June 4th, 2019 marks the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests, the infamous event that took place in Beijing in which tens of thousands of students gathered to call for freedom of speech, freedom of the press, democracy, greater accountability, and less censorship.
“I just watched him and waited. But they didn’t shoot him.”
— TicToc by Bloomberg (@tictoc) May 30, 2019
As the protests gathered steam, the Chinese government’s response was to send in troops and tanks seize control of the area by force. Many demonstrators and bystanders were killed as part of the resulting skirmish and resulted in the now-iconic ‘Tank Man’ image.
While there have been varying death toll numbers released (the Chinese Community Party claim 300 or so people died while other reports put the figure between several hundred to 2,600), we’ll never know what the official number is.
According to a new Four Corners documentary, titled ‘Tremble and Obey‘, Military attache Air Force Group Captain Peter Everett, who was working at the Australian embassy at the time of the protests, says that in order for parents to claim the bodies of their deceased children, they had to sign a document claiming they died in an accident, not shot by the Chinese government.
This allowed the government to “claim” that the death toll is “only” in the hundreds when in reality the actual number is many times more than that.
If you want to watch the documentary, go here.
Three decades on, the Tiananmen Square protests remain one of the most censored topics in China today, so much so that China locked down its social media sites ahead of the incident’s anniversary.
China may be trying to quash what happened in Beijing in 1989 but the world will never forget what went down during those few days 30 years ago.