“As far as can be determined from the available evidence, NO ONE DIED that night in Tiananmen Square.” What?! Who would make such a blatant propagandist claim? China’s communist party? Nope. It was Jay Mathews, who was Washington Post’s Beijing Bureau Chief in 1989. He wrote this for Columbia Journalism Review.
In fact, many western papers – including the New York Times and Washington Post – occasionally have reiterated this point, only to go back to the “massacre” story. For example, in June 13, 1989, NY Times reporter Nicholas Kristoff – who was in Beijing at that time – wrote, “State television has even shown film of students marching peacefully away from the [Tiananmen] square shortly after dawn as proof that they [protesters] were not slaughtered.” In that article, he also debunked an unidentified student protester who had claimed in a sensational article that Chinese soldiers with machine guns simply mowed down peaceful protesters in Tiananmen Square.
But did people die in China? Yes, about 200-300 people died in clashes in various parts of Beijing, around June 4 — and about half of those who died were soldiers and cops. A Wikileaks cable from July 1989 also reveals the eyewitness accounts of a Latin American diplomat and his wife: “They were able to enter and leave the [Tiananmen] square several times and were not harassed by troops. Remaining with students … until the final withdrawal, the diplomat said there were no mass shootings in the square or the monument.”
But what about the iconic “tank man”? Well, if you watch the whole video, you can see that the tanks stopped and let the tank man jump on the tank. He eventually walk away unharmed. In fact, there are almost no pictures or videos of soldiers actually shooting at or killing people (doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, but it’s a point to keep in mind). Propaganda involves not only exaggeration, but also omission. Western media rarely show pictures of tanks and military vehicles burned down or Chinese soldiers brutally killed by the Beijing protesters in 1989 […]