World News: Tiananmen 25 years on: The day I drove famed hunger strikers to safety - iReporterNG.Com | No #1 News Media in Nigeria

Post Top Ad

World News: Tiananmen 25 years on: The day I drove famed hunger strikers to safety

World News: Tiananmen 25 years on: The day I drove famed hunger strikers to safety

Share This

 iReporter Network -  
Beijing, China 

Jaime A. FlorCruz, then a TIME reporter, is seen in dark sunglasses in a crowd of journalists covering events in Beijing in 1989.

Twenty-five years ago, when tanks and automatic rifles silenced massive political demonstrations in Beijing's Tiananmen Square, I was TIME magazine's correspondent in China.

For me, memories of the crackdown start in the early evening of June 3, and end with a mad dash at the wheel of a Toyota sedan, driving through checkpoints to a safe house with hunger strikers, Liu Xiaobo and Hou Dejian.

Liu, one of China's prominent intellectuals and writers, was imprisoned four times after the Tiananmen crackdown, and in 2010 was awarded the Nobel Peace prize.

Hou is a singer-composer, better known in China as composer of the "Descendants of the Dragon," a patriotic tune popular in Taiwan and the mainland. A few years before the crackdown, he "defected" from Taiwan and became a celebrated compatriot on the mainland.

Tension builds

In the early evening of June 3, as word spread that the authorities were losing patience with protesters in central Beijing, I decided to see for myself what was going on.

As I stepped off the curb on the Jianguomen bridge, I saw a convoy of army trucks stranded on the bridge, about five kilometers east of Tiananmen Square. Students and their supporters milled around them, chanting "Xia lai! Xia lai!" (Come down!).

Minutes earlier, an armoured personnel carrier of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) plowed through the crowd and rammed one of their own army trucks bound for Tiananmen Square. Many civilians had clambered onto the truck when it was hit and toppled over. Some managed to jump off, but one man was crushed to death. "They're killing us," shrieked a young woman.
TIME Magazine's June 12 coverTIME Magazine's June 12 cover

Nearby I saw civilians surround another army truck, pleading with the soldiers to turn around and go home. The young soldiers listened silently. Some cried. Then the civilians started to pull the soldiers off the truck and led them past the body of a man curled up on a pool of blood, his head crushed. This harrowing scene was captured on the cover of TIME Magazine's June 12 edition.

I hung around for an hour or so, talking to people and eavesdropping on conversations. Then, worried that the Chinese authorities might cut international phone service, I returned to my apartment to file my story. It was nearly midnight when I hit the "send" button.

Final showdown to come

I thought it was the lead story of the day. I did not realize that the fiercest shooting was taking place at Muxidi, around seven kilometers west of the Square, where thousands of people had stood behind the barricades at various intersections to halt the advance of the military troops.

In the morning of June 3, I sat down with two fellow TIME reporters who had been covering the Tiananmen story from the outset. We agreed that the final showdown between the protesters and soldiers was looming. Martial law remained in place, and troops and tanks were poised to retake the Square. When and how it would happen, we could not tell.

To ensure that we covered what seemed like the end-game of the protracted student protests, we agreed to do two things: 1. We would work on three "shifts" through the next day (I volunteered to do the midnight-to-dawn "graveyard shift") and 2. We would file reports via our snail-paced modems as soon as possible, in case international phone links were abruptly cut off.

Just past midnight on Sunday, June 4, 1989, I was preparing to rush to Tiananmen Square to do my reportorial "shift." The phone rang and I grabbed it as I slung my satchel bag over my shoulder.

It was an American friend, a well-connected expatriate company manager married to the daughter of a retired Chinese general. "Be careful, Jimi," he advised. "Heard the assault order has just been given. Stay indoors." I thanked him for the tip.

Not long after I hung up, the phone rang again. It was Sandra Burton, TIME's Beijing bureau chief, calling from the vicinity of the Square. I was supposed to relieve her for the graveyard shift. "They're shooting live bullets here," she said urgently. "Don't come here anymore. Phone New York and tell editors what's going on."

It was Saturday noon, New York time, and I knew the latest weekly edition was about to go to press. I frantically dialed New York and promptly reached a top editor. "We're switching covers," he said decisively. "You guys have seven hours to file. Stay out of the firing line. Remember, no story is worth dying for," he said calmly.

The TIME cover story that week told the horrific account of that fateful night. Since then, the Tiananmen story has been told and retold countless times all over the world with that day's harrowing tales and bloody images.

Race to a safe house

Of course, the story didn't end there, though the lead article had gone to print.

I drove to the TIME office to file more reports from TIME reporters and photographers. Remarkably, international phone lines remained open despite occasional threats to close them. Still, the bureau's two computers and one telephone modem were agonizingly slow.

I tuned in local radio stations to monitor official news reports and commentaries, and started phoning sources. A septuagenarian Beijing resident told me: "I've seen World War II, I saw the communist occupation of Beijing in 1949, but I've never seen such a pili pala (hail of gunshots)!"

I banged away at the bureau computer until nearly noon.

With the story filed and the magazine put the "bed," I was preparing to leave the bureau when the phone rang. A female caller wondered if I could drive over to the Capital Hospital to pick up my friend Hou Dejian so he could go to a safe house. She made it sound so easy.

It was not.

In late May, just as the Tiananmen protests were petering out, Hou and three young Chinese intellectuals, led another round of "hunger strike" on the Square and gave a boost to the sagging student movement.

When the PLA troops encircled the Square in the early morning of June 4, Hou helped broker the agreement with the army officers to open a corridor for the protesters to leave the Square safely.

From the Square, it turned out, Hou took refuge in the Beijing hospital not far from the Square. Could I help?

I hesitated but then agreed. I drove past carcasses of trucks and debris from the barricades along the virtually empty streets. Only helmeted PLA soldiers brandishing AK-47s stood stiffly at every other corner. As I pulled in front of the Capital Hospital, Hou and two other fellow hunger-strike leaders emerged from the gate and jumped into my car.

On our way toward the safe-house, we stumbled into a group of PLA troops in one intersection. "Shall I proceed?" I ask the trio. "Yes," replied Liu.

"No other choice," Hou agreed. We drove past the checkpoint and made it to their destination. Once inside the safe house, I was rewarded with three separate debriefings and eyewitness accounts of what happened on the Square when the PLA came to clear it.

Months later, Hou gave me the ultimate compliment by sending a cassette tape of his latest songs. On the cover, he scribbled: "To the bravest driver in Beijing."

Culled from: CNN


  1. When I originally commented I seem to have
    clicked on the -Notify me when new comments are added-
    checkbox and now each time a comment is added I receive
    4 emails with the exact same comment. Is there an easy method
    you can remove me from that service? Appreciate

    My homepage - criminal defense attorney phoenix az

  2. It's very straightforward to find out any mqtter on web as compared too textbooks, as I found this paragraph
    at this site.

    Here is my weblog ... pole dance

  3. Do you suffer from KIDNEY DISEASE? Do you know that, according to latest researches,
    DIALYSIS IS NOT NECESSARY? A friend of mine
    got off dialysis (stage 5 CKD) and healed his kidney. Take a look:

    Also visit my web blog: click here

  4. Thanks for your personal marvelous posting! I certainly enjoyed reading
    it, you may be a great author. I will ensure that
    I bookmark your blog and definitely will come back from now on. I want to
    encourage you to definitely continue your great work, have a nice morning!

    My blog ... grow taller 4 idiots

  5. fantastic post, very informative. I'm wondering why the opposite specialists of this sector do
    not realize this. You must proceed your writing.
    I am sure, you've a great readers' base already!

    Also visit my homepage: emo hairstyles

  6. Hi, I read your blog daily. Your story-telling style is awesome, keep doing what you're

    my weblog ... pillow humping

  7. Hi there! I just wanted to ask if you ever have any trouble with hackers?
    My last blog (wordpress) was hacked and I ended
    up losing a few months of hard work due to no backup. Do you have any solutions to protect against hackers?

    Stop by my web page car accident defense attorney

  8. Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally,
    it seems as though you relied on the video to make your point.
    You obviously know what youre talking about, why waste your intelligence
    on just posting videos to your weblog when you could be giving us something enlightening to read?

    Feel free to surf to my website :: sua dumex

  9. Hey! I could have sworn I've been to this website before but after browsing through some of the post I realized it's new to me.
    Nonetheless, I'm definitely happy I found it and I'll be book-marking and checking back frequently!

    my homepage sbobet

  10. Hi to every body, it's my first go to see of this weblog; this webpage carries remarkable
    and genuinely excellent data for visitors.

    my web-site; Nike Air Max Damen

  11. Out of the many there were those earnest few who wanted to delve further into the mysteries of life and they were subsequently invited into Jesus' secret school.

    Destruction warlocks are scary because their burst damage is insane, and they can stun as well as fear and possibly
    secude (with the succubus pet) and silence (with the felhunter pet).
    900 lines hawk their wares, albeit in somewhat garish fashion:
    promises to change your life, find that right person, win the lottery.

    Also visit my website: boom Beach Cheats

  12. If you are going for finest contents like me, only pay a visit this web page everyday
    as it gives feature contents, thanks

    Also visit my web site demenageur toulouse

  13. Hello, i read your blog occasionally and i own a similar one and i was just wondering if you get a
    lot of spam comments? If so how do you prevent it, any plugin or
    anything you can suggest? I get so much lately it's driving
    me crazy so any assistance is very much appreciated.

    Look into my web-site: demenagement devis

  14. Asking questions are genuinely fastidious thing if you are not understanding something entirely, however this paragraph presents fastidious understanding

    my website ... รับทำ seo

  15. Good answers in return of this question with genuine arguments and describing
    all regarding that.

    Feel free to visit my website infusionsoft partner conference

  16. I'll right away grab your rss as I can't in finding your email subscription link or
    e-newsletter service. Do you have any? Kindly let me understand so that I may just subscribe.


    Stop by my homepage ... after Effects

  17. I read this article completely about the resemblance
    of latest and earlier technologies, it's amazing article.

    My website: six Guns Hack

  18. Neat blog! Is your theme custom made or did you download
    it from somewhere? A theme like yours with a few simple
    adjustements would really make my blog stand out. Please let me know where you got your design. Thanks a lot

    Also visit my weblog - real estate agents Auckland

  19. Doing the search on your own can also be a cheaper way to look
    for the best priced. Homeowners wanting to sell their home are
    in for some good news as many real estate markets are
    showing signs of rebound. Clark Howard's Living Large in Lean Times: Clark Howard.

    Here is my webpage - homepage ()

  20. Raise the head of the bed by putting blocks under
    the bed posts, or prop up your upper body (not just your head,
    which can actually inhibit breathing) with pillows.
    Sleep on your side and it will make it easier
    for you to sleep, put less stress on your neck,
    and can reduce your snoring. While there are many snoring problems,
    one serious health disorder that can develop is sleep apnea.

    my web-site stop snoring products info

  21. I have been surfing onliine more than 4 hours today, yett I never found any interesting article like yours.
    It is pretty worth enough ffor me. In my opinion, if
    all sote owners and bloggdrs made good content as you did,
    thee internet will be much more useful than ever before.

    My page; Poisoncentral.Net

  22. Hey! Do you know if they make any plugins to protect against hackers?

    I'm kinda paranoid about loosing everyrhing I've worked hard on. Any

    Allso visit my homepage; Farmville 2 Hack


Enter here your comment!

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Post Bottom Ad