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1989.06.04

BBC Archive: Chinese troops fire on protesters in Tiananmen Square

First broadcast 4 June 1989.

Chinese troops opened fire on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on Saturday evening. The collection of students and labourers had been occupying the site for several weeks. Despite the outbreak of “unremitting gunfire”, the protesters refused to leave. The BBC’s Kate Adie reports from the scene.

Also watch this interview with a soldier of the People’s Liberation Army from ABC News (Australia). That interview is from 2019. I doubt if it could be made in 2022.

2019 was also the last time that the massacre was commemorated by a public ceremony in Hong Kong’s Victoria Park. This year, as it was in 2020 and 2021, the park has been blocked off by police and anyone lingering there threatened with prosecution. The reason given for forbidding the demonstration was coronavirus. I have a premonition that in Hong Kong the Covid-19 pandemic will go on forever.

10 comments to 1989.06.04

  • ShlomoMaistre

    I doubt if it could be made in 2022.

    I doubt if it would be made in 2022.

    FTFY

  • The Uyghurs in China now live in a giant, open air prison camp.

    Xi is trying to build the future – the kind that has SF fans joke that the main message of SF is, “Don’t live in the future!”

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Niall, a few days or weeks after Tiananmen Square, when the handover of Hong Kong to China was still eight years in the future, I remember you advocating that, in view of the massacre, the UK should not return Hong Kong island and the Kowloon peninsula to Chinese control, only the New Territories. (For readers unfamiliar with the background, the reason the UK had to give HK back to China in 1997 was that most of its land area had been acquired from the Imperial Chinese government on a 99-year lease in 1898, and that was due to run out in 1997. But Hong Kong island itself & the tip of the Kowloon peninsula had been ceded to Britain in perpetuity.)

    As we all know, the UK government did not think that “core Hong Kong” was viable or defensible without the New Territories, and though they certainly had a point, I’ve sometimes wondered what would have happened if Mrs Thatcher had made a go of it.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Natalie Solent (Essex)
    I’ve sometimes wondered what would have happened if Mrs Thatcher had made a go of it.

    One should never underestimate Mrs. T., but given that she, but by the skin of her teeth, managed to hold on to the Falklands, fighting against the utterly incompetent Argies[*], her chances against China which is not only vastly more powerful, vastly more competent and vastly further away, must be pretty close to zero. Britain came within a hair of losing to the Argies, they’d have no chance against China.

    And despite all the niceties, sovereignty is not determined by treaties and handshakes but by battleships, aircraft and one’s tolerance for body bags.

    Had there not been the promise of a return peacefully the Chinese would have taken it back by force many years before. As it was Britain did a pretty decent job getting some reasonable accommodations for HK, though it was inevitable that it would eventually become just another part of China.

    [*] In fairness, the Argentine Air Force acquitted itself with skill, bravery and honor, much to the detriment of many a British lad. The rest of the Argie military, and its leadership in particular, was disgracefully bad. In particular one torpedo from HMS Conqueror which sent the whole Argie Navy back to port probably was the one shot the made victory possible. It no doubt saved a lot of British lives and was a humiliation for Argentine Naval power.

  • Stonyground

    “In particular one torpedo from HMS Conqueror which sent the whole Argie Navy back to port…”

    Was that the one that sunk the Belgrano? My memory of that sinking was of several pacifist politicians carping on for ages afterwards about the Belgrano still being outside the exclusion zone when it was sunk.

    To be fair to the Argentinian Navy, if British submarines could sink their ships pretty much at will then returning to port was their only sensible option.

  • Fraser Orr

    Stonyground
    To be fair to the Argentinian Navy, if British submarines could sink their ships pretty much at will then returning to port was their only sensible option.

    A Navy without a decent ASW capability simply isn’t a navy. The fact that the Argentine Navy apparently didn’t have one doesn’t excuse them, it indicts them. It is like saying “The infantry didn’t have rifles, so the enemy could shot them at will”. May be true, but the solution is not to send them home to the barracks.

  • lucklucky

    In fairness, the Argentine Air Force acquitted itself with skill, bravery and honor, much to the detriment of many a British lad

    .

    Only do to incompetence of Royal Navy and their generational fashionism for modernity in missiles ignoring the anti-aircraft gun. A 1945 WW2 RN destroyer had better AA than 1980 RN Frigate…

  • lucklucky

    In fairness, the Argentine Air Force acquitted itself with skill, bravery and honor, much to the detriment of many a British lad

    .

    Only do to Royal Navy incompetence do to generational fashion for modernity represented by missiles while despising the anti-aircraft gun. A 1945 WW2 RN destroyer had better air defence than a 1980 RN Frigate…

  • lucklucky

    Apologies for duplication.

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