de periodistas de medios escritos cuya presencia contribuía a dar animación a aquel lugar. Esa noche, no.

I called Márquez and Fermín to their rooms and told them that we should try to go to the plaza. It was crazy seen after what happened, but it seemed normal to me at the time. The three of us left the hotel shortly before 11:00 at night. When we got to the hall, it was dark and quiet, half empty. An impressive contrast to what had been in the previous days that was bustling with people and animation. Several television crews such as ABC, BBC and CNN were staying there, as well as journalists from the written media whose presence helped to bring life to that place. That night, there was nothing there.

Cuando salimos los tres, reinaba el silencio en la penumbra de aquel moderno hotel. Ocurrió entonces una de esas cosas extrañas que suceden en este tipo de circunstancias y es que un único y solitario taxista, medio dormido, estaba allí cerca de la puerta del hotel, dentro de su vehículo, como si estuviese esperando por nosotros. Era el único vehículo disponible. El hombre solo hablaba chino pero entendió que queríamos ir a Tiananmen. Aceptó nuestra petición y emprendimos el recorrido por la ciudad.

When the three of us left, silence reigned in the gloom of that modern hotel. Then one of those strange things that happen in these kinds of circumstances happened and that is that a single and lonely taxi driver, half asleep, was there near the hotel door, inside his vehicle, as if he was waiting for us. It was the only vehicle available. The man only spoke Chinese but understood that we wanted to go to Tiananmen. He accepted our request and we started our tour through the city.

Dimos vueltas por el nororiente de Pekín durante cerca de hora y media, buscando una salida hacia la plaza, pero encontramos las vías bloqueadas por vehículos incendiados y barricadas que improvisaba la gente como neumáticos o ruedas de coches encendidas, hasta que en un cruce de grandes avenidas –haciendo la reconstrucción luego siempre he pensado que fue en la intersección de Chaoyanmen y Dianmen, aunque hoy ya no estoy tan seguro— encontramos algo que nos impactó mucho.

We walked around the northeast of Beijing for about an hour and a half, looking for an exit to the square, but we found the roads blocked by burning vehicles and barricades that people improvised like burning car tires or wheels, until at a crossroads of large avenues – rebuilding later I have always thought that it was at the intersection of Chaoyanmen and Dianmen, although today I am not so sure – we found something that had a great impact on us.

Las calles estaban a oscuras, nos detuvimos junto a un grupo de personas que estaban por allí arremolinadas, casi todos chicos jóvenes quienes, al ver que éramos prensa extranjera, nos condujeron unos metros más adelante en donde había otro grupo de personas. Había allí unas diez o doce bicicletas aplastadas por los tanques del ejército horas antes, retorcidas como un amasijo de alambres, y junto a ellas el cadáver de un hombre joven, con la cabeza destrozada y la masa encefálica derramada sobre el suelo. A pocos metros de allí, vimos, cuando ya nos marchábamos, un camión de transporte militar y dentro, callados y tranquilos como si esperaran a alguien, unos soldados muy jóvenes. El camión estaba rodeado por la gente que, evidentemente, no permitía su movimiento ni la salida de allí de los militares.

The streets were dark, we stopped next to a group of people who were milling around, almost all young boys who, seeing that we were foreign press, led us a few meters ahead where there was another group of people. There were about ten or twelve bicycles crushed by army tanks hours before, twisted like a mess of wire, and next to them the corpse of a young man, his head shattered and his brain mass spilled on the ground. A few meters from there, we saw, as we were leaving, a military transport truck and inside, quiet and calm as if they were waiting for someone, very young soldiers. The truck was surrounded by people who, obviously, did not allow its movement or the departure of the military.

Reanudamos nuestra marcha hasta entrar minutos después, al hutong Qinmen. Los hutongs de Pekín son barrios antiguos que estaban cerca de la Ciudad Prohibida, con callejuelas muy estrechas y casas bajas con patio interior. Hoy muchos de ellos han desaparecido. Paradójicamente, aquellas callejuelas estaban tranquilas, fuera de las casas se veía gente conversando, como si no estuviese pasando nada en la ciudad. Nuestro taxi siguió sin detenerse pero a marcha lenta, de modo que pude ver por las ventanas abiertas de las casas a la gente oyendo la radio o viendo la televisión. Grabamos imágenes desde el interior del vehículo y recuerdo que Márquez comentó: “Esto es muy bonito, chico”.

We resumed our march until we entered the Qinmen hutong minutes later. The Beijing hutongs are old neighborhoods that were close to the Forbidden City, with very narrow streets and low houses with an inner courtyard. Today many of them have disappeared. Paradoxically, those alleys were quiet, outside the houses you could see people talking, as if nothing was happening in the city. Our taxi continued without stopping but at a slow pace, so that I could see through the open windows of the houses people listening to the radio or watching television. We recorded images from inside the vehicle and I remember Márquez commenting: “This is very nice, boy.”

De repente, sin nosotros esperarlo aunque nuestro taxista sabía bien lo que buscaba, nos encontramos frente a la plaza. Habíamos llegado a la esquina suroeste de Tiananmen. Habíamos llegado a la puerta de Qinmen al sur de la plaza. Ingresamos a Tiananmen, dejamos nuestro vehículo junto a la acera en el costado oriental cuando en ese mismo momento apareció en el lugar un vehículo a pedal con plataforma de madera que era muy común entonces en China, cargado con varios heridos y quizá algún muerto. No era aquel el momento para comprobarlo. El conductor de aquel triciclo buscaba un hospital cercano, se dirigía hacia el norte, hacia la avenida Changan, la gran arteria que pasa frente a la Ciudad Prohibida y atraviesa Pekín de oriente a occidente.

Suddenly, without us waiting for it although our taxi driver knew what he was looking for, we found ourselves in front of the square. We had reached the southwest corner of Tiananmen. We had reached the Qinmen gate south of the square. We entered Tiananmen, we left our vehicle next to the pavement on the eastern side when at that very moment a pedal vehicle with a wooden platform that was very common then in China appeared at the scene, loaded with several wounded and perhaps some dead. This was not the time to check it out. The driver of that tricycle was looking for a nearby hospital, he was heading north, towards Changan Avenue, the great artery that passes in front of the Forbidden City and crosses Beijing from east to west.

Poco después, otro vehículo buscando la misma dirección, esta vez un pequeño camión de plataforma, también cargado de cuerpos ensangrentados, apareció por el mismo lugar. Logró superar no sin cierta dificultad unos obstáculos que había por allí en el suelo y siguió su camino. Naturalmente, grabamos todo aquello.

Shortly after, another vehicle looking in the same direction, this time a small flatbed truck, also loaded with bloody bodies, appeared from the same place. He managed to overcome, not without some difficulty, some obstacles that were there on the ground and continued on his way. Naturally, we recorded all of that.

Pasaba la medianoche del 3 de junio cuando entramos a la gran explanada de Tiananmen, dejamos atrás el mausoleo de Mao Tsetung y nos encaminamos hacia el Monumento a los Héroes que está en el centro de la plaza. Encontramos reunidos alrededor del monumento a miles de estudiantes. Calculé entonces unos dos mil pero podrían ser muchos más. Estaban tranquilos, en silencio. Fuera de la plaza se oían explosiones y algún disparo. El lugar estaba tenuemente iluminado y por los altavoces se oía una voz que de vez en cuando daba algunas indicaciones.

It was after midnight on June 3 when we entered the great Tiananmen esplanade, past the Mao Tsetung Mausoleum, and headed towards the Heroes’ Monument in the center of the square. We found thousands of students gathered around the monument. Then I calculated about two thousand but it could be many more. They were calm, silent. Explosions and shots were heard outside the square. The place was dimly lit and a voice could be heard from the loudspeakers giving some indications from time to time.

Desde allí se veía el resplandor de incendios o fogatas prendidas fuera. Las otras tres esquinas que daban acceso a la plaza estaban bloqueadas por el ejército.

 From there you could see the glow of fires or bonfires lit outside. The other three corners that gave access to the square were blocked by the army.

Cuando nos acercamos a los estudiantes y vieron que teníamos encendida la cámara, empezaron a cantar la Internacional. Para mí fue uno de los momentos más emocionantes y conmovedores de aquella noche. Un chico se apartó del grupo y vino hacia nosotros ondeando una enorme bandera de China. Hice una presentación en cámara cometiendo una imprudencia que fue encender el flash, lo que pudo haber atraído la atención sobre nosotros de los militares que había bajo la puerta de Tiananmen. Un chico que me oyó hablar se acercó a nosotros y nos contó en español lo que sentían al saberse rodeados por el ejército. Nadie del ejército o la policía se acercó, sin embargo, ni nos impidió grabar, pero aquello efectivamente era uno de los riesgos que corríamos, y ahí está precisamente la clave de lo que pasó con el material grabado esa noche.

When we approached the students and they saw that we had the camera on, they began to sing the Internationale. For me it was one of the most moving and moving moments of that night. A boy broke away from the group and came towards us waving a huge Chinese flag. I did a presentation on camera committing an imprudence which was to turn on the flash, which may have drawn the attention of us from the military under the Tiananmen Gate. A boy who heard me speak came up to us and told us in Spanish what it felt like to be surrounded by the army. No one from the army or the police approached, however, nor did they prevent us from recording, but that was indeed one of the risks we ran, and that is precisely the key to what happened to the material recorded that night.

Como nos dimos cuenta de que podíamos ser detenidos y corríamos el peligro de que nos confiscasen el material, empezamos a grabar en unas cintas que duraban media hora solo cinco o diez minutos. Grabábamos, cambiábamos de cinta para proteger lo grabado, la camuflábamos como podíamos y poníamos una nueva cinta, hasta que se agotaron y tuvimos que echar mano de las ya usadas y grabar en las colas que quedaban de las ya grabadas. Aquello supuso que el material quedó registrado de manera inconexa en los casetes. Lo grabado no correspondía al orden cronológico en que habían sucedido las cosas y eso es importante para entender lo que pasó luego con el material.

As we realized that we could be arrested and we were in danger of having our material confiscated, we began to record on tapes that lasted only five or ten minutes for half an hour. We recorded, we changed tapes to protect what was recorded, we camouflaged it as best we could and put a new tape, until they were exhausted and we had to use the already used ones and record in the remaining queues of those already recorded. This meant that the material was recorded loosely on the cassettes. What was recorded did not correspond to the chronological order in which things had happened and that is important to understand what happened later with the material.

Entre la media noche y casi las 4:00 de la madrugada del domingo grabamos por toda la plaza, que era una inmensa explanada desierta. Los estudiantes continuaban apiñados alrededor del Monumento a los Héroes. Al rato de haber llegado nosotros allí, cerca de la 1:00 de la mañana, entró en la plaza por el costado occidental, procedente de Changan, una tanqueta de ruedas neumáticas, no un tanque, una tanqueta. Algunos estudiantes salieron del monumento y se enfrentaron a ella lanzándole palos y botellas o lo que encontraran por allí. El conductor dio media vuelta y volvió por donde había venido.

Between midnight and almost 4:00 a.m. on Sunday we filmed all over the square, which was a huge deserted esplanade. The students continued to huddle around the Monument to the Heroes. Shortly after we got there, around 1:00 in the morning, a tank with pneumatic wheels entered the plaza from the western side, from Changan, not a tank, a small tank (una tanqueta). Some students came out of the monument and confronted it by throwing sticks and bottles at it or whatever they found there. The driver turned and went back the way he had come.

Los estudiantes volvieron a cantar en coro, mientras por los altavoces seguían emitiendo las autoridades consignas e instrucciones de desalojar la plaza. Esto lo supe luego porque en aquel momento no entendí lo que decían. Nos acercamos a grabar incluso hasta la avenida Changan, frente a la Torre de Tiananmen en donde, bajo el gran retrato de Mao que domina la plaza, unos mil soldados permanecían impasibles en espera de órdenes. En nuestro recorrido por entre las tiendas de campaña que quedaban en pie vimos algún chico solitario dormir como si allí no pasara nada.

The students sang again in chorus, while the authorities continued to broadcast slogans and instructions to evacuate the square over the loudspeakers. This I learned later because at that time I did not understand what they were saying. We even got close to filming up to Changan Avenue, in front of the Tiananmen Tower where, under the large portrait of Mao that dominates the square, about a thousand soldiers remained impassive awaiting orders. On our way through the remaining tents we saw some lonely boy sleeping as if nothing happened there.

Nuestro conductor, que estaba asustadísimo, empezó a apurarnos para que nos marcháramos de allí y haciendo giros con la mano nos indicaba que el lugar estaba rodeado, al tiempo que decía la única palabra en inglés que podía pronunciar: “¡Soldiers, soldiers!”.

Our driver, who was very scared, began to hurry us to leave there and making turns with his hand indicated that the place was surrounded, while saying the only word in English he could pronounce: “Soldiers, soldiers!”.

Entendió, seguramente por hablar con alguno de los estudiantes, cuál era la situación del lugar. La plaza estaba rodeada por los soldados, y angustiado quería salir de allí.

He understood, probably by talking to one of the students, what the situation was in the place. The square was surrounded by soldiers, and as he felt anguished he wanted to get out of there.

Decidimos entonces que yo lo llevaría hasta un lugar discreto y seguro y salí con él después de las 4:00 de la madrugada, cuando se habían apagado todas las luces del lugar. Tiananmen quedó totalmente a oscuras y yo salí con el taxi hacia el vecino hutong Qinmen, por donde habíamos entrado. Quedamos en que a mi regreso nos encontraríamos a los pies de uno de los grupos escultóricos que flanquean al sur el mausoleo de Mao Tsetung.

We decided then that I would take him to a discreet and safe place and I went out with him after 4:00 in the morning, when all the lights in the place had gone out. Tiananmen was completely dark and I took the taxi out to neighboring Qinmen Hutong, where we had entered. We agreed that on my return we would find ourselves at the foot of one of the sculptural groups that flank the Mao Tsetung mausoleum to the south.

Era importante conservar el vehículo para salir luego de allí, de modo que, efectivamente lo dejé en una callejuela de aquellas que he descrito antes y regresé a pie a la plaza, en donde ya el desalojo había comenzado.

It was important to keep the vehicle to get out of there later on, so that, in effect, I left it in one of the streets I have described before and walked back to the square, where the eviction had already begun.

Cuando fui hasta el monumento en donde había quedado con Márquez y Fermín, naturalmente no estaban. El caos era total. Desde dentro de la Ciudad Prohibida salían miles de soldados, unos con porras en la mano y otros con los fusiles con bayoneta calada, apuntando hacia la multitud.

When I went to the monument where I had met with Márquez and Fermín, they were not there of course. The chaos was total. Thousands of soldiers emerged from within the Forbidden City, some with truncheons/batons in hand and others with rifles with fixed bayonets, pointed at the crowd.

Desde el edificio del Gran Palacio del Pueblo, en el costado occidental de la plaza, salieron también miles de soldados en iguales circunstancias que los de la Ciudad Prohibida: apuntando con los rifles unos y con porras en la mano otros. La idea era avanzar en forma de ele invertida hacia el monumento y desplazar a los estudiantes hacia la esquina sur occidental, que era la única de las cuatro entradas que no estaba bloqueada por el ejército.

Thousands of soldiers also emerged from the Great Hall of the People building, on the western side of the square, under the same circumstances as those in the Forbidden City: some pointing their rifles and others with batons in hand. The idea was to move in an inverted L shape towards the monument and move the students towards the south western corner, which was the only one of the four entrances that was not blocked by the army.

Dadas las condiciones de confrontación que tuve con Márquez durante todo aquel trabajo, en medio de aquel caos tuve tiempo y ánimo para prevenir otro posible disgusto. Como ya imaginaba lo iba a pasar si no nos encontrábamos, para dejar una prueba de que volví al lugar y la cita indicados, subí al pedestal, que era bajo, algo más de un metro, e incrusté dentro de los pliegues de piedra labrada de aquel conjunto escultórico un pequeño objeto de plástico con la ingenua pretensión de enseñarlo al día siguiente a mis compañeros. Una ingenuidad, pues a la plaza no se puedo volver a entrar en varias semanas después de aquella tragedia.

Given the confrontational conditions that I had with Márquez during all that work, in the midst of that chaos I had time and courage to prevent another possible upset. As I already imagined what would happen if we did not meet, to leave proof that I returned to the indicated place and appointment, I climbed the pedestal, which was low, just over a meter, and embedded within the folds of carved stone of that sculptural group a small plastic object with the naive pretense of showing it to my colleagues the next day. A naivety, because the square could not be re-entered for several weeks after that tragedy.

A medida que los soldados avanzaban, empujando a los estudiantes hacia la esquina suroriental, desmontaron y quemaron las tiendas de campaña que quedaban en pie. Un tanque derribó la estatua de la Diosa de la Democracia que los estudiantes de Bellas Artes habían instalado frente al retrato de Mao, al norte de la plaza.

As the soldiers advanced, pushing the students toward the southeast corner, they dismantled and burned the remaining tents. A tank toppled the statue of the Goddess of Democracy that the Fine Arts students had installed in front of Mao’s portrait, at the north of the square.

El desalojo fue rudo, enérgico y firme, pero no ocurrió la matanza de la que todo mundo habló luego. Los estudiantes salieron ordenadamente de la plaza y terminaron de hacerlo hacia las 6:00 de la mañana. Iban tristes, derrotados, algunos de ellos lloraban, se abrazaban. Llevaban los instrumentos que les habían servido para hacer propaganda durante las semanas de ocupación de la plaza como altavoces y pequeñas imprentas manuales. Me encontré entonces con un colega de la revista inglesa The Spectator, Richard Nations, quien me dijo que había visto salir a mis dos compañeros en la cabecera de la marcha.

 The eviction was rude, energetic and firm, but the massacre of which everyone spoke later did not occur. The students left the plaza in an orderly fashion and finished at 6:00 in the morning. They were sad, defeated, some of them were crying, hugging. They carried the instruments that had served them to make propaganda during the weeks of occupation of the square, such as loudspeakers and small manual printers. Then I ran into a colleague from the English magazine The SpectatorRichard Nations, who told me that he had seen my two companions leave at the head of the march.

Márquez y Fermín fueron acompañando a los estudiantes que torcieron hacia la derecha por la avenida Qinmen Xi Dajie y luego tomaron en dirección norte, hacia la universidad de Pekín, seguramente. Pero llegando casi a Changan, cerca de la Sala de Conciertos de Pekín, aparecieron tanques y tropas que empezaron a disparar contra la multitud. Supongo que algunos estudiantes quisieron dirigirse de nuevo por Changan hacia la plaza. Allí, pasadas las siete de la mañana hubo más muertos y heridos, pero esto ocurrió fuera de la plaza, no en Tiananmen como luego dijeron muchos medios.

Márquez and Fermín were accompanying the students who turned right down Qinmen Xi Dajie Avenue and then headed north, towards Peking University, surely. But reaching almost Changan, near the Beijing Concert Hall, tanks and troops appeared and began firing at the crowd. I guess some students wanted to head back down Changan toward the plaza. There, after seven in the morning there were more deaths and injuries, but this happened outside the square, not in Tiananmen as many media reported later.

Gusman Urrero — Entonces ¿por qué todo mundo conoce aquello como la matanza de Tiananmen?

Gusman Urrero — So why does everyone knows it as the Tiananmen massacre?

Juan Restrepo — Porque así lo presentaron todos los medios del mundo nada más ocurrir la tragedia y las imágenes de TVE contribuyeron, sin que esa fuera nuestra intención, a crear esa confusión. Hubo tragedia, sí, y muertos también, muchos, aún hoy no sabemos cuántos. A lo largo de estos años, hubo un baile de cifras que va desde los 250 a los 3.000. En todo caso, no murieron dentro de la plaza, sino por la noche, en la zona de Muxidí, al oriente de la plaza, y por la mañana no lejos de la sede de gobierno llamada Zhongnanhai, al oeste de Tiananmen. Y el hecho de que la matanza haya sido fuera de la plaza tiene su importancia, porque seguramente la orden que tenía el ejército era preservar las entradas a sangre y fuego y que dentro no hubiese derramamiento de sangre por el valor simbólico del lugar.

Juan Restrepo — Because that was how all the world’s media presented it as soon as the tragedy occurred and the TVE images contributed, without our intention, to create that confusion. There was tragedy, yes, and deaths too, many, even today we do not know how many. Throughout these years, there was a dance of figures ranging from 250 to 3,000. In any case, they did not die inside the square, but at night, in the area of Muxidí, east of the square, and in the morning not far from the seat of government called Zhongnanhai, west of Tiananmen. And the fact that the slaughter was outside the square has its importance, because surely the order that the army had was to preserve the entrances to blood and fire and that there was no bloodshed inside because of the symbolic value of the place.

Recuerdo que un colega me dijo, cuando se lo conté: “¡Qué más da si fue fuera o dentro, fue una matanza!” Pues resulta que para los chinos sí tenía su importancia, Tiananmen es un lugar “sagrado” para el comunismo chino. Allí reposa la momia de Mao, su mirada contempla desde la entrada a la Ciudad Prohibida el lugar. Allí nació oficialmente la República Popular China, está el monumento a lo héroes de la lucha antijaponesa y está en un eje con el Templo del Cielo cuyo significado sólo los chinos pueden comprender.

I remember that a colleague told me, when I told him: “What difference does it make if it was outside or inside, it was a massacre!” Well, it turns out that for the Chinese it did have its importance, Tiananmen is a “sacred” place for Chinese communism. There the mummy of Mao rests, her gaze contemplates the place from the entrance to the Forbidden City. The People’s Republic of China was officially born there, there is the monument to the heroes of the anti-Japanese struggle and it is on an axis with the Temple of Heaven whose meaning only the Chinese can understand.

Lo que no pudieron evitar es que se la conozca como “matanza de Tiananmen” por una tremenda paradoja derivada de nuestras imágenes. Cuando llegamos por la mañana del domingo 4 de junio al hotel con aquellas imágenes, varios colegas las quisieron tener. Decidí compartirlas con la ABC norteamericana, porque era la única forma de sacarlas de China inmediatamente. Con todos aquellos muertos y heridos, todos los medios ya hablaban de la matanza de Tiananmen cuando llegaron nuestras imágenes, llevadas en mano por un mensajero de ABC para enviar a Madrid a TVE y distribuir a todo el mundo; pero, como he contado –y por eso insistí en ello antes— la grabación que había en nuestros casetes no estaba en el orden cronológico como habían ocurrido los hechos. Había en ellos muertos y heridos antes de entrar a la plaza y luego en el tiroteo de la mañana, pero solo nosotros habríamos podido editar aquellas imágenes en orden cronológico y no los que lo hicieron en Hong Kong y en Madrid. Todo el mundo estaba seguro, por lo que decían las agencias y demás medios, de que aquellas imágenes eran dentro de la plaza. Incluso se atribuyó la famosa imagen del hombre frente al tanque que todo mundo recuerda y que es uno de los íconos del siglo XX, a una matanza en la plaza que no existió. Aquella imagen es del día 5, tomada desde el Hotel Pekín por otros colegas, no por nosotros, cuando la columna de tanques se retiraba de la plaza después de haberla despejado y ocupado.

What they could not avoid is that it is known as the “Tiananmen massacre” because of a tremendous paradox derived from our images. When we arrived at the hotel on the morning of Sunday June 4 with those images, several colleagues wanted to have them. I decided to share them with the American ABC, because it was the only way to get them out of China immediately. With all those dead and wounded, all the media were already talking about the Tiananmen massacre when our images arrived, carried by hand by an ABC messenger to send TVE to Madrid and distribute to the whole world; But, as I have told – and that is why I insisted on it before – the recording that was in our cassettes was not in the chronological order as the events had occurred. There were dead and wounded in them before entering the square and then in the morning shooting, but only we would have been able to edit those images in chronological order and not those who did it in Hong Kong and Madrid. Everyone was sure, from what the agencies and other media said, that those images were inside the square. The famous image of the man in front of the tank that everyone remembers and is one of the icons of the 20th century was even attributed to a massacre in the square that did not exist. That image is from the 5th, taken from the Peking Hotel by other colleagues, not by us, when the column of tanks was withdrawing from the square after having cleared and occupied it.

Aquel cubrimiento para mí fue muy importante pero me dejó cierta amargura y frustración por las condiciones en que trabajé. La versión que da José Luis Márquez de aquellos hechos, y que quien quiera puede buscar por internet en Radio Nacional de España del pasado 4 de junio, y que ha repetido durante un cuarto de siglo, es un insulto a la inteligencia: él solo tomó un taxi, y como era más listo que los 2.500 periodistas que estaban en Pekín en ese momento, fue a la plaza –ni siquiera llevaba ayudante– cargó, además de los siete kilos de peso de la cámara, una bolsa con quince casetes, cables, micrófonos etc., se echó a dormir un sueñecito mientras llegan los tanques y en medio de las balas salió de allí con los estudiantes. Todo un héroe. [Audio: Entrevista con José Luis Márquez en RNE]

That coverage was very important to me, but it left me some bitterness and frustration with the conditions in which I worked. The version that José Luis Márquez gives of those events, and that anyone who wants can search the Internet on the National Radio of Spain on June 4, and that he has repeated for a quarter of a century, is an insult to intelligence: he only took a taxi, and as he was smarter than the 2,500 journalists who were in Beijing at that time, he went to the square – he did not even have an assistant – he carried, in addition to the seven kilos of camera weight, a bag with fifteen cassettes, cables , microphones, etc., he fell asleep a little sleep while the tanks arrive and amidst the bullets he left there with the students. All a hero. [AudioInterview with José Luis Márquez in RNE]

Gusman Urrero  — ¿Y qué destino ha tenido todo el material que grabaron? ¿Por qué no se ha empleado para convertirlo en un documental español que registre, a partir de esa exclusiva, todo lo que sucedió a lo largo de esas horas?

Gusman Urrero  — And what was the fate of all the material recorded? Why hasn’t it been used to turn it into a Spanish documentary that records, based on that exclusive, everything that happened during those hours?

Juan Restrepo — Seguramente está en el archivo de TVE, en el mismo desorden en que se grabó, y nunca se pudo hacer verdaderamente un reportaje contando cómo ocurrieron los hechos. Incluso hay imágenes inéditas como las de todo el proceso de elaboración de la Diosa de la Democracia que nunca fueron emitidas. Un año después, cuando Carcedo premió mi labor cerrando la corresponsalía y enviándome a Madrid, Manu Leguineche, que era entonces director de En Portada, me encargó, en el primer aniversario de la tragedia, un programa, pero insistió en la versión de la matanza dentro de la plaza en contra de mi criterio y de mi testimonio personal. Incluso hizo una presentación del programa contando como los tanques entraron en la plaza y aplastaron a los estudiantes. Está en el archivo de TVE por si alguien duda de lo que digo.

Juan Restrepo — Surely it is in the TVE archive, in the same disorder in which it was recorded, and a report could never really be made telling how the events occurred. There are even unpublished images such as those of the entire process of making the Goddess of Democracy that were never broadcast. A year later, when Carcedo rewarded my work by closing the correspondent and sending me to Madrid, Manu Leguineche, who was then director of En Portada, commissioned me, on the first anniversary of the tragedy, a program, but insisted on the version of the massacre inside the plaza against my criteria and my personal testimony. He even gave a presentation of the program telling how the tanks entered the square and crushed the students. It is in the TVE archive in case anyone doubts what I say.

Tengo que decir en su descargo que años después, ya muy enfermo, en su casa de Brihuega me pidió perdón y admitió su error. Lo hizo delante de testigos. Luego varias productoras privadas han querido utilizar aquel material, y por no haber sido ordenado nunca, les ha sido muy difícil su localización. Paradójicamente, el mejor documental que se ha hecho sobre aquellos acontecimientos utilizando las imágenes de TVE lo realizó la norteamericana Carma Hinton, pero le da el crédito a ABC no a Televisión Española. Ha sido tal la confusión que la gente eligió para un programa especial que se hizo con motivo de los 50 años de TVE entre las mejores imágenes propias la del hombre frente al tanque que, como he dicho, no fue nuestra. It is surely in the TVE archive, in the same disorder in which it was recorded, and a report could never really be made telling how the events occurred. There are even unpublished images such as those of the entire process of making the Goddess of Democracy that were never broadcast. A year later, when Carcedo rewarded my work by closing the office and sending me to Madrid, Manu Leguineche, who was then director of En Portada, commissioned me, on the first anniversary of the tragedy, a program, but insisted on the version of the massacre inside the plaza against my criteria and my personal testimony. He even gave a presentation of the program telling how the tanks entered the square and crushed the students. It is in the TVE archive in case anyone doubts what I say.

I have to say in his defense that years later, already very ill, at his house in Brihuega he asked my forgiveness and admitted his mistake. He did it in front of witnesses. Later on, several private production companies have wanted to use that material, and because it has never been put in order, it has been very difficult for them to locate it. Paradoxically, the best documentary that has been made about those events using TVE images was made by the North American Carma Hinton, but this company gives the credit to ABC and not to Televisión Española. The confusion has been such that people chose for a special program that was made on the occasion of TVE’s 50 years among the best images of the man in front of the tank that, as I said, was not ours. It is surely in the TVE archive, in the same disorder in which it was recorded, and a report could never really be made telling how the events occurred. There are even unpublished images such as those of the entire process of making the Goddess of Democracy that were never broadcast. A year later, when Carcedo rewarded my work by closing the office and sending me to Madrid, Manu Leguineche, who was then director of En Portada, commissioned me, on the first anniversary of the tragedy, a program, but insisted on the version of the massacre inside the plaza against my criteria and my personal testimonyHe even gave a presentation of the program telling how the tanks entered the square and crushed the students. It is in the TVE archive in case anyone doubts what I say.

Gusman Urrero  — Toda esta confusión que describes me lleva a otro punto, y es que parece que el mundo ha optado por la amnesia frente a la tragedia de Tiananmen. Al cabo de los años, y con las vueltas de ha dado la política internacional desde entonces, ¿ha cambiado tu perspectiva de lo que significó aquel terrible episodio?

Gusman Urrero  — All this confusion that you describe takes me to another point, and that is that it seems that the world has opted for amnesia in the face of the Tiananmen tragedy. Over the years, and with the twists and turns of international politics since then, has your perspective of what that terrible episode meant changed?

Juan Restrepo — No, no ha cambiado. Aquello fue traumático para China, que tardó años en retomar el rumbo político que había emprendido Deng Xiaopin. Tiananmen supuso un frenazo e integra hoy esa trilogía de términos conflictivos para la nomenclatura china: Taiwán, Tíbet y Tiananmen.

Juan Restrepo — No, it has not changed. That was traumatic for China, which took years to return to the political course that Deng Xiaoping had taken. Tiananmen was a slowdown and today integrates that trilogy of conflicting terms for the Chinese nomenclature: Taiwan, Tibet and Tiananmen.

Por otra parte, la gente se quedó con la idea de la “matanza de Tienanamen” y se seguirá utilizando cada cierto tiempo cuando se quiere recordar que en China hay una férrea dictadura. Siempre, mientras perviva el actual régimen, será una forma de decirle a los dirigentes chinos: “Sí, mucha prosperidad económica, pero son ustedes unos violadores de los derechos humanos”.

On the other hand, people stayed with the idea of the “Tienanmen massacre” and it will continue to be used from time to time when it is wanted to remember that in China there is an iron dictatorship. Always, as long as the current regime survives, it will be a way of saying to the Chinese leaders: “Yes, a lot of economic prosperity, but you are violators of human rights.”

(End of the excerpt related to the Tiananamen Square events.)

Gusman Urrero  — Otra parte fundamental de tu carrera ha transcurrido en Latinoamérica. ¿Crees que en España se informa bien sobre los países hispanoamericanos o aún tienen demasiado peso los prejuicios y los estereotipos? Te adelanto mi impresión: cuesta encontrar en nuestros informativos noticias sobre científicos mexicanos o… .

Fin de la entrevista/End of the interview


11 thoughts on “Tiananmen Square: The Failure of an American-instigated 1989 Color Revolution

  1. I wrote a debunking of this same “Tiananmen Square Massacre” hoax a few years ago, with some other details, including the fact that the Tank Man photo is clearly evidence of extreme military restraint in the face of provocation, nothing more or less.

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