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China The Military Politics

Wikileaks Cables Say No Bloodshed Inside Tiananmen Square 235

Posted by timothy
from the bloodshed-all-confined-to-freedom-square dept.
netchaos writes "Secret cables from the United States embassy in Beijing have shown there was no bloodshed inside Tiananmen Square when China put down student pro-democracy demonstrations 22 years ago." Which is not to say that everything was flowers and wine: "Instead, the cables show that Chinese soldiers opened fire on protesters outside the centre of Beijing, as they fought their way towards the square from the west of the city."
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Wikileaks Cables Say No Bloodshed Inside Tiananmen Square

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  • No big secret here (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Senes (928228) on Sunday June 05, 2011 @12:14PM (#36343002)
    They waited until people were located outside the square itself before the slaughter began.
    • by macshit (157376) <miles@@@gnu...org> on Sunday June 05, 2011 @12:20PM (#36343054) Homepage

      ... and remember, Li Peng's still alive. There's still time for a trial in the Hague...

      Oh, haha, I forgot, he has power and influence.

    • by dAzED1 (33635)
      not a "big secret?" Everything I've ever read about it was that students were run over by tanks, inside the square. That's pretty contrary to this.
      • by sakdoctor (1087155) on Sunday June 05, 2011 @12:25PM (#36343084) Homepage

        Does it make that much of a difference if the students were slaughtered in the squares, or just round the corner?

        • by hedwards (940851)

          Yes, it means that the number of protesters killed is a more certain number than previously believed. Meaning that the death toll has almost certainly been exaggerated on the assumption that there were protesters killed where nobody was looking. If they were all killed in places where the world had some means of observing it means that the crimes committed by the Chinese government in this instance were less severe than previously believed.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by houghi (78078)

          If you said the first happened and then deny it. How must I know if the second happened, but now for real.

          Or perhaps you lie about it not happening?

        • by orasio (188021)

          Well, Tiananmen is a big issue when it comes to censorship.
          The accepted fact is that we know the truth, and poor, oppressed Chinese people do not, due to censorship.
          If it turns out we, free people, believed a lie all these years, it would mean our information is just as doctored as what the Chinese get.
          That would mean that the rulers of the west are not better than the guys who build the Great Chinese Firewall, it would only mean that the West methods, mainly propaganda, are better than more direct ones.

      • by brit74 (831798) on Sunday June 05, 2011 @12:33PM (#36343136)
        > "Everything I've ever read about it was that students were run over by tanks, inside the square."
        I don't remember the "run over by tanks" part, although I do remember a man standing in front of the tanks, not getting run over.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Gulthek (12570)

        No one was run over by tanks.

        Also many forget that this wasn't just a few thousand idle students peacefully hanging out in the square. There were about a *million* disaffected students and unemployed workers camping out wherever they could, demanding free food from vendors, and harassing the general public. This went on for almost a month before the government took action.

        Think about how long a million people would be allowed to camp outside the US capitol buildings, especially if they were harassing and lo

        • by dAzED1 (33635)
          don't be silly - of course we'd be allowed to protest in such numbers. Assuming we stayed in the "free speech zones" and filed the proper permits...
        • by hoggoth (414195)

          People have been arrested for *dancing* in the Jefferson Memorial, so, no I don't think the US would put up with millions camping outside the Capitol.

        • by Jeff DeMaagd (2015) on Sunday June 05, 2011 @01:46PM (#36343664) Homepage Journal

          Think about how long a million people would be allowed to camp outside the US capitol buildings, especially if they were harassing and looting.

          It happened, recall the Bonus Army. *four* people died. Not hundreds (or possibly thousands, accounts vary) like in or around Tiananmen Square.

        • by dAzED1 (33635)
          by the way, I do find it funny that the post right above yours states "I was working for CTV news in Toronto at the time and I saw the raw footage of a protester getting run over by a tank and squashed like a bug"

          Call me an idiot, but I neither believe something simply because it was reported, nor disbelieve it because wikileaks refuted it.

        • by janimal (172428)

          Yea! They had it coming, didn't they? Kudos to the PLA for putting a swift end to the mischief.

        • by Dahamma (304068)

          especially if they were harassing and looting.

          You haven't been to D.C. lately, have you? ;)

      • by poity (465672) on Sunday June 05, 2011 @01:17PM (#36343444)

        First of all this news in no way lightens the cruel brutality through which the PRC government dealt with their citizens that day, but I want to make a point on a possible explanation for the "tanks crushing people" claim. I'm not saying it's false, since we'll never know the truth having not been there, but consider this: The Chinese word for "suppress" is "ya", which is the same exact word for "to physically crush underneath" -- to put suppress an idea or to crush grapes underfoot for juice, it's the same word. So the phrase "they're using tanks to suppress people in the square" and "they're using tanks to physically crush people in the square" are the same in Chinese. Perhaps the real meaning was lost in the moment, then even more so in translation.

        • Rubbish (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 05, 2011 @04:47PM (#36344704)

          This is rubbish. Of course you can specify what kind of crushing it is in Chinese. The character ya alone is ambiguous, but by using it in a 2 character compound word (as most words are in Chinese) you can easily be more specific.

          It's almost exactly the same as in English. You can have ambiguity or you can be specific.

          There's a Chinese guy on Chinese /. right now writing "Ah, but in English they say 'They used tanks to crush the protestors', but in English 'crush' is vague. It could mean that the tanks physically squashed them, or that they used shells to fire on the protesters, or that their presence alone with police alongside was enough".

        • by Solandri (704621)

          So the phrase "they're using tanks to suppress people in the square" and "they're using tanks to physically crush people in the square" are the same in Chinese. Perhaps the real meaning was lost in the moment, then even more so in translation.

          On the 5th anniversary of the Tienanmen uprisings, there was a graphic shock website which posted photos of the aftermath which had been smuggled out. Many of the photos were very graphic and disturbing, and I had the misfortune of being tricked into visiting it (the

      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 05, 2011 @01:50PM (#36343694)

        I was working for CTV news in Toronto at the time and I saw the raw footage of a protester getting run over by a tank and squashed like a bug. It's not something you forget. The footage was edited down to make it look like the tank had stopped, which it did, hesitating for a few seconds.

        Two weeks later we were visited by the Chinese head of media and they were given a full tour of the facility.

      • by ildon (413912)

        Does it really matter if they were run over outside or inside the square?

      • by Dahamma (304068)

        The OP is right (more or less - they didn't "wait" for people to leave before shooting, they killed plenty trying to get to the square); this wasn't a secret. Even the Wikipedia article about the massacre shows this fact was known for a while:

        BBC 2 June 2009 James Miles, who was the BBC's Beijing correspondent at the time, stated:
        I and others conveyed the wrong impression. There was no massacre on Tiananmen Square... Protesters who were still in the square when the army reached it were allowed to leave aft

    • by okmijnuhb (575581) on Sunday June 05, 2011 @02:22PM (#36343886)
      This should have been in the summary, then I wouldn't have wasted my time thinking the Chinese military peacefully put down the protest, an the US government lied to us about it, and then for a few moments afterwards that Slashdot is controlled by the Chinese trying to put a different face on it.

      Slashdot you're beginning to really suck.
    • by makomk (752139)

      Not only that, but this is actually saying that the US embassy's contact didn't see any bloodshed in the square at the time, not that there wasn't any. All of the leaked cables have similar caveats attached.

  • Tomato Tomato (Score:5, Insightful)

    by similar_name (1164087) on Sunday June 05, 2011 @12:36PM (#36343162)
    I just want to point out as these threads get started that everything is relative. There are fine lines between terrorists, rebels, rioters and demonstrators and typically that line is determined by the winners and which side you're on. So, before we deride the Chinese government we should remember the workers riots at the turn of the century in the U.S. where many were killed by authorities, or the race riots of the 60s, again where many died, the following war demonstrators where again authority put them down, the Chicago riots, the L.A. riots and all the other riots that we call riots because they were put down and we live here.

    I'm not saying any of it is right or siding with any side but the Chinese authority protect that authority just like authority in any other country, including whichever one you happen to live in.
    • Re:Tomato Tomato (Score:5, Insightful)

      by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Sunday June 05, 2011 @12:52PM (#36343268)

      The difference is that in this country such things were reported on the news, you can read reports about what happened, and many laws were changed as a result.

      • The best, most honest, real response I've gotten so far. Everyone else just got mad at me for pointing out that many of the terms we use to describe opposing sides are subjective.
      • by spinkham (56603)

        US has free press and open courts.

        China has controlled press and closed courts.

        Otherwise, politicians try to get away with just as much crap in both countries.

    • by janimal (172428)

      If you do not put a value on freedom of speech, free enterprise, the right to a fair trial, the right to privacy, then yes. Everything is relative and there is no good and no evil, communist regimes are about power to the people, and all countries are just as bad for having killed some of their citizens at one time or another.
      Now, with that out of the way, I heard great things about North Korea. You hardly hear any complaints coming out of that country.

      • Debating rights in China is a different debate than arguing the Chinese authority did anything differently than any other authority. They did what they did not because they were communists, or because they were evil but because they were in charge and wanted it to stay that way.

        Everything is relative and there is no good and no evil

        Historically and culturally pretty much. I think it's wrong that the government in my country tells people what they can ingest and who they can marry. Others in this country might find it evil that people would want to ingest cer

    • While I certainly don't disagree with your ideas regarding it being relative, equating the acts of the Chinese military in this incident to those of any other authority is massively misleading for one simple reason: the number of people killed. Please pardon the excessive use of Wikipedia links, but here are some numbers I found for the deadliest individual riots related to the incidents you mentioned.

      Workers riots: At least 12 dead at the Haymarket Affair [wikipedia.org], 2/3 of them officers
      Race riots of the '60s: 43 dea

      • I have heard there were between 100,000 and 1 million people involved with Tienanmen square, so it was on a much larger scale. Not sure what the percentages would mean, but I'm not really equating the specifics anyway. I'm just saying authority maintains its authority however it needs to. There are many factors that differentiate each conflict. But one factor is consistent and that is authority maintaining authority. At least visually the infamous picture of the student standing in front of the tank in
  • I don't think the main issue with Tiananmen Square was that there was bloodshed but instead it was the oppression of freedom of speech, which is something that most certainly DID happen.
  • by gmuslera (3436) * on Sunday June 05, 2011 @12:49PM (#36343238) Homepage Journal
    Remember when at first the news said that he had hostages, was armed, and the marines had to kill him, and then the truth slowly come out, still leaving the 1st impression?
    • Re:Osama (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Seumas (6865) on Sunday June 05, 2011 @12:56PM (#36343306)

      To be fair, my average fellow American didn't stick around to listen long enough to updated reports. At "Osama was killed", they spent the next week flopping their dicks in the air and smashing beer cans on their heads while running around in public with giant foam fingers chanting "USA USA USA" like retards.

      • by c6gunner (950153)

        Naw, that was just the people on the right side of the political spectrum. The other half of the country spent the next few weeks in mourning, after which they logged on to slashdot in order to post whiny comments and mod each-other "insightful".

        • by Seumas (6865)

          Thank you for aptly demonstrating my point, that there were only imbecilic responses from "both sides" devoid of any abstract thought or critical thinking.

  • by Vinegar Joe (998110) on Sunday June 05, 2011 @12:53PM (#36343288)

    My wife was in Tiananmen.

  • ...G...

  • by janimal (172428) on Sunday June 05, 2011 @05:41PM (#36345096)

    The one thing that I find constant in accounts of massacres at the time they happen is that they get underestimated. Usually, first-hand accounts by the well-connected are based on observations from safe vantage points or from second-hand information. Also, if you spend a lot of time in a safe place, you end up being very careful to not overstate anything and sound alarmist, lest you are seen as panic-stricken or sensationalist.... or wrong.

    So, in accounts of how regimes treat their victims, I tend to believe the more brutal accounts of what happened. It's hard to underestimate how cruel people can be toward eachother.

  • Here I am in Shanghai, nice and early Monday morning, reading /. about the Tiananmen square massacre on an open Internet connection in China - no VPN, no firewall, no blocking. The times they are a changin...
  • Since when does one eyewitness account of some diplomat (usually these are not the freedom fighter types, to put it mildly) "show" anything?

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