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Echoes of Tiananmen Square: 35 Years Later, People’s Calls to Remember Grow Louder

Darren Maung
Darren is an aspiring writer who wishes to share or create stories to the world and bring humanity together as one. A massive Star Wars nerd and history buff, he finds enjoyable, heart-warming or interesting subjects in any written media.
Published: June 4, 2024
A grieving mother in shock after hearing her son, a student protester, was killed at Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989. 35 years later, the cries of countless other families live on. (Image: David Turnley via Getty Images)

On June 3-4, 1989, the world witnessed the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing, a brutal suppression of pro-democracy protests, which culminated in the deaths of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of civilians.

On the tragedy’s 35th anniversary, the families of those lost to the massacre sent their words loud and clear to Chinese leader Xi Jinping, requesting a full official disclosure on the violence and destruction caused.

“We will never forget the lives that were lost to those brutal bullets or crushed by tanks on June 4, 35 years ago,” the letter reads.

“Those who disappeared, whose relatives couldn’t even find their bodies to wipe away the blood and bid them a final farewell,” the letter added. “It is too cruel that this happened along a 10-kilometer stretch of Chang’an Boulevard in Beijing in peacetime.”

Despite the heavy censorship committed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), future generations since 1989 have been able to learn of the event via overseas websites, and by participating in annual remembrance ceremonies worldwide.

CCP denial persists

Through letters, the Tiananmen Mothers group — a collection of grieving relatives fighting for the government’s official responsibility for the massacre — continue to campaign for their lost loved ones.

However, these letters have not been replied to. Despite global outcry, the CCP remains steadfast against all criticism,  warning its citizens to “keep a low profile” as the anniversary approaches. Calls to CCP officials have been left unanswered.

Zheng Xuguang, a former student protester who now lives in the U.S., said he is not surprised by the CCP’s silence.

“How can they admit that they were wrong to kill people?” he said. “Xi Jinping and the Communist Party are co-dependent; if Xi were to reappraise the official verdict of June 4… the Communist Party would fall from power.”

Radio Free Asia (RFA) Mandarin released a poll to its followers on X, asking if they would have joined the protests if they could travel back in time to do so. Many replied that they would, with some saying they have become “more radical” than the protesters. 

Others admit they have been blinded by the official story by the CCP, only to change their view when they left the country.

Even then, the CCP’s brainwashing of Chinese citizens is claimed to be successful, as described by Chinese student Wu Heming.

“This is mainly because the Chinese Communist Party’s brainwashing in education is very, very successful,” Wu — who now lives in California — said. “From childhood onwards, people have no other channels through which to access any other information, so all of your thought patterns get solidified by that rhetoric.”


The forgotten speak

Today, many still remember and fight for remembrance and recognition of the horrid massacre, long after Deng Xiaoping, the then communist leader, sent troops and tanks to silence the one million dissenters who marched in Beijing.

“We thought this was a violation of the constitution and of the law, and would bring disaster down on this country,” Zhang Qiang — a student at the South China University of Technology during the massacre — recalled.

Zhang’s story of his time during the massacre is among countless others, that remain a brutal reminder of how those continue to live with the horror and silence many years later.

Another dissenter, Li Hai — a graduate student back then — played a key role in the student union during the protests, though he was let off more lightly than most.

“They gave the students their enthusiastic help and support, and made great sacrifices, and they accounted for the majority of deaths,” he told RFA Mandarin.

In his quest to find those lost in the massacre, Li reported that ordinary Beijing residents received greater punishments compared to high-profile protesters like Wang Dan.

“Most of them were young, and most had families, wives and children, so it was harder for them,” he said.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) wrote about Shen Jiawei — a former propaganda artist for the CCP — and how his faith in the party was shattered after hearing of the massacre. His wife, Wang Lan, had just delivered a baby girl named Xini, mere days before the hospital she was in was under lockdown following the shooting.

“At that time, I was very furious,” Shen, who became one of Australia’s most accomplished portrait artists, said. 

“That night, I couldn’t sleep. Because I, myself, was very positive that China would move forward.

“So I felt hopeless about Deng Xiaoping’s decision and the conservative reaction within the entire CCP leadership.”