Friday, June 05, 2009

June 4-5, 1989

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the day that the government of the People's Republic og China ended the protests in Tiannamen Square by sending in tanks and soldiers.

Starting on April 15 with several dozen students, the protests eventually grew into nearly a million people camping out in downtown Beijing, demanding the government allow basic human rights, a free press, and end political oppression.

This famous picture, taken by Jeff Widener, shows an unknown protester confronting the tanks in the street. By standing in front of them, he stopped their movement for half an hour until the commander, in the lead tank, was able to drive around him.

Immediately afterwards, several people surrounded the protester and led him away. Fellow protesters claim it was security agents, and that the man, whose identity remains unknown, was taken out and executed.

The government, of course, claims that it was that man's friends, and that they were taking him off to have a picnic somewhere.

Estimates of the number of people killed range between 270 (gov't figure, which includes soldiers) and up to 4,000, with an unknown number being detained, tortured, and likely executed.

A leader of the protests, who was released from prison last year, now lives in Canada. He says that he spent the last 19 years in forced prison labour, making Christmas lights for export to western countries.

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