Tiananmen Square

Tiananmen Square, one



act (2) defiance extraordinary
expect standstill put down (2)
pro (2) cover (2) correspondent
brutal aftermath suppression
predate reflect (2) tumultuous
appear follow (3) charismatic
purge trigger (2) outpouring
turmoil ominous ceremonial
grief deliver (2) assembly (2)
hope dialogue martial law
request presume authorities
dissent loosen up grew/grow/grown
blame rational confident (2)
moral pretty (2) shoot/shot/shot
declare overthrow lose patience
deter peter out occupation
sort of force (2) roundabout (2)
decisive square (3) once and for all
warn issue (3) demand (2)
line (3) as long as consequence
defiant overturn as far as (2)
display tough (2) live ammunition
quell anarchy remembrance
riot unarmed counter (3)
justify essentially handle (2)
incident patriotic responsible
verdict clear (2) column (2)
remain barricade concerned






New Reporter: Yesterday, in an extraordinary single act of defiance, this young unarmed protester brought a column of tanks to a standstill.

My name is Adrian Brown. I’m the Beijing correspondent for Al Jazeera, and I was here in this city more than thirty years ago, covering the start of the pro-democracy movement, and the aftermath of the brutal suppression of that movement.

I’ve come today to Ritan Park. It’s in the centre of Beijing; it’s one of my favorite places in this city. It’s a park that predates communist times, and it’s a good place to, I think, reflect on those tumultuous events of 30 years ago.

I arrived in Beijing on May the fourth, the day that a million students marched across the city. Their march was led by a charismatic twenty-one (21) student called Wu’er Kaixi.

Now, the students had begun appearing on the streets of the Chinese capital several weeks earlier, following the death of a man called Hu Yaobang. He had been a liberal in the Chinese government, and had been purged several years earlier.

His death was the trigger for an outpouring of grief. And the students really believed in what Hu Yaobang wanted: he wanted to see a loosening up of things here in China. He wanted freedom of speech. He wanted freedom of assembly.

He wanted in many ways what the students were now demanding, which was for the Chinese government to deliver on promises enshrined in the country’s constitution.

Former Tianamen Square Protester: “We are patriotic; we were not trying to overthrow the government authorities. And we hoped we could have the right dialogue with the authorities, talking about a lot of things.

I don’t think this was a radical request, so I presumed at that time that the government would eventually agree with us.”

They wanted democracy, but also they wanted tougher measures against corruption.

Gradually the movement grew, and by the first week of May, Tiananmen Square became occupied by hundreds of thousands of students. Tiananmen Square of course is a ceremonial heart of Beijing.

Wu’er Kaixi, Student Protest Leader: “I think politically or legally or rationally speaking, we are blameless. That part, I’m pretty confident with.

But morally, I don’t know. That’s another thing: what if there was one person who was shot dead who was in that place because he heard a speech given by me.”

By the third week of May, the government had started to lose patience, and it declared martial law . . . but this didn’t deter the students, and the occupation continued.

But by then, the protest movement had started to sort of peter out.

Roundabout early June, June the third, the evening, the afternoon of June the third, a decision had clearly been made to use force to finally end the occupation, to clear the students out of Tiananmen Square once and for all.

And that, of course, is when scenes happened that were to shock the world.

Adrian Brown, News Reporter (1989): “Meanwhile the men who control the army, and perhaps now the government have issued another ominous warning: ‘Stay off the streets or face the consequences’.”

I remember very clearly on the afternoon of June the fourth, walking towards Tiananmen Square. The army had now essentially regained control of the centre of Beijing, but still they were firing warning shots at protesters who were getting too close to the square.

I remember very clearly seeing two bodies. And they were burning barricades wherever you looked.

It was a picture of anarchy.

But still, people were defiant. But they knew now, the protest movement was over.

Wu’er Kaixi, Student Protest Leader: “We had expected some bloodshed, mainly we would be hit by police batons, perhaps.

That’s what we had expected.

Live ammunition?

No. Never.”

Here in Beijing, it is just another day. There will be no open displays of dissent. No open displays of remembrance.

As far as the Chinese government is concerned, they were responsible for putting down a counter-revolutionary riot.

And just a few days ago in Singapore, a defense minister justified the actions by the army at the time.

Wei, Defense Minister, People’s Republic of China: “Everybody is concerned about Tiananmen after thirty years. Throughout the thirty years, China under the Communist Party has undergone many changes.

Do you think the government was wrong with the handling of June fourth?

There was a conclusion to that incident. That was a political turmoil that the central government needed to quell. The government was decisive in stopping the turbulence.

That was the correct policy.”

And I think as long as the Communist Party is in power here, there will be no overturning of that verdict on Tiananmen Square. That will be the line they will take for as long as the Communist Party remains in power.


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1. The events in Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China occurred in 2009. True or false?

2. Did the protesters simply appear spontaneously? Was Hu Yaobang an ordinary politician?

3. The students wanted to overthrow the government. Is this right or wrong?

4. Only a few thousand people demonstrated in Tiananmen Square. Is this correct or incorrect?

5. Did they have dialogues with the students? Did the government make concessions with the students?

6. Riot police broke up the demonstration using tear gas, truncheons and shields. Yes or no?

7. Were there protest leaders? Who was the main protest leader? How does he feel today?

8. Are there any plaques or memorials in Beijing regarding the events of June, 1989? Is this much discussed and taught in schools?
A. Have you heard about the events in Tiananmen Square in 1989? What do history books, teachers, professors, journalists and academics say about it?

B. There have been protests, demonstrations and upheavals in my country. Yes or no?

C. Today, do people want to reform or change the government, or does it vary?

D. Is your government, school and society 100% truthful and open about history, social and political issues?

E. What might happen in China (and the world) in the future?

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