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Tiananmen survivor recalls Communist terror

Tiananmen survivor recalls Communist terror

Author: Audra Ang
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: April 23, 2009
URL: http://www.dailypioneer.com/171318/Tiananmen-survivor-recalls-Communist-terror.html

China cracked down on unarmed students with tanks and armoured carriers

The demonstrations at Tiananmen Square began when students put up posters praising deposed chief Hu Yaobang and indirectly criticising the hard-liners who forced his resignation. Thousands marched in Beijing and Shanghai shouting, "Long live Hu Yaobang! Long live democracy!"

Within days, tens of thousands of students surged past police lines and filled Tiananmen Square. The protests soon spread to other cities.

In mid-May, students began a hunger strike at Tiananmen, forcing the Government to move a welcoming ceremony for visiting Soviet President Mikhail S Gorbachev to the airport. The numbers in the square and surrounding streets - including workers and farmers - swelled at several points to one million.

The afternoon of June 3, Mr Qi Zhiyong was riding his bicycle to work south of Tiananmen Square when he saw people running and smelled tear gas.

He saw two male students carrying an injured female student, who screamed in pain. People on bicycles delivered messages to the demonstrators about tanks and armoured carriers moving toward the square.

Around 11 pm, Mr Qi says, he followed his co-workers back to Tiananmen to see the 33-foot-tall 'Goddess of Democracy,' a Statue of Liberty lookalike unveiled days before by the protesters.

The scene had changed.

Tents, which had housed thousands of protesters for weeks, were empty or had collapsed. A young man rode up on a bike, his body covered in blood, saying that soldiers had opened fire and killed people in the Muxidi district, west of Tiananmen.

Mr Qi, nervous and suddenly cold, said he wanted to go home, but his friends were intent on seeing the statue.

"I realised there were soldiers all around, with rifles, helmets and dark glasses," Mr Qi says. "I was frightened because I had seen such scenes only on TV, in movies about German fascists."

The tanks were moving down the Avenue of Eternal Peace, Beijing's main thoroughfare, flattening guardrails "like they were noodles," he says. Mr Qi ran through a warren of alleyways near the square, trying to find somewhere to hide. Riot police wearing helmets and boots and carrying shields as tall as a man marched in groups.

Near the Zhongnanhai compound, where China's leaders live and work, he saw squads of soldiers standing guard. In a macabre dance, the unarmed men in the front row crouched, the ones in the back fired their rifles and the front row popped back up.

A truck covered with canvas came into view. Soldiers, their sweat-soaked uniforms a deep green, jumped off the truck and advanced three in a row. People fled in terror down an alleyway.

"The next thing I saw was people falling one after another. Then I fell," Mr Qi says, grimacing as he recalled the dizziness and pain of being shot. "Help me!" I shouted.

He describes how he pushed aside the person who had fallen on him as blood from his left leg stained his red shorts and pooled on the ground. The screams of other people were loud in his ears.

"I don't remember what I was thinking about. The whole world seemed like it had disappeared," he says. "Even as I used my hand to cover the wound, I thought to myself, 'It's all over.'"

A passer-by bound Mr Qi's wound with his white shirt while a woman broke the wooden door off her home for use as a stretcher. "Hey, you're handsome! Are you married?" He recalls the woman joking, apparently trying to distract him from the pain.

When they got to the nearest hospital a few miles (kilometers) away, it was shut. An old man who answered the door said they had been ordered to close the day before.

Mr Qi finally was put onto a small bus going to the Xuanwu hospital, which he reached ive hours after he was shot.

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