Did 10,000 Die in Beijing in 1989?

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary

by Daniel Nardini

Normally many things in this world do not surprise me anymore. This recent news item did. According to recently declassified British cables, sent by then British ambassador to China Sir Alan Donald, 10,000 people were slaughtered in what has been called the Tiananmen Square Massacre (also known as the June 4th Massacre) in Beijing in 1989. Previous estimates for those killed ran between 1,000 to 3,000. This report was a secret cable sent from Beijing to Britain by Sir Donald on June 5, 1989, a day after the massacre occurred. The number of dead was given to Sir Donald by someone in the Chinese government’s State Council. Sir Donald’s cable gives gruesome details about the massacre; those students who did not leave Tiananmen Square fast enough were gunned down and their remains were run over repeatedly by armored cars before being burnt and then hosed down the drain.

This secret cable was NOT declassified until October of 2017, and hence was unavailable to the public. Why was this document kept secret for so long? What is intriguing about this secret cable is that it corroborates previously declassified U.S. confidential documents from the U.S. embassy in Beijing at the time that estimated the number of dead at 10,454. U.S. diplomatic personnel at the time got this information from someone in the Chinese military. These U.S. confidential documents were not declassified until 2014—three years before Sir Donald’s secret cable was declassified. The fact that there are two independent sources, which could have had no contact with each other, had contact within the Chinese government, and had both been classified, is truly significant. They independently verify that as many as 10,000 Chinese people were butchered in Beijing during the night of June 3-4, 1989. On this I can add my own perspective on the massacre. I was in Beijing the night of June 3-4. One must keep in mind that Beijing at the time had a population of nine million, that this city was assaulted by an army of 500,000 heavily armed soldiers equipped with tanks and armored personnel carriers, and that the students and residents of Beijing only had sticks and stones at best to fight with.

It still begs for me to ask the question why was this secret British cable kept secret for almost 20 years? Why were the U.S. confidential reports kept out of the public eye for almost as long? Did both the British and U.S. governments at the time try to still deal with the Chinese government with kid gloves after what happened? We now know that then U.S. President George H.W. Bush sent two diplomatic personnel secretly to talk to then Chinese senior paramount leader Deng Xiaoping. Deng Xiaoping was the person instrumental in the massacre. Without his orders the massacre could never have taken place. To this day, the Chinese Communist Party denies there ever was a massacre and so they have never released a real figure on how many died in the Tiananmen Square Massacre. In China, this subject is taboo. All Internet references on June 4th are blocked or there is no mention of it, no one can talk to people about it, no one can research it, no one can write about it, and it cannot even be mentioned in public. It is a subject as blacked out as blacked out can be. But it does not change that such a massacre did take place. So I ask the question; did 10,000 die in Beijing in 1989?

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