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On The Scene: Despite Government Silence, Tiananmen Not Forgotten


The 25th anniversary of the Chinese government's brutal and bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square passed quietly in Beijing Wednesday, but for some it was not completely forgotten.

Tiananmen Square and the wide avenue that leads to it were both eerily quiet on the anniversary, with police out in force and very few visitors. Each year, the government goes out of its way to make sure that little is said or heard about what happened here in the spring of 1989.

Authorities blacked out international news channels whenever the anniversary was reported throughout Wednesday. Programming resumed when the reports were done.

State broadcasts focused on official meetings, a growing wheat harvest in the north and the environment among other topics. The anniversary was absent in state media, although the Global Times ran an editorial.

On Freeweibo.com, a site that shows censored posts from China's social media, it was clear the anniversary was not forgotten.

But what about residents in Beijing, what do they remember or think? To find out, we took to the streets. Given the government's hypersensitivity during the anniversary, we let their feet do the talking.

Many like youths were unaware of what happened and some asked in what country? Others remembered events more clearly.

"In the morning, I was in Beijing near that very place and then later in the afternoon I heard that the tanks and troops had come into the city," he recalled. "It was terrifying."

Some, too young at the time, heard details later from others. "They said that Tiananmen Square was filled with students and that later there was blood everywhere," she said.

The Chinese government has gone to great lengths to silence talk of the anniversary this year, throwing several activists in jail, just for discussing the topic in private.

On the streets, few were aware of the arrests ahead of the anniversary.

Attitudes about the level of personal freedoms in China ranged from glowing support to apathy.

"Look at all the foreigners who come here and bring their families. They wouldn't be here if it wasn't free," said one woman.

"It's true that there's no freedom, but that is the reality. Living in this country you need to just follow the rules and make sure your basic needs are met," added one man.

"Whatever the Chinese government says, goes. Society today is no different from the age of emperors in the past," another woman clarified.

"There will always be those who are not satisfied with the government. But what most people really care about is living their lives in peace," a man added.

The Chinese government said that it has already delivered a verdict on the political turmoil of the late 1980s. It also said there are no dissidents here, just lawbreakers.

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