The Tiananmen Square massacre, 25 years on

May 30, 2014 5:45 PM

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A year ago, Louisa Lim, correspondent in Beijing for the US National Public Radio network, conducted an experiment. She went to four university campuses in the Chinese capital with one of the most iconic photographs of our times, that of the anonymous man in a white shirt and black trousers facing down a line of tanks on Chang’an Avenue in Beijing on June 5 1989, the day after the army moved in to crush the pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square. She showed the image to 100 students: only 15 identified it correctly. A couple gasped and shied away; “Oh my God!” another cried out in English. “This is a sensitive topic,” said one young man. “This picture maybe is related to a counter-revolutionary incident which was two or three years after my birth in the last century.”

Next week sees the 25th anniversary of the night when, after declaring martial law, the leadership in Beijing under Deng Xiaoping launched its crackdown. Most of those who died – probably several hundred or more – were residents of buildings along the boulevard leading to the square, victims of indi...

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