Saturday, June 06, 2009

Tiananmen Square - 1989 revisited - part 16

The 16th part in a PBS piece published in 2001 by Andrew J. Nathan and Perry Link:

May 20

For the first time in 40 years of Communist rule, the PLA troops attempt to occupy Beijing. A huge number of civilian protestors block their convoys on the streets. Beijingers begin a dialogue with the soldiers, trying to explain to them why they shouldn't be there. "You had these … touching moments of the people appealing to the army to join them, and feeding them, and giving them water, and saying, you know, 'Could be your son. Could be your daughter,'" says Orville Schell, who was in Beijing at the time. "And [you have] these sort of doe-eyed, puzzled soldiers, who were mostly country people, weren't experienced with big city life, just wondering what was going on here. And not wanting to hurt anybody."

The soldiers have been ordered not to fire on civilians, even if provoked. They are stuck -- unable to reach the protestors in Tiananmen Square and unable to withdraw from the city -- for almost three days.

Tim White

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