19. THERE WAS NO MASSACRE IN TIANANMEN SQUARE
Among the revolts that ignited the Communist world in 1989, China's
was the great failure. On the night of June 3-4, the Chinese Communist
Party showed the world that it would stop at nothing to maintain its
monopoly of power. But what exactly did happen that night? A "revisionist"
trend emerging in some Western circles now maintains that there was
no massacre. Robin Munro, research associate on China for Asia Watch,
a New York City-based human rights organization, has been a close observer
of China's democracy and human rights movement since 1978. He was in
Beijing, leading up to and during the events in Tiananmen Square. No
massacre took place in the big square, accord-ing to Munro. Although
more than 1,000 journalists were in Beijing at the time, many of them
were away filing late-night/early morning reports, some were on hand
outside the city where the serious massacres actually took place, but
only a small handful remained in Tiananmen Square as the night wore
into day and soldiers with fixed bayonets began to surround the remaining
students. Munro reports that in the crucial moments of the confrontation,
students waged a spirited debate whether they should hold the line and
die or retreat in victory by another definition.
The result: "What Nations
(Richard Nations, an American freelance journalist also on the scene) and I saw,
from our position twenty-five yards southwest of the monument, was unforgettable.
For an agonizing minute, it seemed as if the students might not comply with the
decision to leave. Then slowly, they began to stand up and descend from the monument.
As the first groups filed past us, heading toward the open southwest corner of
the square, we burst into spontaneous applause. Many in the ten-deep column, each
contingent following the banners of its college, had tears rolling down their
cheeks," reports Munro. Nations noted the student leaders had pulled off
the most difficult maneuver in politics of human enterprise, an orderly retreat.
George Black, foreign editor of The Nation, filed a supporting story
which appeared in the Los Angeles Times. "In the absence of reliable
eyewitness accounts, we were soon reading lurid tales -- later shown
to be spurious -- of students being machine-gunned and run down by tanks
in the heart of the square." Black also reported that the real
carnage did not take place at Tiananmen Square. Amnesty International
and Asia Watch both agree that the principal killing grounds were some
distance away, five miles out from Tiananmen Square at the Muxidi intersection.
reality, "Most of the 1,000 or so cut down by gunfire and crushed by armored
vehicles were workers and ordinary Beijing residents," Black said. "These
were people who did not speak English, could not quote Patrick Henry and built
no replicas of the Statue of Liberty. They were also the people who terrified
"As long as we substitute myth for fact, the butchers
of Beijing will wriggle off the hook," Black said. "When Barbara Walters,
on ABC's `20/20' asked party general secretary Jiang Zemin about the massacre
in Tiananmen Square, he replied, with a sly use of the English idiom, that it
was `much ado about nothing.' But what if Walters had asked Jiang about the slaughter
of workers at Muxidi?"
SSU CENSORED RESEARCHER: DYLAN BENNETT
SOURCE: THE NATION, 72 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10011, DATE: 6/11/90
TITLE: "Who Died in Beijing, and Why"
AUTHOR: Robin Munro
SOURCE: THE LOS ANGELES TIMES, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, CA
TITLE: "A Myth That Lets Butchers Off the Hook"
AUTHOR: George Black
COMMENTS: George Black, foreign editor for The Nation, who wrote
the article which appeared in The Los Angeles Times, said the public
would benefit from knowing what really happened in Tiananmen Square
in two ways: "(a) by understanding the specific reasons and circumstances
of the Beijing massacre of June 3-4, 1989; and (b) by understanding
how myths and shorthand forms of history are generated by the exigencies
of the contemporary media -- in particular, how the need for soundbite
definitions of events may distort the essential character of those events."
Project Censored was unable to contact Robin Munro, author of the article
which appeared in The Nation since he was in China, however, Black explains
how Munro was primarily responsible for this extraordinary story coming
to light: "The person who really deserves this award is Robin Munro
of Asia Watch, whose research for The Nation, based on his eye-witness
account of the night of June 3-4 in Tiananmen Square, was the essential
basis for challenging conventional media characterizations of the massacre.
I was Munro's editor on this piece, and did some additional work on
the media dimension of the story -- parts of which were included in
Munro's final Nation piece, and parts of which I used for my regular
column in the Los Angeles Times. I know that Munro shares this nomination.
Since he is presently in Hong Kong, it may be that he won't receive
your letter and won't be able to respond to your deadline. So let me
repeat: he's the one who deserves the recognition."