The Untold Stories of the Tiananmen Massacre

We will never know how many people were massacred the night of June 3‒4, 1989
The Untold Stories of the Tiananmen Massacre
The Reader's Turn
Updated:
0:00
Dear Editor:
I commend The Epoch Times for recently publishing two good articles on the 1989 Tiananmen massacre, including Eva Fu’s “Activists Mourn Tiananmen Victims, Remind World of CCP’s ‘Brutal’ Legacy.” However, the articles fail to note that most of the deaths did not happen at Tiananmen Square in the center of Beijing. I will explain how I know this to be true.
I lived with my wife and three young children in Hong Kong from 1986 to 1989. Under the auspices of an educational organization that I am not at liberty to name, I traveled regularly into China to supervise American teachers who taught English at Chinese colleges and universities. So I happened to be at Tiananmen Square 10 days before the massacre. As our small bus rolled slowly through the square, I took pictures of what I saw: Hundreds of students marching about, carrying banners that demanded democracy; many other students just sitting quietly in front of their little tents; the 33-foot-tall Goddess of Liberty, echoing our Statue of Liberty and providing a focal point for the demonstrations; and, most surprisingly to me, groups of non-students, parading while carrying banners that identified their work places and loudly chanting their support for the students’ pro-democracy movement.
Sunday, June 4, 1989, found me back in Hong Kong. That afternoon, I joined 200,000 people, silent and stone-faced, who gathered at the Happy Valley Racetrack to protest the breaking news of the massacre. The anger of the standing crowd was palpable. The racetrack had room for only half the crowd, but everyone was orderly. 
The next morning, in Hong Kong Central, I joined a slow, spontaneous procession that moved quietly past the New China News Agency. This building housed the Chinese Communist Party’s shadow government. (Hong Kong was governed by the British at the time.) Hong Kong police politely motioned me and thousands of others along. We formed a grim human stream about a dozen people wide. As we walked past, we stared angrily at the shuttered façade of the Agency. Already at 11 o’clock, that second morning after the news, the sidewalks on both sides of the street were filled with white paper floral wreaths. These tokens of mourning stretched for a block in both directions. (I later learned that an estimated 1 million people passed in front of the New China News Agency that first month after the massacre. This was the largest political protest in Hong Kong history—by far.)
As a former college professor (Ph.D., history, Duke U), I sought out key witnesses. I found two who were particularly valuable. One was an older student who had just escaped to Hong Kong. She had recently gotten her history M.A. from a Beijing university. The Sunday morning of the massacre, risking her life, she started counting bodies at the square and then continued counting as she walked westward along Chang An Avenue. She counted over a thousand bodies. The other source was a British professor who had also just evacuated from China. He was not an eyewitness, but he told me what his Beijing colleague had personally witnessed from his apartment overlooking a major intersection in Beijing’s northwest quadrant—an unimaginable slaughter of thousands.
But I must back up a little. A couple of weeks before the massacre, China’s leader, Deng Xiao Ping, had ordered troops to enter Beijing and clear Tiananmen Square. But the troops were locally recruited. So when they approached Beijing from the west and northwest, they were confronted with a massive expression of passive resistance. The people of Beijing, sympathizing with the students, filled the main intersections of the city, especially in the northwest quadrant, which is where the universities were located. These intersections were formed by avenues radiating out from Tiananmen Square passing through the inner and outer ring roads that circled the city. Confronting intersections jammed with people, some possibly relatives, the soldiers stopped and refused to advance.
It took two weeks for Secretary Deng to bring in military units from a neighboring province. These soldiers were from the countryside and resented the easier life of city dwellers. On the evening of June 3, faced with the people of Beijing again jamming the intersections, these peasant soldiers rolled their tanks and other armored vehicles right over the people, with machine guns blazing. This bloody massacre took place at several intersections, the Chinese professor told his British colleague. After the initial units moved on to go clear Tiananmen Square, more miliary units showed up. They loaded the mangled bodies into trucks and headed back outside the city. Soon, the light of huge pyres could be seen in the distance. The evidence was burning. Moreover, the bloody intersections were washed down, as was the square.
We will never know how many people were massacred the night of June 3‒4, 1989, but probably 10,000 to 20,000. Most of them were not students, but ordinary Beijing folks, joining with the students in hope for the better life that democracy could bring.
Sincerely Yours, Howard R. Killion, Ph.D. California
Author’s Selected Articles
Related Topics