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An Eyewitness Report of the Beijing Slaughter
Wen Bin Chen was born in China in 1948, one year before the Communist takeover. A graduate of Beijing Teacher's College, Chen is one of his country's leading educators of physically handicapped artists. For the past three years he has served as deputy chief of the Beijing Cultural Department. Prior to that, he held the position of art director of the Beijing Deformity (handicapped) — Performing Artists Association. On June 10, six days after the Tiananmen Square massacre, he departed from Beijing for New York, leading a delegation of deaf and blind Chinese artists scheduled to participate in the First International Special Arts Performance Festival. On June 22, while "taking a walk" in New York City, he managed to slip away and contact Chinese-Americans, who helped him obtain political asylum. Chen was interviewed by William F. Jasper, contributing editor of The New American, assisted by translator Ellen Young, a New York paralegal and a director of the Chinese-American Voters Association in Queens, New York.
Q. Mr. Chen, were you present at Tiananmen Square on the night of June 3-4 when the demonstrators were gunned down?
A. Yes, I was there, and I had been there for several days before also.
Q. Were you there as a spectator or as a participant, and did you witness any of the massacre?
A. I was there as a supporter of the demonstration, and yes, I witnessed many, many people being murdered by the troops.
Q. According to the Red Chinese government version, fewer than 300 were killed and about half of them were soldiers. By contrast, some Western media reports have said that as many as 3,000 demonstrators were killed, although some of these seem to be revising their estimates back down toward the official Chinese government count.
A. Those are lies, Communist Party lies. I estimate that there were at least 10,000 killed, and 20-30,000 seriously injured, 10,000 minimum — easily. The machine guns were firing continually from midnight until four o'clock in the morning. It was like a terrible storm that wouldn't stop. It sounded like millions of rain drops falling, only so much louder, because the raindrops were bullets. The corpses, the dead and dying, were everywhere.
Q. The Chinese government propaganda has portrayed the soldiers as the victims, the martyrs and the heroes, while the students and demonstrators are depicted as the villains who started the violence.
A. I want to make clear that the Chinese government version is a complete lie. The truth is that the 27th Army troops initiated the violence by shooting the students and the citizens. We were completely shocked. We didn't believe that the People's Army would fire on the people. We didn't see them as our enemy; we thought that they would join us — and some did.
No, we did not start it. The student movement that led the demonstration stands for justice and democracy for China. How could we present any physical threat to the army? We had no weapons, and they were heavily armed and in tanks! The truth is that a fully armed military, under orders of the Communist government, attacked its own peaceful students and citizens for the "crime" of calling for reform of a corrupt system, for simply wanting a more just society, a better way of life. They are butchers, killers, fascists!
The government has rewritten history, reversed events in time with all its propaganda films of the event. All of the incidents in which the soldiers were killed occurred after thousands of peaceful people had been slaughtered and the people started to fight back in anger and outrage. The Communists' lies should be obvious to anyone who thinks. If the army really felt threatened, they would only have had to fire a few shots to start people running away. But they kept up their murderous fire for hours, cutting down helpless people who were only trying to get away.
|The young student, 19-year-old Wang Weilon, photographed above who courageously faced down a column of 20 tanks on the second day of the Tiananmen Square massacre, was arrested and executed in the traditional Communist style — a bullet in the back of his skull.|
Q. Can you give us some details of what you saw?
A. It was terrible, terrible — so many terrifying images that I cannot forget. A little after midnight we started to hear machine gun shots coming from the army tanks. The crowds started running, and the tanks just ran over the crowds, while the machine gunners on top shot everyone else that they could. Many, many were crushed by the tanks. One picture won't leave my mind: I saw a female college student caught under the tracks of a tank. It was dragging and grinding her, and she was screaming in pain and terror. Two friends ran to help her, but when they pulled on her, the top half of her body pulled off. It was so horrible. And a second later they were also crushed under the wheels of another tank, and ground into the dirt. There was nothing left of them but blood and bits and pieces of flesh and body parts.
So many brave, heroic people were mowed down and ground into bloody mush. Everywhere there was blood and death, the sound of the tanks and the guns firing, screams of pain and terror and outrage. I watched in shock and horror, not believing that this was happening in the streets of Beijing.
Q. How many of the Chinese people believe the government version of events in Tiananmen Square?
A. I cannot say about all of the country, because in many of the more remote areas the only news they get is the official Communist Party line. But, in Beijing, which has 11 million people, I am sure that 9 to 10 million people know the truth and support the demonstrators. Almost everyone there has a friend or relative who was murdered, or witnessed the slaughter, or knows someone who did. The whole city was in shock at what happened ...
Q. The fact that only four of the top 21 "most wanted" fugitives from Tiananmen have been captured, despite the massive manhunt, the all-points bulletins, having their photos plastered everywhere, and the intensive surveillance system throughout China, would seem to show that there must be a large following of sympathizers who are hiding them, and probably many others who are just keeping silent concerning their whereabouts. Is this an accurate assumption?
A. Yes, that is very true. The Communists have a very, very extensive spy system everywhere in the country. There is no such thing as privacy. Cameras and video cameras and microphones are everywhere, as the world learned when the government propagandists began turning out their version of what happened. The police, military, and secret police stop all pedestrians and vehicles at road blocks and randomly on the street to check their papers and identification. There are spies in every neighborhood, factory, workplace, park, recreation area, and housing area — everywhere. A stranger cannot go into a neighborhood, a village, or a home without a Communist spy seeing it. So there must be very strong support for the heroes of Tiananmen for even the Communist spies not to be reporting it.
Q. According to news reports, the recent vast expansion of telephone service and fax machines in China played a big role in keeping the people informed and circumventing the government "news."
A. Oh yes. The modernized equipment helped a lot to allow the people to have the truth, and, more important, allowed the truth to get out to the rest of the world. Thank God we have it. It is really helping the democracy movement. I'll tell you one example. On June 4th my neighbors received a directly-dialed long distance telephone call from U.S. friends asking them if the killings they were seeing on U.S. television were really happening. We confirmed for them that they were, and gave them much more details besides. Many people were sending reports by fax to friends in America, Hong Kong, Japan, and to other parts of China.
Also, many more Chinese people have radios now and can listen to foreign broadcasts like Voice of America, BBC, and others. And that's what they rely on, since they don't trust the communist propaganda programs.
Q. But the people of China have no access to guns, correct?
A. There is no way to obtain guns legally or even illegally in China. The government can kill you for having a gun. When the army started shooting us, we wished we had guns. But we fought back with whatever we had: bricks, bottles, sticks, bare hands.
Q. Did you see any troops join the people and turn against the army?
A. No, not personally, but I received many reports from friends who did. There are many people in the military who supported the movement and who oppose Li Peng and Deng Xiaoping, and who have revealed what happened there. When the 27th Army was firing on Tiananmen, the 28th Army, I was told, was right behind it. But many of the officers and soldiers in the 28th were sympathetic to the people; and, when they saw the killing, they refused to fire on the people. Many of them left their vehicles and tanks and let the people burn the vehicles. Others simply shot their guns up into the air.
On June 4th the troops stationed along Jien Guo Men, the main street east of Tiananmen Square, were not given any bullets at all. And after that they got only seven bullets each, and it was recorded. It shows a tremendous distrust in the army. The 38th Army had received telephone orders to bring troops to Beijing, but the chief commander refused and was discharged. However, after the new commander brought the troops into the city, they did not fire a single shot, and there is much talk of dissension. Only Dang Xiaoping is holding the military together now. When he is gone, there will be ten separate, independent military districts, so it will help set a base for a future democratic movement.
Q. Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future of China?
A. I am afraid in the short term we will see much more repression there, more executions, more killings, but I am optimistic for the more long term. The young people are tired of Communism and do not believe its promises. But it's not only the students. Hundreds of thousands of workers, government officials, teachers, soldiers, police officers, and others also participated and supported the movement for reform and freedom. It cannot be stopped. They can't purge and kill all of them. After all of these lessons, it will only help us to make up our minds with greater strength to fight for human rights, democracy, and freedom.
Q. How would you like to see the United States react?
A. The United States, the West, and the whole world should stop all military, economic, political and diplomatic ties to China, to demonstrate opposition to the regime. An international investigation should be launched to bring out the truth about what happened and is happening. The Communist leaders should not be able to murder people at will and still be accepted by the world community.