Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Hidden Away for 28 Years, Tiananmen Protest Pictures See Light of Day (nytimes.com)
337 points by tysone on June 1, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 130 comments

Kind of a personal story, but my fiancé is from Beijing. She found out about Tiananmen square about a year ago. She only knew that she shouldn't ask about the Tiananmen incident growing up and that it was a bad thing that happened.

She has been in the states for several years now and when she found out what really happened with our even blurry images and stories we have now it really changed her perspective on things.

Even though its 28 years old, many of the younger generations don't know a thing about what happened, regardless if it's censored in their country or not.

History should not be censored like this. You should not have to move out of country to know what your country has done. I am extremely grateful for the brave photographer preserving his images for the world.

A couple of years ago, I spent some time in South Africa. At one point I asked a local friend what they thought about the song "Sun City"[0], which was an anti-Apartheid song from 1985. My friend never heard of the song and was shocked since so many big artists performed on the track. They proceeded to ask their friends on Facebook, many of which were in theirs 30s/40s, if they heard the song, and the far majority of them also never heard of the song. The government was very effective in blocking access to the song via all the normal channels for the time.

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X36NC-mIbq0

I'm in my mid 30s and remember seeing it on TV as a kid in Shanghai. The news were all reporting on how the PLA rolled in and were holding back and avoiding violence against harassment from the protesters. (And to be fair most were until the orders came down from up top).

Other interesting pieces of media:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Gate_of_Heavenly_Peace I think does a pretty good job at covering a highly controversial event. Providing its own interpretation of what lead to the protests as well as what escalated and its aftermath. (And when both sides of a controversy complain about "bad coverage" of their side then I consider it worth watching/reading ;))

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMUjsbSAZv0 Cui Jian Live at Tiananmen Square in 1989, performing for the students on hunger strike. (Cui's a rock and roll pioneer in China, who was later banned for many years for his support of the student protests)

*Edit: What I find fascinating now is I will see American Idol type of singing shows where the young contestant walk on stage and cover "A piece of red cloth", which Cui sang during the protests to allude to the youth being blinded by the government's promises and became an anthem for the protest. But the contestant likely had no idea what happened at Tiananmen Square nor what the song was alluding to...

There was a lot of dissent in the PLA against firinon Chinese citizens, especially since those soldiers were local. It wasn't until they brought in soldiers from far away (with fewer ties to beijingers) that they were willing to fire actual bullets. Suffice it to say, the CCP focused on indoctrination and loyalty in the PLA after 1989 so they wouldn't have that problem again (as well as building up the PAP so they would have actual riot police to avoid having to use military force at all).

The Gate of Heavenly Peace is a must watch if you want to fully comprehend how the whole ordeal went down. Highly recommend.

Just a quick side note. Back ~2006 I had the opportunity to travel to China with Carma Hinton, the director of Gate of Heavenly Peace. Amazing woman with an amazing background.

Would've loved to pick her brains on what she learned. I imagine she had interviewed tons of people in the process of making the documentary.

Yeah, to add some substance to the largely fluff comment I wrote above (I just woke up and was surprised to see someone mention the film), she actually went to school in China, so she is one of the only Westerner's I've ever met who could speak Mandarin natively. One of the unfortunate things is that she actually lost touch with a lot of her old friends due to the volatility of that era, so she had spent much of her adult life reconnecting with the people she's able to find. Many of them are pseudo dissidents now - like Dai Qing (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dai_Qing), who we were also fortunate enough to meet.

And the worst part about having to move out of country to find out things that were censored/hidden? You'll be inclined to believe foreign nations have a negative bias towards China.

At least, that's China's (and Russia's) narrative.

Or extreme emotional devastation that lead to extreme hatred towards the CCP government. Finding out you've been lied to your entire life WILL shock you to the core.

Funny enough for me, neither happened. I left when I was in my early teens but having spent enough time being indoctrinated. I didn't chalk every western report on the CCP to be based on hatred, nor did I develop extreme distaste for the CCP.

I still think Western reporting likes to sprinkle in a few words to demonstrate their distaste for communism and authoritarianism (even when unnecessarily) whenever possible. But above all I think I just learned to be skeptical -- a useful trait for this current election cycle ;)

To be fair I think for the people that are much older who have spent their life dedicated to the proletariat struggle, the truth may be a lot harder to swallow. On the other hand, the older folks aren't blind either. Most will have some idea that there are devious things happening behind the curtain -- but Chinese as a culture has always promoted collective harmony over individuality. So most simply accept the way things are.

Isn't that exactly the case in some instances? Every country and, by extension, news channel has its own agenda to push.

Yes, but in places where say news organizations are tightly controlled by the state, it is much easier to push a nationalistic, "my-country-can-do-no-wrong" agenda than in places where multiple parties push for agendas that help point out flaws that need to be mended in a country.

One thing doesn't prove or disprove the other really.

To be fair, USA hardly ever reports positive articles about China. We didn't report on their moon landing until a year after it happened and many people don't even know it happened at all.

Same goes with their space station. The only coverage went to their previous one that is leaving orbit into earth.

I know that this is a small sample size and only related to their space program as well as my personal observations, but its really hard (for me at least) to say that the USA media does not have a negative bias towards China

For the past couple months the media has pointed out China's successes in tech in Shenzhen, how they have a much better stance on climate change than Trump, and how they have the most prudent position (that doesn't involve all-out war) on North Korea. That's pretty positive if you ask me.

Yes, it is getting better. But even then I can't help but feel like it's said in this "See, even the Chinese do better than trump" manner. Just like 10 years ago the only good news about China was about how well their economy is doing, but not without some "they took our jobs" vibe.

Maybe it's a bit of her bias seeping in a bit, but I can certainly agree it's getting better

>To be fair, USA hardly ever reports positive articles about China.

That's not true at all. For decades the mainstream media has been reporting about how China has been industrializing at a remarkable pace, and how the life of the average person there is vastly more free than it was under Mao.

But it also reports on the negatives like net censorship and widespread corruption. On the whole, I think the US mainstream media gives a much more balanced picture China than does China's own media.

I'm in the UK and it was reported in the media here, but even so the main news sources I used with the best info were American.

I don't understand that it was voted down. I think it is a fair argument.

I agree the reporting has been getting better.

Nonsense. The 2013 Chinese moon probe landing was literally reported in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and CNN. What more do you want?

I guess for something that eventful to be more common knowledge. You can find articles from 2016, 2017 even "announcing" the images, but as far as the general public cares, USA was the only country on the moon.

Again, this is my personal bias and I live in the Mid-west so it may be different elsewhere

Various countries have been sending unmanned probes to the moon since 1959. It's not eventful just because China managed to repeat what the Soviet Union and USA did decades ago. It's great that the Chinese accomplished it and they should be proud of their efforts, but so what.

You can't force ordinary people to care about every single space exploration mission. It doesn't impact their lives.

Maybe it is just that sending a robot to the moon doesn't count as "having been on the moon", else the EU, US and USSR would "have been on the Mars" already.

The Soviets landed unmanned craft on the moon too[1], not to downplay China's success. I would imagine most people tend to think of the Apollo landings and nothing else, since getting people there and back in one piece is fairly significant.

1: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moon_landing#Unmanned_landings

this sub-thread is basically the raison d'etre for n-gate.


I saw this video a few years back of a Chinese filmmaker asking others, on June 4th, if they know what day it is. The answers show how such an enormous open secret can be kept from your fiancé's generation.

https://vimeo.com/44078865 (action starts about 1 minute in)

There are a lot of young people who know, but aren't going to just start talking about it on camera. I've known a lot of people who will talk about it eventually, but it's not something they want to immediately jump to. At least in the universities I'm familiar with, most kids seemed to know about it.

How old is she? I was maybe 8 at the time. I was not in Beijing. Even I knew what was happening, the event was broadcasted on TV at the time. It was probably heavily censored, but I knew demonstrations etc were going on in Beijing at the time.

She is 25, so not old enough to comprehend it as it happened certainly.

Why the downvotes? How many british people know about Jallianwala Bagh massacre, shooting at a peaceful gathering killing hundreds, that was committed by them in India? How many americans care about the systematic racial genocide in their land? Most people don't care unless the event is very shocking at that time and place. And, if china is still poor, no one in west would have cared for their human rights violation.

The majority of my US History classes in high school focused on things like the trail of tears, the pullman strikes, Jim crow laws, Vietnam war atrocities, Japanese internment, our policies towards European refugees during WWII, the watergate scandal, the US invasion of panama, the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima... I learned about all of these as part of a standard public school education, just like all my peers. Plus you'd be crazy if you thought US media was bullish about Guantanamo, the missing weapons of mass destruction, NSA civilian spying, drone assassinations...

Regardless wether people care about those things(a lot don't), it's part of our education and media. I think the claim is Chinese history classes in china and their media are a bit more rose colored than ours, which is why people don't know about tiananmen square.

I had about 12 years of school where at least 1/3rd of the time was devoted to the atrocities of American history, in the South no less.

What are you talking about? Americans definitely care about what in the past, but you can't change things that happen in the past. The country, unlike China, is very open about the cracks in its core. There's a huge monument to MLK on the mall in DC. Can you say as much about Tienanmen Square?

You are verging on whataboutism.

There's a big difference. In the US we've been educated about atrocities against natives since youth. We learned about the Trail of Tears. You know about the Jallianwala Bagh massacre if you've watched Gandhi, a piece of Western film and entertainment.

That's incredibly different from the state overwriting or hiding history.

Tiananmen Square was only less than 30 years ago.

I definitely agree, and this problem is not limited to what we consider (or considered) repressive regimes..

In 1995 I went to visit college friends in Austin TX (I'm from eastern Canada) and a few of them who had grown up in Buda TX (a small town outside of Austin) told me that until high school (late 80s) they had been told in school by multiple teachers that the US had "won" the Vietnam War.

Obviously an anecdote, but there you go..

"I definitely agree, and this problem is not limited to what we consider (or considered) repressive regimes.."

I think the very best example of this (major, shocking news event unknown internally by US citizens) is the Iran Air flight 655 incident, wherein a US Navy cruiser shot a civilian airliner out of the sky, killing 290 passengers:


This airplane was flying in Iranian airspace. The Navy cruiser was in Iranian territorial waters.

You don't run into too many people in the US that know about this ...

It is hard to know about all of the US incidents abroad that are fucked, because there are so many of them, and we make no attempt to hide them at an institutional level. (Other than those made during already classified operations, but those get out eventually because using classification to cover up mistakes/crimes is generally a much more serious crime)

In school I learned about Japanese internment during WWII, The 3/5ths compromise and the trail of tears, and a dozen other US atrocities. I hear about drone strikes against weddings in the news.

The point is there is no institutional censorship stopping me from learning about this stuff, like there is in China with regards to Tienanmen Square.

I never heard "we won Vietnam," except jokingly, going to a regular public school in the 90's and 2000's in the Pacific Northwest.

My dad always described Vietnam with a little head-shaking regret (he was born in Texas in 1957, so he was too young to be drafted, but we had family friends in the war). We didn't hear about it much in elementary school, but in middle school history classes we learned about the Gulf of Tonkin and the smoke and mirrors surrounding that, and why the war was so difficult and controversial compared to previous wars. In high school I had more in-depth modern American history class, studied the social repercussions of the war, the Kent State shootings, the protests, etc.

I'm not sure if it's the chronologic difference or the geographic distance, but not every schoolchild in the US learned "we won the war."

Absolutely, and as I said my story is obviously anecdotal (as is yours of course), and I was not implying that this was the case across the board or in every region or school.

You guys won Vietnam. You just didn't achieve the best possible outcome. Really, Vietnam had a thriving economy by that time, growing industry in several cities, but after the war the country was nothing for a really long time. You bombed them into stone age, so it didn't even matter whether the country was communist, democratic or whatever else at that point.

Even crazier how china tells its students that Chi a son their Vietnam war, when the PLA lost so many soldiers and failed to achieve their objective of getting Vietnam out of Cambodia.

>You should not have to move out of country to know what your country has done.

Pretty much applies everywhere.

As a shortwave listener back in the day, the invasions of Grenada and Panama were widely broadcast ~8-12 hours everywhere before a peep showed up in US media. Iran-Contra and many other US actions were not uncovered by domestic media, they were exposed by foreign journalists.

People think they're better informed or more worldly after the internet. Surely that explains why the only two US media pundits who got any airtime opposing the Iraq War were Michael Moore and Paul Krugman. You have to watch RT to see someone like Chomsky even today.

>Pretty much applies everywhere.

That's nonsense. The US media is far more open and accurate than that the majority of nations, and far better than China.

> the only two US media pundits who got any airtime opposing the Iraq War were Michael Moore and Paul Krugman.

No, there was intense debate in the mainstream media. I know, I followed it.

I'm amazed at the things people manage to have no knowledge about.

I live in Tasmania. Couple years ago I met a philosophy graduate from Germany who didn't know who Pol Pot was.

How can a person go through a four year liberal arts course at a Western university and manage to evade such knowledge.

fyi, fiancée.

I think the only way for me to get that spelling right is to marry her

there are much better previous pictures and video footage compared to this so not sure why you are so thankful, for starters watch on YouTube The Tankman

I think you're missing the point. It's a piece of history that has been buried. The tankman isn't the only thing that happened. The calm protest before the gunfire is rare to see and the more images of policemen joining the protest mean so, so much.

For the younger people they can't just search "tank man" on youtube in china and find out what happened, because either A: they have no idea what tankman even is or B: the video is censored. These images, just like the ones my fiance found years after she moved to the states will circulate and hopefully find more minds to make sure we don't forget this horrible event.

no, these images will be censored same as all the other images

and for people familiar with Beijing massacre, they know that many gov officials joined people

An inspiring collection of photos, but I'd bet it attracts little interest outside a few select, irrelevant circles. One of the most heartbreaking thing about the massacre is not just that the mass murderers who ordered it were never held responsible but that today it barely even tarnishes their reputations, while the memory of their victims has been thoroughly suppressed.

I'm going to take a kind of despicable position. We don't know what would have happened had the protests been allowed to continue.

China is a vast country with mostly poor, uneducated people -- especially so in 1989.

Look at what happened in Syria. Look at the Arab spring. Is it just to kill hundreds, to prevent the slaughter of hundreds of thousands?

If the answer is no, never, I don't see how we can have states at all.

> Is it just to kill hundreds, to prevent the slaughter of hundreds of thousands?

A question like that can often be used to justify extreme exercise of state power -- witness raids on armed vigilante groups in the US -- but that's not quite the right question in this instance, which was a peaceful protest for democratic reform. As you say "we don't know what would have happened" here (and of course the Arab Spring couldn't have been a cautionary tale as it was decades in the future).

So the question in this situation is really "Is it just to kill hundreds, to prevent a hypothetical bad outcome you can't possibly predict, can't prove and which even if it happened you could mitigate in other ways at that time?". To which the answer is palpably "no".

In fact, it's a hell of a stretch to say oppressive dictatorships ever carry out actions like this "for the good of the many". They generally just carry them out to maintain their grip on power, which is an end in itself for them. But not one that justifies massacre, in the main.

Tian an Men protests were peaceful and non-violent. Why do you need to suppress them using guns and tanks? That's the perfect opportunity to embrace progressive regime change/evolution instead of gunning people down.

200 dead could bring 20 years of peace to China - Deng Xiaoping

So were the initial Syrian protests. The problem is, as a head of state, you're responsible for the whole populace. You don't know where it will end. It could literally end in the breakup and destruction of your country, never mind something as trivial as regime change.

EDIT> Or are you saying that peaceful protest could be met with some perhaps token concessions. Then if the protesters get violent, the state is justified in using violence?

Syria became mess not because there were peaceful protests, but because the extreme violence and oppression visited down by the government tore the country apart. You are holding the peaceful protesters responsible for the consequences of violent state repression. Perhaps you might want to rethink where the blame for that repression lies. Personally, I don't think it lies with the protesters.

Imagine an alternate timeline in which the Syrian government opened up dialogue with the protesters and negotiated a new constitutional convention. There is no reason they could not have chosen to do that. But here you are advocating the kind of extreme response that in Tiananmen 'only' lead to decades of despotic rule but which in Syria culminated in nerve gas attacks in civilian areas.

Curious how the extreme violence of the Chinese response in Tienanmen is responsible for the continuation of the government politics; while the same extreme response in Syria would be responsible for tearing apart the country.

Let me express a doubt about this kind of explanation, that seems more fit to put the blame squarely on the bad guy rather than understanding what happened. When protests turn so easily into a civil war that tears a country apart, it probably means that there are lots of people ready with weapons and military training, and that the government's response maybe hasn't been hard enough to prevent it.

Sometimes extreme repression works, sometimes it doesn't. It depends on the conditions at the time and how the violence is applied. However it is never necessary. Take the USSR for example. During the coup that ousted Gorbachev there were mass public protests in Red Square blocking access to the Kremlin. The Junta ordered tank units under their control to drive straight through the crowds, but the tank commander refused. If he had followed his orders we'd be talking about Red Square in the same terms as Tiananmen Square.

Violent suppression and murder of peaceful protesters is simply not justifiable. Violent protesters, maybe. Riots against people and property, ok. Peaceful protesters, no. When you have an already violent situation sometimes countering the violence with violence is the only option. But instigating violence where there currently is none is IMHO clearly wrong.

Protests usually follow some egregious government policy or action. Yes, there are protests that aren't very well organized, or lack a core concept to them. But those quickly fall apart with limited or no intervention. When they don't fall apart, it's an indication of something that's already wrong, rather than something that's about to go wrong.

There were actually some leaders with sympathetic and liberal movements in the times that led up to (and during) the TS incident, but afterwards the Chinese government either forced them to toe the party line or removed them from power. Their unwillingness to allow peaceful dissent, their massive overreaction, and their blatant suppression of the facts and of the expressions of grief afterwards have certainly fixed the governmental direction for quite some time. Hardline censorship and oppression supporters got more power, while those opposed got purged or learned to stay quiet. The government policy was at a crossroads until then, but they doubled-down on a surveillance state.

A government that straight up murders citizens during a peaceful protest and then refuses to let them talk about it for decades after has a huge effect. It's not just on the leaders in power, either. Even if they don't get the whole story, the Chinese populace is quite savvy about what can and can't be talked about. Most people will stand up for what they think is right when the risk is relatively small. TS reflected that, with academic elites being openly honest about their opinions about the state and future of the country. China was changing a lot and they thought there was finally a chance for a dialogue. But it was made quite clear that non-violent protest will be squashed and you will quite possibly be murdered or smeared for speaking a contrary opinion - even if it's out of patriotism.

It drove all dissenters into hiding or out of the country, leaving an empty playground for military and political power seekers who had no problem with heavy-handed retaliation.

> Curious how the extreme violence of the Chinese response in Tienanmen is responsible for the continuation of the government politics; while the same extreme response in Syria would be responsible for tearing apart the country.

The thing in common is that, rather than listen to their citizens, the government chose suppression and murder. The citizen reactions in both cases are hugely different. But the source of the problem isn't different - an oppressive government. We don't shame people who back down when the alternative is death or civil war. It's an understandable choice. But we do shame people and governments who literally can't tolerate dissent without military might. Especially if they won't let you talk about it afterwards. Resorting to military might is a sign of political weakness, not strength.

We know using violence against population is useless if the people are determined to stand for what they believe in. That's the whole story of decolonization across the world. Guns just give you time, but sooner or later people rise again. Look at India. They were gunned down many times, but they did not give up, and ultimately made their voices heard.

I believe downvotes should be reserved for comments that are not substantial, not comments you disagree with.

I am disappointed to see this, but I am not surprised. It is hardly "legal" to take a different stand here on this particular issue.

Comments that suggest looking in alternate reality to justify violence aren't substantial.

We can't know what happened to people in Dimension X, but we know that you aren't supposed to kill your citizens in our home dimension.

We are debating under which conditions it might be permissible to kill your own citizens. Reasonable people could have different answers to that question. "Never" is certainly one answer, and a principled one, but also one that is not implemented by any existing state that I know of.

It's always a failure when you can't find better solution than killing your citizen.

Hence, let's stop discussing it as a success.

We could apply the same logic to the entire Chinese communist revolution then. If it didn't happen then china might be Taiwan today vs. the polluted authoritarian land it is now. The famine which killed 15-45 million people and did a lot more damage on top of that probably would of never happened. The 'cultural revolution' wouldn't gut their intellectual class and set china back even further.

You are applying the same logic correctly, favoring long term peaceful transitions over short term civil wars. Yours is not a juxtaposition, it's strengthening the argument.

Except that the Tienanmen response might have prevented such a short term civil war. History has shown that China was on the right track, it's very hard to imagine they could have done any better since 1989.

I believe that was the point of the GP

What you're saying is that it is better for people to live under authoritarian governments of dictatorships than die fighting for their freedom. It's not a despicable position but it's incredibly short-sighted.

Is it? In the long term, it's better to be alive than to be dead. Some would prefer a peaceful, long term transition compared to quick, violent civil war -- which may result in a worse overall state. Wars destroy civilizations, sometimes for generations.

This is something that Americans generally won't agree with, because their foundational myth is closely tied to the revolutionary war. Conveniently this war was a very long time ago, so one doesn't have to feel the personal consequences of it when using aphorisms like "you need to fight for your freedom".

Btw, the Canadians eventually got their independence without a war.

NB: I'm not American and I'm also very anti-war and anti-military in general.

>> In the long term, it's better to be alive than to be dead.

That's short term in my opinion. Long term could be hundreds of years. Generally these things don't happen in a generation. There is often some civil rights violations, followed be peaceful protesting which turns violent, followed by war, and then when it's in both sides interest, peace talks.

As someone from a country effected in this way I can assure you 'you need to fight for your freedom' is not an aphorism. In some cases it's necessary - to a degree. Unfortunately once violence begins it's very difficult to stop again before much more damage than was ever necessary is done. However in the long term (hundreds of years potentially) it can put an end to an evil which may have only gained in strength and oppression otherwise.

There was nothing inevitable about Canadian independence at the time. For a counter example see Tibet, where independence is now pretty much impossible since the country has been packed with a majority of ethnic Chinese thanks to a determined policy of Sinification.

Funny how Americans are all for fighting for freedom, except when it comes to Palestinians. In that case, it's all "you lost the land, get over it".

I think it is short-sighted to conclude which one (Chinese system/Western system, albeit exaggerated) is better at this point of time, especially considering the current political, environmental and economical circumstances and trends.

There's always a cost-benefit. None of us are truly free from all obligations, not all of them strictly voluntary. Friends, family, community, the state. We're constantly trading-off freedom vs. responsibility.

> Is it just to kill hundreds, to prevent the slaughter of hundreds of thousands?

> If the answer is no, never, I don't see how we can have states at all.

You're talking about an innocent 100 people right? To save an innocent 1000. Like some sort of hostage situation?

I say no, it's not just. It's wrong to kill except in self defense.

So how does that imply we can't have a state? Can't the state use the same principle? Kill only in self defense?

Let's not forget the inconvenient counter fact that there are a whole lot more violent islamists wanting to install and spread their vision by force in that part of the world, and are happy to take any opportunity that presents itself to do so, than there are in china..

One thing I'm not aware of is a state action that kills some citizens, where instead of suppressing the victim's stories, the state lauds them as heroes and martyrs.

E.g. Okay, we violently suppressed this protest for the greater good (we claim), but let's not forget the victims. We'll erect monuments. It's on us now to remember them and to make the future worthy of their sacrifice.

Would that incite more rebellion, or pacify a lot of the populace. Yeah, we did it. It was harsh. But it was necessary. You'll thank us in 20 years.

And I'm going to point out that many poor and uneducated people throughout history have willingly given their lives so that future generations could have more freedom. The point is, it was their choice to put themselves in harm's way for their friends and families.

It's inhumane to continuously turn a blind eye to those who crush civil disobedience.

Baizuo don't care, just like what happened in Syria right now, they still want to help the rebellion to against the gov even ISIS is threaten the whole world

Yet another example of "nothing matters like success." Since 1989, China has gone on to have great success - both economic and diplomatic, and is on the verge (if not already achieved) super-power status.

Because of that success, there is not much anybody can do about human rights abuses, so most people don't pay much attention to it.

The Chinese Communist Party watched what happened in the Soviet Union when Gorbachev tried to save his idea of socialism with 'perestroika'--more political freedom contributed to the USSR coming apart at the seams. So China took the opposite tack--more economic reforms, maintain tight political control. So the CP is still in power, even though the 'C' is diminished.

A variation of Churchill's "History is written by the victors."

And Churchill knew what he was talking about.


> Because of that success, there is not much anybody can do about human rights abuses, so most people don't pay much attention to it.

China isn't the only country that has that issue.

Interesting how even after all this time that no one knows who "Tank Man" was and within China, few even know he existed at all:



What are you saying? I saw Tank Man live on TV as it was happening. If there really was no tank man, you have a lot of explaining to do.

The previous commenter was trying to make a joke about


(where lots of people seem to remember specific things, like Nelson Mandela dying decades ago, that didn't happen), but the joke might have fallen flat even if you got the reference.

sigh. Guess I'm not funny.

This crowd is too damn serious.

It's not easy to convey that you're joking with just text regardless of the audience. Consider ~93% of the meaning you express is in non-verbal cues. Only 7% is in the actual text of what you write or say.


Glad to see many reasonable comments here.

I have a vague memory of CCTV(official media, not your backyard CCTV) footage that depicting students and other people as mobs and killing soliders and burning the dead soldiers body.

Over the years, I got more and more piece of information about what happened at the time. clearly Chinese government is still trying to cover up what they did, and many exiles is still making up fake stories.

Nowadays in China people don't really care that much as you thought they would. The general consensus is that they are willing to forget about what happened and move on since it's full of opportunities right now and most people are more focused on getting a better life.

Not saying Chinese government was right they knew what happened was shameful and still forbids open news covfefe or discussion about it. In a booming economy it's just hard to mass up enough momentum to really get into a discussion about what happens in 1989, people just don't care anymore.

> they knew what happened was shameful

Do they? Are pro-democrasy protests allowed today? Or would people be shot again?

Its interesting that they used his english name, to protect his identity (and his family) but then go on to state his approximate age, that he runs restaurants, comes from Dalian, has an uncle in taiwan and migrated to the USA in 2012. Now then, I'm sure many people here could construct a database query to find the guy based on this information; the question is, does China have such a database? I know, they have a billion people but I hope some of this other information is obfuscated..

Yup. Mentioned his college, and posted a picture of him. It would be trivial for any intelligence agency to dox this guy from the information in the article.

There's inevitably going to be people trying to justify the tragedy here by suggesting America is no better, pointing to instances such as the Kent State Shootings (Vietnam War protest).

For those people I'd like to point out that unlike China, America doesn't actively try to hide the negative sides of its history to the extent China does. I can read about the Kent State shootings all I want, along with the My Lai Massacre, the Trail of Tears, American involvement in Central America or the Middle East, etc..

It is in fact sad that China depends on the West to expose the darker sides of its past, and then claims Western negative bias whenever we do.

It doesn't really matter whether America or any other country gets it right. The entire point of the "tu quoque" (appeal to hypocrisy) rhetorical tactic is derail the debate and get people defensive, instead of focusing on the actual problems.

The United States has a long list of historical human rights abuses, starting with the legacy we inherited from Columbus of enslaving and murdering the local populations and continuing up to a laundry list of problems we still have today. They were wrong at the time, they are wrong now, and we should really work to not keep committing large or small scale atrocities, and redress what past crimes we can.

But that doesn't change the wrongness of other countries human rights violations, and doesn't mean that they shouldn't stop what they're doing and redress what they've done. The US or every other country being wrong doesn't give them a pass to be wrong also. We shouldn't wait for one pure leader of one untainted country to arise[1] and call us out on our actions before we repent.

[1] Peter Thiel, Immortal Sea-King of Sealandia, obviously.

We can read about Kent State shootings. But what can't we read about? What ugly stuff happened in the US that we don't talk about?

We don't have systematic censorship like China does, by any means, but we do choose not to teach and write down certain things, and so they end up nearly forgotten. The Tulsa race riot was excised from official histories, never talked about, and so it faded into a little-known episode of history, until activists brought it to wider attention at the end of the 20th century.


> the city settled into an uneasy peace, and decades of virtual silence about the events were held. It was not recognized in the Tulsa Tribune feature of "Fifteen Years Ago Today" or "Twenty-five Years Ago Today"... The first academic account was a master's thesis written in 1946 by Loren L. Gill, a veteran of World War II. But it did not then receive circulation beyond the University of Tulsa... [In 1996] the chamber of commerce decided to commemorate the riot, but when they read the account and saw photos gathered by Ed Wheeler... they refused to publish it. He took it to both major newspapers, which refused to handle it. His article was finally published in Impact Magazine, a new publication aimed at a black audience, but most of white Tulsa never knew about it."

"With the number of survivors declining, in 1996, the 75th anniversary of the riot, a bi-partisan group in the state legislature authorized formation of the Oklahoma Commission to Study the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 (...) The park [to the 800 dead riot victims] was dedicated in 2010."

No worries then, in 48 years China will acknowledge what happened at Tiananmen, and in 2078 Beijing will get a lovely new park.

Its because the west cannot do this in current circumstances. I can make a bet that when China GDP per capita comes close to the developed nations, their censorship has to be seriously downgraded.

And what do you say about Russia. Internet censorship is not all for hiding, there are many different ways to hide information, some of which the western countries are actively practicing, and I feel the situation is getting worse and not better over time.

"I can make a bet that when China GDP per capita comes close to the developed nations".

Exactly, people seem to forget that we're so comfortable here that we (I mean the majority) just couldn't care less. Every once in a while, we'll hear about some atrocity in a war we're in half way around the world, complain about it on Reddit and just forget about it the next day. We can sanction smaller countries about a list of human rights we created, but it's next to impossible for a smaller country to impose any sanctions on us thus making the US virtually unaccountable of anything.

The gov does not have to fear the populace here but that is definitely not the case in a developing country.

This alone is reason why I think china's handling of it's past is outdated and they will soon change it. Look at the US and EU nations: people forget and move on despite it being in the open. Being a productive power house of capitalism, which china now is, means most of the people are busy and will likely discount any negativity from government actions that are more than a decade old.

I don't think they justify the tragedy, rather disagree with the US/West moral highground claims.

So the west is superior because their citizens, although having access to damning documents of the actions of their nation, both domestic and abroad, choose not to care?

Yes, all other things being equal, open information is better than censorship. But you are obviously exaggerating, lots of people care.

Do they choose not to care?

Without wishing away the massacre or diminishing the kind of despotic environment that allows this to happen shouldn't the same kind of moral reprehension be expressed for the massive loss of life in the middle east from Libya, Iraq to Syria?

Yet we rarely see this in the same context as these actions continue to be pursued aggressively with little resistance from citizens in the west.

This seems to a very selective form of morality in practice more at ease judging others than examining our own actions.

Tiananmen is past and beyond but the loss of life and destruction of entire countries that puts millions of lives in disarray in the middle east is here and now and continues unabated yet there is little pressure on our leaders to cease these actions from citizens. No western leader is tainted with the kind of moral reprehension directed at the Chinese inspite of far more serious crimes against humanity. There is a definite dissonance here.

The same kind of moral reprehension absolutely were expressed during the period of the 'Arab Spring'

I wouldn't assume any particular post is a 'real opinion'. The CCP employs many shills posting noise to domestic social media, so it wouldn't surprise me to see chaff on Quora as well.

You can write off anything with that, to be honest. It's like the nuclear weapon of arguments that ensures mutual destruction

Yeah, it sucks. But we do need to keep in mind now that social media psy-ops (or whatever the spooks are calling it) have become significant -- just as Amazon user reviews have gotten way more polluted, but without the direct personal feedback you get from buying the wrong item.

There was a recent story about an academic study of the methods of in-China Party shills (I forget the link). By my skim they were more about distraction and noise than obvious pushing of the party line.

Student protests really scare older Chinese because they remember the reign of terror that the Red Guard kids perpetuated during the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s.

Wouldn't the "Red Guard kids" in the 1960s and the "older Chinese people" at Tiananmen have a large overlap?

That would only mean they remember even better what those kids were capable of.

Then there is even more reason for them to know how scary the Red Guard was. The Red Guard had quite a bit of internal fighting.

I remember watched a fascinate behind the scene documentary on the down fall of Gorbachev by the old USSR conservative leadership which actually caused the rise of Yeltsin in Youtube recently.

Likely in China during that period of time, the high level struggle for power also happened in BeiJing. In China the reformers of the time didn't win.

The rich and powerful (note I did not separate government & individuals, increasing these 2 groups are merging together, and seriously, the censorship in this area is way better than things happen in the past) in China have to maintain a great public image. Even if a significant fraction of the population are fully aware of that being superficial, there are definitely larger fraction of people who does believe in the camouflage. Not that such people are ignorant, their life is hard enough to really have the spare time for these stuff.

The reason such history is heavily censored, is precisely for this cause. Such thing will never be freely available, as long as the social structure and political system works in the same way.

English Wikipedia still calls it the "Tiananmen Square protests of 1989" instead of the "Tiananmen Square Massacre" which is what pretty much everyone outside China calls it.

Maybe someday we'll stop China from censoring Wikipedia.

The article is about the protests as a whole, they ended in the "Tiananmen Square Massacre" like the first paragraph of the article says.

It may be a good idea to try blending some massacre (um, because WP:COMMONNAME, a.k.a. "everyone mentions the massacre"?) in and call it some "protest and massacre" though.

I'm a 30 year old in the US. Unfortunately all I know is that there was a protest and some of the protesters got shot and there was a person standing in front of a tank. It's not like wikipedia tells accurate information about the event. Rather than alluding to what happened, can someone just spell out exactly what happened? Or give a non-propagandized link to what happened?

really wealth legitimized power of the communists and paved they way to insidious regime. had it been not for globalization china could've been the freest country in the world. alas we have this.

not sure what has this to do with hacking/IT, but

Tiananmen square massacre is mislabeled event, more people died in other parts of Beijing than average in the square, so more appropriate name would be Beijing massacre or what Chinese use 6/4.

People who died in square were pretty much suicidal since they were warned to leave and were told to leave even by their own protester leaders.

It should be always mentioned that wife of current hard liner president Mao 2.0 She Gin Pimp was singing at that time to murderers in square.

Overall not sure why are media so obsessed with this event were few thousand people died instead or mentioning millions who died thanks to glorified Mao. It's pretty good trade-off with DXP for most of the Chinese compared to trade-off gained with Mao.

Still, I gots to know what happened to tank dude. I gots to know.

"Numerous theories have sprung up as to the man's identity and current whereabouts." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tank_Man

Surprised that the article showed up on HackerNews

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact