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Last Updated: Friday, 11 June, 2004, 10:52 GMT 11:52 UK
Tiananmen protests: Your memories
Pro-democracy demonstration by Chinese students in Tiananmen Square in 1989
Fifteen years ago, China witnessed a spring of protests and calls for reform, before these were brutally crushed by tanks around Beijing's Tiananmen Square on the night of 3/4 June 1989.

After the square was cleared of students and protesters, hundreds of unarmed people were gunned down on nearby streets by China's People's Liberation Army and People's Armed Police.

The massacre changed the world's view of China's Communist leaders, forced hundreds of protesters to flee abroad, and made discussion of political change inside China extremely dangerous.

What are your memories of the Tiananmen protests? Has China changed in the last 15 years, or is another Tiananmen possible? And what hopes are there for more democracy?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received:

Roads were blocked, buses were burnt, schools were shut
Jun, Beijing, China
I was in elementary school in Beijing when the Tiananmen incident happened. Roads were blocked, buses were burnt, schools were shut, and my life was totally disrupted. At the time I did not understand the purpose of the students', and later the workers' protest. But I wondered why they couldn't do it in a less extreme way. Now I believe that the Chinese people have taken the lesson and history will not repeat itself.
Jun, Beijing, China

I had a brilliant doctoral student from China who came after the Tiananmen protest occurred. She used to live very near the Tiananmen Square. Yet she did not know what happened in June 1989. When she came in 1990, she stayed with us during the holidays and the one year anniversary was played by CNN. She watched 24 hours without sleep and was surprised to see it had happened around her apartment in Beijing.
DRV, Frederick, USA

If the ends justify the means, how can you not appreciate the Chinese administration's vision and resolve to bring China out of poverty. Political freedom is a need for the ambitious few who often do not care for the needs of the poor, which is food and basic daily needs. Look back in history, China's prosperity has always rested on its ability to feed its people.
Hoy, NY, USA

I was 9 years old when the Tiananmen massacre happened and I still can't forget the time when I was standing in front of the TV and saw the troops shooting at their own people. I find it disgusting when there are some Chinese people saying that it is correct to crackdown on the so-called counter revolution activity as it keeps China stable and results in the dramatic growth of the economy.
Eunice, Hong Kong

Before mainland China has any remote chance of seeing political reform and human rights improvement, the following has to happen. All those currently in power that are from the old guard (from the Maoist era) and those from the Cultural Revolution (60's) have passed away, at least in political terms. China has always been run by warlords even to this day; they just carry different banners.
J. Wong, Toronto, Canada

During the whole of May 1989 I was busy preparing for public examinations. I had no idea what happened in local schools. But after the June 4, there were a great deal of people wearing something black around their wrists. Most of the people looked sorrowful.
Cityos, Hong Kong

I remember the build up of the protest s
Peipei, UK
I was in Beijing 1989, my parents lived above the Friendship store on the 24th floor. I remember the build up of the protests and the enormous march of people down that wide avenue. I thought, "They might just be heard!" I was wrong of course. I was in the square on the day the students had made a "Goddess of Democracy", and painted it white. It was so idealistic and innocent. Three days later the tanks had gone in and in the shooting, had burned this symbol. I was far away by then, in Urumqi. There was no need for "powerful force", the students were unarmed and they were trying to leave. It breaks my heart to hear young students in China now quoting the Government line about the "historical event". For those of us who are lucky enough to be able to, it's important to speak out and remember it all the more.
Peipei, UK

We Chinese shouldn't stop at satisfying ourselves with having more food to eat, there are still tremendous problems in the country. Tiananmen is not over; the Chinese people mustn't give up independent thinking like now. Perhaps that is just the strength of the West; here people are used to independent thinking. Perhaps our people need to have a change of culture, a change of thought to avoid future tragedies and to help China to become mature.
Nan Xu, Germany

China has made progress - fact. The government was wrong to shoot down the students at Tiananmen Square 15 years ago - fact. These issues shouldn't be confused - the fact that the government has done a great job with the economy doesn't mean that they don't need to acknowledge that it was wrong that their predecessors shot down the protestors.
G, London

The Chinese government should apologise and compensate those who lost their family members 15 year ago. The corruption in the country is becoming even worse. I feel so sad for the Chinese people.
Li Jun, China

Stability is the key!
Y. Zhang, London, UK
I was a young boy living in Beijing when the event happened, so I could hardly observe all aspects of the event. But what I have noticed is the growing economy in China, the improved living standards, and the freer political atmosphere after 1989. Before 1989, the monthly income of my family was only 20, and now I am studying in UK supported by my family, which I cannot even imagine at that time. So I have to say, from my personal point of view and based on my personal experience, the decision of our government was right. Stability is the key! Without it, China would have become worse than ever.
Y. Zhang, London, UK

The Chinese student of today needs to learn from this lesson and not to do anything similar again. Democracy is something we will eventually get to but probably not in the next 10 years. The top priorities now are the economy and general education. Otherwise just look at where Russia is now.
George Lai, Sydney, Australia

I remember the lead up to the massacre vividly. I was 14 at the time and the thing that struck me most was earlier on the night of the 3rd a Hong Kong TV news crew were in the Square reporting on the tension in the Square that night. The next morning I turned on the news again to see the bloody evidence on the tv. This was no incident - it was a deliberate military action against their own civilians.

Despite all the other tragedies the world has seen since 1989 this was the one that changed the course of my life - I did not want to be in Hong Kong in 1997 to see for myself. Every year now leading up to June 4 I find myself reflecting and sorrowful about the events 15 years ago now. I am not overly religious but I find myself needing to go to Church and offer a prayer every June 4 as I have done again today.
John , Bisbane, Australia - ex Hong Kong

As a young student, I have no powerful comment on the historical event of fifteen years ago, but I know that the development of China needs stability. There are hundreds of thousands of people waiting for improved living conditions. It is necessary to take any measures to crackdown on such demonstrations including using powerful force, if not the country will run into a mess with the rest, the same as the Former Soviet Union.
After series of reforms, the achievement of the Chinese government is attracting worldwide attention including economic, technological, freedom of speech, living conditions, etc. As an ordinary Chinese, I cannot deny the achievement. Everyone should pay more attention on what the coalition led by U.S.A is doing in Iraq especially with regard to the prisoners.
Huangyi, China

The events of the Tianamen massacre definitely made things go from bad to worse
Meng, China
There are misconceptions about the Chinese. Lots of people think they are getting rich. In fact they are not. the truth is those who are rich frequently go to other countries and they project the rich image of Chinese in the face and those who are poor do not have any chance to speak out how they suffered from the social system. They do not even know the deep mechanism of the Chinese regime that consciously ripped them off. The events of the Tianamen massacre definitely made things go from bad to worse. After that nobody cares about anything but themselves. They are all extremely careful to avoid any sensitive word in their speech. The media is harassed for their objective reports. As the popular Chinese saying in this country ignorance is bliss
Meng, China

I was a grad student working in Beijing at the time and watched events unfold with sympathy, dread, and horror. This was not simply a student democracy movement, however. The majority of protesters and victims were working people who were dissatisfied with their economic conditions under the reforms. As the reforms intensify, those left behind are filled with the same anxiety and anger protesters felt in '89. As long as this transition continues, China will be a tinderbox. The development of a modern, industrial economy has been a socially violent process the world over.
Melissa Macauley, Evanston, U.S.A.

I was in Beijing on June 4th, 1989, and saw the actions of the Chinese army towards ordinary people in the streets and even in their own homes; I could "move on" and forget about it, if it were not for the fact that repression continues in China today and the families of those victims have never been acknowledged. The redress of this wrong, by the government, would be the right beginning for the political reform that China needs. Without it, every Chinese citizen, rich or poor, is still a potential victim to the all-powerful government officials and their unchecked power. No amount of economic growth can protect the people from such acts as was witnessed 15 years ago. Only a change in the system that changes the power structure can ensure that this never happens again. Don't the Chinese people deserve this assurance?
Ren, New York, USA

A sad lesson learnt for all mankind. Those living under democratic governments should consider ourselves lucky and never take things for granted. We must defend freedom, democracy, justice, transparency etc indefinitely.
Jim Sagner, Seoul, Korea

Everybody can see, from 1989 until now, how much China has developed.
E, Tokyo

Which country can realize democracy? Does USA, UK treat other countries fairly? They robbed many countries before, and even now, then they say other countries don't have democracy. Everybody can see, from 1989 until now, how much China has developed. Of course we still have a lot of problems, but our lives keep being better and better. China has 1.3billion people! Is it easy to make everything in good order in such short time?
E, Tokyo Japan

Chinese have been under oppression from foreign powers for many decades. I propose that we should stand together and build a better China for the sake of our future generation. Let bygones be bygones. We have seen so much changes and opportunities that arose in front of us in this last decade. Please do not fall into the trap of foreign supremacy. Let the Chinese work together and we should not let the Opium War happened again.
David, Malaysia

I remember watching in horror on television when I was in 6th grade the travesty of those student fighting for their freedoms only to lose their lives for what they believe in. Eleven years later in the year 2000, I stood at very spot of those students where they lost the lives. Being older and wiser, I couldn't shake off those images I witnessed all those years ago. I can't and won't forget them.
Chris, San Francisco, CA

I strongly condemned the Communist government of China for what they did to its people. It was because of the brutality that I had to leave my home country more than 10 years ago. When will China has democracy and freedom like Japan, USA,...etc
Wu Sheng Qi, Singapore

Westerners should think twice before talking about Tiananmen protests. Chinese government allowed protesting for 15 days in city main place, Tiananmen Square. Protesters blocked the roads of capital. Will UK and US allow protesters to do this type of protest for single day? All people who loud much in support of Tiananmen protest should think whether it is possible to protest like this in their country.
K.V.K. Ramesh, Chennai, India

Mr Ramesh, if citizens of the UK or US staged a Tiananmen style protest, their governments would be either back down on protesters' demands, or reach a compromise. If the government dare to crack down, they would be voted out of office.
Kan, Hong Kong

If the Communist Party does not tolerate the existence of other political parties, the country could never go forward under a one-party rule.
Sam, USA

I don't believe that China's economy will ever succeed without the fundamental freedom from fear
Kim, Cambridge, UK
China is surely one of the worst places for the abuse of human rights. There must be something more that the UN can do to bring an end to this insanity. I don't believe that China's economy will ever succeed without the fundamental freedom from fear that is necessary for healthy growth and investment.
Kim, Cambridge, UK

To Kim, I disagree with you. I think the worst place for the abuse of human rights is actually in the prisons in Iraq at present. As regard to your statement about you not believing China's economy will ever succeed without the fundamental freedom from fear. In case you have not noticed, China's GDP has grown by 8% each year for the a few years now and the trend is continuing. It has become one of the most attractive investment market for investors around the world. Isn't this a success already?
Jiang, London, UK

I watched the Tiananmen murder unfold on television and know that what was broadcast was only a small piece of what went on. The Chinese Government chose to end the demonstration in the only way they knew and that was to kill the protesters. They will do it again and its a miracle that they haven't massacred thousands in Hong Kong as they continually threaten over Taiwan. The Chinese Govt is a past master at the bloody purge style of control through fear "The sun is red and rises in the east" Chairman Mao
John, UK

Ironically, Tiananmen means "gates of heavenly peace."
Dan Peed, Silver Spring, USA
All who love freedom should remember the martyrs of Tiananmen. Ironically, the name means "Gates of heavenly peace." To paraphrase a certain famous British statesman, "some peace, some heaven."
Dan Peed, Silver Spring, USA

It is interesting to see the diverse opinions of the people here. A lot of Chinese mainlanders seem to suggest that the 'events' be forgotten and to move on with the "good work" happening in Chinese economy. I cannot form a personal opinion on it because I see so many Chinese so strongly believing that the student leaders themselves were responsible for so many deaths. The only opinion I have is that the events should not be forgotten and that the people in China and elsewhere should learn from them.
Pal, India

I note many here voice the opinion that China has progressed and that we should move on. It has and perhaps we should. But that does not absolve us of the responsibility to remember the past. Just as my country must account for its actions, so too must China and the CCP account for theirs. We shouldn't let history dictate our future, but we are obligated to acknowledge it.
Guy, USA

Never give up hope of achieving democracy in China
Sam Huang , Taipei, Taiwan

When the Tiananmen Square movement was happening, I was only a child who was about to become a rebellious teenager. However, I praise the bravery of those students who were demanding for political reform in China. It's sad to see that they were either killed, tortured, or being forced on exile etc. However, the seed of democracy had spread like fire across Eastern Europe in that year and I also witnessed the collapse of the USSR in 1991 and the democratic reforms in Taiwan. What I would say is, never give up hope of achieving democracy in China. Also, never fall into the honey trap of the Chinese economic miracle. Having said that, it's very sad to see that the EU are so wimpy towards the Chinese dictatorship.
Sam Huang , Taipei, Taiwan (now Leeds, UK)

Kent State 1970; Kwanju, South Korea 1980. Tiananmen 1989. Let's remember all the governments that have shot student protestors, not just the one the US government wants you to remember .
Jane, UK

Do not forget we in the great west, stand and watch as the innocent are shot in Iraq and Palestine, can another Tiananmen square happen yes but under other name, and shame on us when it dose.
James Care, Paris France

I was only 8 years old when the Tiananmen Protests took place. I was back in Hong Kong at that time and I could still remember that we - the primary school students sang 'peace' songs with our teachers and I could recall how the tanks rolled over the students that day.
Jennifer Lee Ching Man, Singapore

I thought this would never be forgotten, but life goes on
Stella, UK
From BBCChinese.com: So many years have passed. It is not meaningful to keep organising activities on this. That year I was in the first year in university. I thought this would never be forgotten. However, the reality is different. Life goes on. Society continues to develop. To dwell on who is right and who is wrong, is that meaningful? Please leave that to the historians.
Stella, UK

From BBCChinese.com: It was those student leaders who brought the death of other students. Some seniors in Beijing University said, in reality, that many students did not want to go on hunger strike. All they wanted then was to protest. But then, once they got into Tiananmen Square, they were retained by the more militant students and could not return. If they knew when to stop, then there would not have been the subsequent bloodshed.
WLC, Oxford, UK

From BBCChinese.com: I was in Beijing in 1989. I can still remember very clearly the gunshot noises in the streets and the anger of the citizens of Beijing. As regards 4 June, I think it not only proves the guilt of a certain party or of certain individuals, it is also a shame on all Chinese.
Zline, Japan

From BBCChinese.com: Whether the verdict on 4 June is reversed (by the Chinese authorities) is not important. It is the same as 4 May Movement (in 1919), written into history. How will it be forgotten?
Traveller, Canada

From BBCChinese.com: Why is it that the supporters are all outside China, and that all the witnesses are in the US?
FM, Yunnan, China

The official version of the Chinese Communist Party regarding what they refer to as the Tiananmen 'incident' is probably the most blatant lie and cover up at present by any major globally influential government. I was a teacher at Beijing Normal University in 1999, the tenth anniversary, and witnessed how all my students regurgitated, like robots, the official story. Previously, I had thought humanity had gone beyond nightmarish Orwellian scenarios. However in China, in terms of free speech, expression, assembly, and press, the nightmare is still vibrantly thriving.
Peter Daignault, Hong Kong

China has progressed
Anthony Wong, Montreal, Canada
I went to China in September 1989, only a few months after the Tiananmen event. There was silence everywhere. But there was hope and there was progress. In Beijing, as we toured the city, 50% of restaurants were under private ownership competing with the other 50% of restaurants government-owned. What was astonishing was the efficiency, competitiveness and effectiveness of both types of restaurants. So what system is really better? What was more astonishing was the tremendous change that China was to undergo in the next 3, 5, 10 and 15 years. From only a few dozen mini-skyscrapers of 1989 to today's thousands of world-class buildings, China has progressed.
Anthony Wong, Montreal, Canada

Both the Chinese government and the Chinese students learned their lessons from what happened in the spring of 1989. The government makes sure that the next protest won't take place so easily; the students try their best to avoid the ideal of freedom and democracy in their college life. That's what the Tiananmen protests brought to the Chinese people: an ever authoritarian government and a lost young generation.
Jiang He, Los Angeles, USA

I was 7 years old at the time, and yet I can still remember when pictures of the lone student standing in front of the tank scrolled across the television screen. My mom walked from the kitchen into the living room where the television was, stared at the television, then hurriedly declared that it was time for dinner. Much has happened in the last fifteen years in China. It seems like as long as there is sufficient economic growth and enough food on the table, there seems to be little worry. Yet the Chinese population should be worried about the future, whether capitalism and a 'communist' government will eventually clash. The Chinese leadership and citizens need to reconsider their culture and conceptions of autonomy and paternalism.
Patrick, San Francisco, USA

Every year about this time I feel a little bit lost
Alex, New Zealand, Auckland
I was one of the million who marched, and shouted slogans in Hong Kong. Now I really forgot what were those slogans, and I'm going back. But every year about this time I feel a little bit lost.
Alex, New Zealand, Auckland

The bravest man in the world stood in front of those tanks. We have a lot to learn from acts like that
Jason, London, England

I was 11 at that time, but the memory of Tiananmen has never faded from my heart. I love China and am proud of the nation. My long term wish is that the day this incident is officially recognized will come soon.
Colleen Wong, ex-Hong Kong

Another Tiananmen is entirely possible
Luke, Hamilton, Canada
The growth of the Chinese economy can't continue in the communist environment. Some capitalism is needed to allow for better trade. Eventually there will be a clash between the communist government and the capitalism required for continued economic growth. As a result, another Tiananmen is entirely possible.
Luke, Hamilton, Canada

Well, at least at that time the students had the sense of seeking democracy and freedom, but to be honest, people's attitudes toward politics nowadays imply that they just don't care about things anymore. We all tend to be very realistic and materialistic and who want to care about these domestic issues? People are enjoying a 10,000yuan-meal in some luxury places while some others are starving to death in the countryside. Isn't the gap large enough to be seen? I think Chinese people need to start to be aware of the things they never considered or thought about, because today there're still lots of problems in China.
Dave, US

The Tiananmen demonstrations shook the political system under the Communist regime
Urumqi, China
The Tiananmen demonstrations shook the political system under Communist regime, however there was not enough pressure from the free world. I firmly believe that china will move towards a free and democratic society. We must fight for freedom!
Urumqi, China

It is stupid to try and link trade to human rights in China. Trading with China is now a fact, and economic sanctions are not the best way to punish China if another Tiananmen happens. The two issues need to be kept separate. On the other hand, "to get rich is glorious" isn't where Chinese reforms will end. China needs both the hardware and software of a liberal democracy if it ever wants to make its people genuinely happy.
Nathan Madsen, Los Angeles, CA

I wonder what the UK or USA government would do if protesters blocked up their capital for over two weeks?
Steve, UK

Give China a break, it is doing incredibly well
Charlie, Durham, UK
Tiananmen happened 15 years ago. Isn't it time to move on? China is undoubtedly going in the right direction, so why don't we have patience and trust that it is developing in the right way, rather than try to impose the same standards we have enjoyed for a much longer time? Give China a break, it is doing incredibly well!
Charlie, Durham, UK

To Charlie of Durham, UK - No, but it is NOT time to "move on", if you want us to forget about Tiananmen, forget about protesting, and demand our rights. Is China moving in the right direction? Did you know that just a few months ago the Chinese government arrested three of the mothers of the students, who got shot by the army and died 15 years ago? Why would any reasonable government do that?
Katherine, Hong Kong

The massacre on Tiananmen Square is an event that I would rather forget but cannot. Ever since June 4, 1989, an unspeakable sadness has always descended on me around this time of the year as my mind drifts back to that unforgettable summer. I can never forget those who died on the square that night or thereafter as the persecution continued. On the eve of the 15th anniversary of the massacre, when even former Eastern Bloc countries are able to join the European Union, I lament over the unfulfilled hope of those who continue to aspire to freedom and democracy, and the cruel fate of China, of which I am no longer a part.
Tom, Canada, formerly of Hong Kong

Tiananmen protests should not become a tool for the West to bash China. As we have witnessed many past events that were orchestrated by the West and the CIA and let the host countries to face the consequences while the West benefits.
Oliver Tran, UK

Tiananmen seems more a continuous process than a single event
Ryan Mitchell, New York, NY, USA
Tiananmen seems more a continuous process than a single event. Since July 1999, hundreds of peaceful Falun Gong practitioners like myself have gone to the Square to protest the Chinese government's intense campaign of suppression. In such a situation, I would say that "another Tiananmen" is not a possibility so much as it is an immediate and ongoing reality. I appreciate the freedom offered by this forum to express such an opinion safely.
Ryan Mitchell, New York, NY, USA

Another Tiananmen incident will not happen as long as China's economy continues to grow. Everyone's standard of living will improve and politics will be the last thing on most people's minds. More importantly is that the US now realises the business potential in China and would not jeopardise their relationships by encouraging democratic activists to stage another protest, just like they did prior to 4th June 1989.
Alan, UK (ex-Hong Kong)

The event was a big shock for the Chinese government, they changed something, but in the event those students were not very smart. They only wanted to give some ideas to the government, but also wanted to change the government. That is crazy, not just protest. Students cannot fight with the army. That period is unforgotten, but nowadays China has some big changes in different parts. People have become rich. Yes, some regions are poor, but it is just a matter of time until that changes. Consequently, another Tiananmen is impossible.
Chen Liu, Quimper, France

The most vivid memory for me is the man who stood blocking the path of those Army tanks. I have often wondered what happened to him.
Charles, Montreal, Canada




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