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Voices from Tiananmen

A Special Multimedia Report

This Wednesday marks the 25th anniversary of the deadly suppression of the 1989 Tiananmen protests on June 4. It has been a quarter of a century of enormous change in China, but one key fact of life in that country has not changed: its leaders continue to maintain that they were correct to use tanks and automatic weapons to crush the demonstrations and correct that the killing defines neither the killers nor their country.

Not that they speak of it this way. In fact, they mention the demonstrations and the crackdown as little as possible. Even the numbers 6 and 4 are taboo. And yet, as the massacre recedes further into the past, as China appears to heed its leaders' calls to “look to the future,” the energy and force the Chinese regime devotes to suppressing the history of what happened that night in June have only grown. This year, the annual rituals of erasure have taken on the peculiarly zealous quality of an obsessive compulsive’s locking and relocking of the same door: relatives of those killed have been forbidden to visit Beijing to mourn their loved ones; a small group of scholars and former activists who held a private commemoration were detained on charges of “creating a public disturbance”; police have grabbed people in the Square for taking selfies.

But memory persists—and its champions have new tools to tell and transmit their story. "Voices from Tiananmen," a joint undertaking by the University of Hong Kong’s Journalism and Media Studies Centre and The South China Morning Post, reconstructs the spring of 1989 and its aftermath in text, photographs, video, graphics, and most strikingly, new video interviews with key figures filmed in mainland China, and published for the first time in this report:

Voices from Tiananmen: Eyewitnesses Look Back to the Spring of 1989

Patrick Boehler of The South China Morning Post reported, in collaboration with Yuen-Ying Chan and Karen Chang of the University of Hong Kong. Cedric Sam, also of the Post, designed and built the report. ChinaFile provided editorial support. Additional materials including interview transcripts, archives, and essays are available at june4.hk. Susan Jakes

Interviews with Tiananmen Witnesses:

Chen Ziming

62, liberal intellectual. Chen Ziming, together with Wang Juntao, was labeled as one of the “black hands” behind the student movement.

The Spiritual Lineage of China’s Student Movement

Bao Tong

82, top aide to Zhao Ziyang, former General Secretary of the Communist Party of China from 1987 to 1989.

Zhao Ziyang’s Political Reform

Li Rui

97, senior party adviser in the 1980s, former secretary of Mao Zedong.

June 3 Night at Muxidi

Zhou Duo

63, Marxist scholar. Zhou Duo was one of the “Four Gentlemen” who went on hunger strike before the crackdown. He was one of the negotiators who talked to the troops to let students withdraw from the square.

Negotiation with the troops