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At Bloody Dawn

    Remembering Tiananmen
    By Sheng Xue May 1990

At Bloody Dawn

   June 3rd 1989: After being stuck in a crowd on Chang’an Avenue for hours, we learned that the army had used tear gas to disperse a crowd in Liu Bu Kou – close by, near the center of the city. Even in the heat and humidity, I felt a chill down my spine. We heard that many had been injured.
   When the army marched on the town, I couldn’t help noticing the irony. The Chinese Communist Party had founded the People's Republic here, 40 years earlier, but instead of goosestepping in uniform, they'd entered Beijing quietly, disguised as peasants, weapons hidden in their bags. Now they were pulling ordinary citizens from the streets as they moved behind enemy lines – just as they had done before.
   TV and radio announcements kept warning us: "Stay off the streets while the soldiers enforce Martial law in Tiananmen Square. The People’s Liberation Army will use all necessary means to overcome obstacles." The army did not look like they were here just to “clear up” Tiananmen Square. They were bloodthirsty, spreading fear to every corner of the square. I was distraught, unsure about what to do next.
   A friend appeared, her pale face streaked with tears. "They did it. They are doing it," she cried. I ran to the window and saw the troops rolling in to Tiananmen Square and without a second thought went out into the streets.
   A crowd separated four soldiers from the ranks. Inexplicably, the troops ignored the lost soldiers – as if they were meant to be left behind. The crowd circled the soldiers and knocked them down. I rushed forward shouting: “Stop! They are the same as you and I. Stop! Tell them the truth.” I could hardly hear my own voice. A youth picked up a spiked club that one of them had dropped. I looked back to see the four soldiers being beaten and bleeding. Another tragedy of Chinese killing each other. It took all my strength to run to Tiananmen Square.
   The streets were silent. A month before they'd crackled with noise but now they were cold, deeply sad places. They had witnessed too much wrath, misery and despair.
   Passing the entrance to the Municipal Bureau of Public Security, I came across a heavily armed riot police blockade. They pushed through the crowd, swinging their clubs, but whenever they broke up the crowd, we regrouped. The violence escalated. We dug up bricks from the pavement and cracked them into small chunks to throw at the so-called “guards of social interest and people’s benefits,” and “defenders of human justice and reputation.” The crowd shouted: “Rascal government, bandit troops, and police accomplices. Students are innocent.” my voices were broken, my hands wounded, my hearts were filled with sorrow.
   Aren’t Chinese a cursed nation – killing fellow countrymen? Or has God chosen us to take on the burden of human suffering?
   The police moved in waves, charging at the crowd and beating them down savagely with clubs before retreating into the building. Injured protestors streamed out of Tiananmen Square. I watched tears stream down the dark, wrinkled face of one man. “Son of a bitch! Chinese communists devoid of gratitude,” he spat. He pushed a cart, with a young body on top of it, soaked in blood. The crowd filled bottles with gasoline, to make Molotov cocktails. Chunks of stone flew from both sides of the pavement as the Molotov cocktails etched fiery curves in the night. In the distance, you could hear sarcastic chants clearly: “The enemy advances, we retreat. The enemy pauses, we make trouble. The enemy tires, we attack.” Mao had used these lines to rouse his “proletarian revolutionaries” to guerrilla warfare. Now the melody was strong and the meaning was even greater. The “offenders” and the “defenders” could not beat each other. I was forced to surrender whatever remaining delusions I harboured about government emancipation. It hurt to let them go.
   I still wonder if what we did was brave. I honestly can't say. Our people are combative, always jostling each other. We have fought amongst ourselves forthousands of years – no more so than during the last half century. During a ten-year period of the Cultural Revolution, hundreds and thousands of people were killed, sacrificing themselves for a common cause. In the April 5th Movement of 1976, it took all night to wash the blood stains from Tiananmen Square. When will these sacrifices serve as a memorial for the country's current tragedy?
   The sound of gunfire shocked people at 3:30 in the morning. It was directed towards Tiananmen Square. People were confused and asked why firecrackers were being set off so late at night. Someone ran over yelling "Gunfire, gunfire." In fact, the army had been moving in from the west, shooting at protesters since midnight. The death toll kept rising as they marched along the streets.
   Later I learned that two tragedies from someone(my husband): When the troops reached the intersection of Xidan Road, a man in 30s pushed through the crowd, stood in the middle of the street and confronted the parade of military vehicles and soldiers on board. “You'll have to roll over my body before you can harm the students in Tiananmen Square” he shouted. Quietly, a soldier raised his machine gun and drilled the young man's body with bullets. He fell.
   And, a 14-year-old girl flee in the street. She was scared and frightened, standing in a shadow in front of a store. She didn’t even realize the People’s Liberation's Army – once so sacred in her eyes – had shot her. A bullet had sliced her skullopen. Her eyes had been stretched wide open and had never closed.
   On June 6, I went to the spot where she'd died to find only a bloodstain remaining. Threads of black hair mingled with brain tissue in the broken glass caused by stray bullets; the hair stirred in the smoky breeze. My companion picked up a small piece of skull bone. Less than two metres away, a man in his 40s had been shot to death. Bystanders told me that at this intersection alone 200-300 people had died.
   Shortly after 5 in the morning, I turned to walk toward Tiananmen Square. I thought of all the students who would be sick, weak, hungry and exhausted as I approached there. I will never forget the walk.
   I met a group of China Red Cross staff. Their white garments were stained with blood. They carried several unconscious bodies. Tears ran down their cheeks. One man held a square tile uprooted from Tiananmen Square. It was coated withblood. He stared into space blankly. I couldn't suppress my own tears. These white angels had never been to a battlefield; they had been attacked because of a peaceful petition. How could they have deserved this?
   Tiananmen Square had turned into a battlefield. I stood among the wreckage where the war had ended minutes before. Tanks lined the streets, with their barrels raised high, as the crowds watched. Soldiers pointed guns at pedestrians and put their finger around the trigger. For a moment, the volcano fell silent. Then tanks charged the crowd. Screaming, people began to fall over each other. The tanks closed in, then drove backward. Before they could steady themselves to stand up, soldiers fired upon the crowd. Two young people were caught in the leg and fell. I rushed to them and spotted fist-sized wounds in their legs. They were rushed to the hospital.
   Later, a friend told me that, at almost the same time, a train of tanks at Liu Bu Kou had released a tear gas bomb and rolled over the bodies of 11 students. When my friend got there, he saw people picking up the broken bodies and piling them into carts.
   My mind was stimulated to the point of numbness, I paused at the edge of this historic cliff, gazing at the bloodshed along the horizon. Alarms sounded in the heavens and on the ground. This was a bloody awakening dawn appeared to a dark morning.
   Translated by J. Fon in May 2014

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