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Last Updated: Monday, 31 May, 2004, 23:08 GMT 00:08 UK
Witnessing Tiananmen: Unforgettable moments
Special unit soldiers storming the Hero's Memorial in Tiananmen Square, 5am , 4 June 1989 (64memo.com)
Chinese soldiers began clearing Tiananmen Square early on 4 June
Fifteen years ago, China witnessed huge protests and calls for change, before these were brutally crushed by tanks around Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

The BBC's Chinese Service has interviewed some of those who witnessed the protests and subsequent bloodshed.

Ma Shao-fang was one of 21 students who was later pursued by the Chinese Government. He was imprisoned for three years and now lives in Shenzhen.

It is very difficult for me to forget two events that happened at the time - one during the night of 3 June and the early hours of 4 June, and the other on the day of 4 June.

The first event took place after the lights at Tiananmen Square had been switched off.

We were at the time sitting around the obelisk of the Monument to the People's Heroes. And then, when the lights were switched on again, we saw the army tanks were already inside the Square, and the students' sleeping tents all around had been run over.

I couldn't be sure if there were still people inside those tents. Even to this day there is still a question mark in my mind.

Were there students sleeping inside those tents? Of course, people had earlier called out to wake up the people inside the tents. But it was never certain if some were still sleeping in them.

Zhao Ziyang, 19 May 1989
15 April - Reformist leader Hu Yaobang dies
22 April - Hu's memorial service, thousands call for faster reforms
13 May - Students begin hunger strike as power struggle grips Communist party
15 May - Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev visits China
19 May - Zhao Ziyang (pictured) makes tearful appeal to students to leave
20 May - Martial law declared in Beijing
3-4 June - Security forces clear the square, killing hundreds

Later, the soldiers and the students confronted each other - face to face. After some consideration we decided to retreat and leave the Square. The soldiers who were armed to the teeth put their bayonets against our chests to force us to come out.

And then later there was a bit of confusion during our retreat that suddenly turned into great chaos.

People were shouting "sit down, sit down". I was in the front row. The soldiers' bayonets were against my chest and the chests of Liang Zhao Er and Yang Zhao Hui.

I must say the soldiers on that day behaved rationally. They finally moved back and we were left with more room.

I think we were quite brave at the time. We were singing the Internationale and people were calling aloud to every one to "sit down, sit down". And so we spread out and expanded our occupation area so that fellow students in the inside areas could leave the Square in an orderly manner.

I couldn't understand how a child could have been considered a thug and criminal

I think the bravery we were showing at the time was rather moving - with our chests pressed against the bayonets. Eventually the soldiers retreated. No actual conflicts and clashes took place.

I find it difficult to forget the events of that day. I think, in front of brute force, one needs to show courage. You need to use non-violent means to deal with violence and brute force.

And eventually you can achieve something that you find special and touching.

The second event which I find difficult to forget happened in the afternoon of 4 June.

I was cycling on my way back to my college, and when I got to De Sheng Men I saw the dead body of a child.

I couldn't understand how a child could have been considered a thug and criminal.

People were carrying the child on a broken plank. He could not have been more than 10. Perhaps I was not good at telling his age.

He had not only one bullet hole, there were many holes on his body - the body of only a child.

I don't know when or where he was shot. But such a young life - a young life with a hope and future - was brutally cut down.

I'll never forget the scene. It came back often in my dreams. I couldn't bear to think of the events in 1989 bringing about such results.

We will be publishing other interviews in the run-up to the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre on June 4. The first two articles in the series can be seen here:


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