Jun 04

Six Four: The person I admire the most is myself

Written by Buxi on Wednesday, June 4th, 2008 at 5:47 am
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It is early June, and the minds of many Chinese again return to the tragic political upheaval of 1989. Over the next few days, we will translate a number of messages that tries to capture our conflicted feelings towards that violent summer.

This message also comes to us from MITBBS; the translation is below.

Of course, in the face of all those who died… whether students, city people, or People’s Liberation Army soldiers… I don’t dare claim to be superior.

I was always participating in the marches and protests, but I never lost my ability for independent thought. Although, I was still too young, and wasn’t very clear what I should’ve been considering… regardless I was there at the critical juncture. On the night of June 3rd, with the help of others I rescued two soldiers, and helped bring them to a safe spot.

It was on Chang’an street, near Liubukou. The soldiers came out of an armored personnel carrier, and were immediately surrounded by the enraged masses. Some took the opportunity to start hitting them; bricks and boards were being used, and some soldiers began to bleed from head injuries. In the beginning, I even took some photos.

But I realized something wasn’t right here. I put away my camera, and rushed into the crowd closest to me, loudly calling “don’t hit them!”. They saw I was a student, and listened to me. A few of them helped me convince the others, and finally emotions slowly calmed down. It was only at this point that I realized these two PLA soldiers were about my age; their clothes had already been torn into tatters, although at least they weren’t bleeding.

I asked the people around me: who’s familiar with this area? Any safe areas we can take them to?

One of the cityfolk said, on XX street there’s an unmarked door, should be an office for the Central Government Security Guard. I said, great, please lead the way, we’re going to protect these two soldiers and bring them over there.

We finally found the place, and I knocked on the door, saying we had brought two soldiers over. Finally, someone answered on the inside, and two more soldiers flipped over the main door and verified the identifies of the two soldiers we had brought. They helped push these two soldiers over the front door.

We got out of there as quickly as we can, haha.

I finally went home on June 9th, along with many of my pictures and negatives. Nothing special, I just didn’t want to lose them.

Finally, school started again. Every class, every student had to frankly describe their actions and speech. I just wanted to avoid trouble, so didn’t say anything. But someone spilt the news that I had been taking pictures, and I was nervous as hell. I quickly shared the story about rescuing these two soldiers, and hoped that’d be enough to get me through.

But the school and department really paid attention to this. Each side sent someone as well, and along with the youth secretary from my class, the four of us went on that street in search of that work unit, in order to verify my story.

But once we got to the street, that place wasn’t at all easy to find! All I remembered was a big metal door on the east side of the road. We searched from south to north, and couldn’t find anything. We then went from north to south, and still didn’t find anything. I was about to give up home, thinking to myself… I can’t solve the picture problem, and I can’t verify this story, I’m toast!

Finally, we tried one more time from south to north. Finally, I saw a metal door that looked familiar! They knocked on the door, and finally a head poked out asking what we wanted. The school representative said, we’re from xx university, and we’re investigating whether a student protected two PLA soldiers and brought them here.

Their head came out and warmly shook the school rep’s hands, and excitedly said: “definitely, yes, yes!” When I heard that, I almost fainted, haha. They invited us in, and I really don’t remember much after that. No one asked me about the pictures after that.

This is the first time I’ve discussed this in public, haha.

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36 Responses to “Six Four: The person I admire the most is myself”

  1. Nimrod Says:

    One thing I’ve always found helpful in considering the history of any tragic conflict is to understand it in a way that makes human sense. Even a soldier is a human, and if you assume one side is monstrous or subhuman, it is really a cop-out for not trying hard enough to grasp the complexity, for being intellectually lazy.

    Also, good point about the pictures. It seems like many Beijingers took photos and nevered developed the rolls. I know somebody who says he still has films from then in the refrigerator.

  2. overseaschinese Says:

    Bullshit- when are you gonna post a story of a “heroic” (note the sarcasm here, people) Nanjing citizen who rescued a Japanese soldier from an angry crowd?

  3. Buxi Says:


    Bullshit- when are you gonna post a story of a “heroic” (note the sarcasm here, people) Nanjing citizen who rescued a Japanese soldier from an angry crowd?

    Perhaps when I come across a story that the Chinese people consider heroic, I’ll translate it?

    If you read/write Chinese, you can click on the link to the MITBBS, and talk to the person who wrote the above post himself. You can also talk to the numerous people who’ve posted replies, calling him a hero. Save your vitrol for them.

    I’m here to translate and do my best to capture what the common viewpoints amongst many Chinese are. (And there are more coming.)

  4. overseaschinese Says:

    Indeed, there is no selection in your work. You just so happened to take the time to translate the “heroic” story of a young boy who claimed to have saved soldiers on June Fourth.
    Ever seen a video of June Fourth? Viewing the entire affair as a whole, one could not possibly say that the soldiers were the ones who needed saving.
    Please do not claim to represent some sort of “Chinese viewpoint” that makes other Chinese living overseas look like fucktards. The Tiananmen Massacre was no better than the Nanjing Massacre, and those who argue otherwise are deluded, and probably would have happily worked with Wang Jingwei seven decades ago.

  5. overseaschinese Says:

    Indeed, no selection going on here! YOu just so happened to translate this random (and completely insane) story.
    Please don’t claim to present a “Chinese view” that makes Chinese people look like f–k-tards.
    The Tiananmen Massacre is no better than the Nanjing Massacre, and those who deludedly support the former would probably have happily served the Wang JIngwei government seven decades ago, just so long as he provided “stability” and “economic development.”

  6. overseaschinese Says:

    Sorry for the double post, the first one initially seemed to have failed to go through.

  7. Nimrod Says:

    Overseaschinese, whoever you are, nothing is preventing you from giving your view. In fact, you are welcome to, right here. But I suggest you calm down and make reasonable points not emotional rants. For example, I think you lose credibility when you compare 6-4 to the Nanjing Massacre. While there was a degree of indiscrimination in 6-4 that was quite troublesome, it was not like the revenge killing, killing for fun, torture-killing, and raping that took place on a much more massive scale during the Nanjing Massacre. If you can’t see that, you need help.

  8. EugeneZ Says:

    6/4 means very different things to the students who actively participated in as versus to the soldier who were sent to the streets of Beijing. For the students, it was rather a traumatic and depressing experience, at least at the time. I still vividly remember the intense anger and later, unbearable depression on the university campus after the crackdown. Because many of us were going through TOEFL and GRE exams, we had to endure a very long and painful summer on the campus. Several months after the crackdown, the school resumed in the fall semester, at one point, a touring group of armed police and PLA soldiers came to the campus to give a speech about their “heroic” experience in Beijing. The girl I was dating at the time was unfortunately selected to go up to the stage and deliver flowers to the “heroes”, hung around on the stage, and had their pictures taken together, which were of couse posted at the University entrance gate – all at the same time while we were going through mandatory self-education sessions. I still remember that I had trouble speaking to her calmly for quite a few days, causing her to feel rather upset for it was not her own choice. It was only until she broke down, cried, and protested my unfair treatment that I was able to come to the terms with that little incidence. But much of the whole experience was pushed aside and buried as I soon got on an airplane that crossed the pacific ocean.

    I can not fully describe it, but 6/4 will forever occupy a special place in my heart.

  9. overseaschinese Says:

    It’s quite unique that you feel the need to make such a careful distinction between killings and Nanjing and Beijing. Do you think that the victims of Beijing would be so inclined?
    And don’t you see a common lesson in the evils of autocracy unleashed against the people?

  10. Nimrod Says:

    Overseaschinese, I’m not here to psychoanalyze victims’ mindsets. I’m here to understand history. I understand it touches a raw nerve for many people, which is why I appeal for calm.

  11. overseaschinese Says:

    way to avoid the issue…

  12. ChunZhu Says:

    Despite popular western depictions of the student protesters as heroic, I really don’t see how they’re all that different from the recent Carrefour protesters. It really is a kind of mob mentality that gains more momentum as more people join it and at the same time grows more irrational.

    However, many students and citizens were killed. According to official and unofficial sources, the protests have been dying down especially as the hot Beijing summer began to move in. Most of the original protesters already left. Why was a military crackdown necessary?

    I’m not going to say that the students or soldiers were the heroes or victims, but to crush a protest so violently should be condemned out of basic human decency whether one is Chinese or not.

  13. Nimrod Says:

    Overseaschinese, I’m not avoiding the issue. I just think the motivation matters when we’re talking about whether it was right to save a soldier’s life. If you view the soldiers as nothing different from Japanese enemy soldiers of WWII, then that tells me you considered it war, and that you were indeed overthrowing the state, in that case you also lose your status as innocent victims to become belligerants of war. I don’t think that’s what you had in mind.

  14. Buxi Says:


    Great story, thanks for the memory. Despite what overseaschinese thinks, we’re not trying to be selective here. We’re trying to avoid the political propaganda and focus on the stories that all Chinese can relate to.

    Would you consider writing up something in full? So we could post it?

  15. BMY Says:

    please calm down no matter some think the PLA soldiers in 6/4 were like Japanese troops in Nanjing or some want to blow up ZhongNanHai or the PLA soldiers to revenge. please just calm down. quite few people on the blog were there then are all sounds calm. calmnesses can bring clear mind and thinking

    someone keeps venting might want to go to some other bbs and others here should have just ignored and no need to discuss with.

  16. BMY Says:

    I repost one part of my previous comment here:

    It has been 19 years, my memory dose not keep everything. For sure , the hungry strike, the months long protest, the personal attacking slogans, the months long illegal occupation of the square, the months long class stopping would go nowhere .But I do remember the protesting peak time has past before the end of May. The time of all the workers, element school kids came out to protest had gone. There was no protesting in other cities in early June. There were no mass gathering in Tiananmen. There was once or twice about over a million people in Tiananmen. However they were in April or May I can’t remember exactly but not in June. The majority of the students in Tiananmen in June were traveled from other cities and they were not that many in numbers. It was chaos in some stage and some area of Beijing. But all the work units,the government institutions, the army, the police, the peasants all over the country were all under control. In the most part of Beijing, the police still controlled the traffic. Tiananmen was just a tiny place occupied by teenager students. The students were not smuggling guns into the square to prepare a armed rebellion.
    So why needed send solders with machine guns and tanks . Would possible the protesters been driven out without firing live bullets? Would the lost of lives of both civilians and soldiers can be avoided even the students didn’t want to leave? I did see bodies and blood pool in Changanjie and I did see one soldier was chasing up by a group of civilians close to MuQuDi in the early morning of 6/4.

    It was a big tragedy. The civilians might need to learn how to protest properly and rationally and the government might need to learn how to deal with protest even riot properly without sending machine guns and tanks. We all need learn from the tragedy and avoid it happens again in our nation.

  17. overseaschinese Says:

    “If you view the soldiers as nothing different from Japanese enemy soldiers of WWII, then that tells me you considered it war, and that you were indeed overthrowing the state, in that case you also lose your status as innocent victims to become belligerants of war.”
    If opposition leads one to lose innocent victim status, then according to your logic, you could justify the Nanjing Massacre, as many Chinese were united in their opposition to the Japanese.
    I don’t think that that is what you meant to say!
    Also, please remember that we have a case of an army plowing into the nation’s capital armed with tanks and guns, to fire on its citizens who had been exercising the rights stipulated in their false constitution. You can nitpick all kinds of stories, but clearly it was reminiscent of a war, but it was a war declared on the people by the Party, not the other way around.

  18. Nimrod Says:

    Overseaschinese, the army did not plow into the capital in order “to fire on its citizens”. There was a standing curfew and martial law order announced publicly, and this was obviously being disobeyed. Perhaps you’d like to forget this.

    If you have a problem with that order, it’s a different matter. I have a problem with it, too, but at least I know what it means.

  19. Buxi Says:

    To be honest, there are many Chinese who experienced Six Four who agree with overseaschinese’s interpretation of history.

    What those Chinese understand, but what overseaschinese doesn’t understand… is that many of those who experienced Six Four (directly or indirectly) does NOT agree with that interpretation of history.

    If there’s one point that this series of articles is trying to get across, it’s that for the Chinese community at large Six Four isn’t black or white.

  20. AC Says:

    I don’t think overseaschinese is originally from the mainland 🙂

  21. yo Says:

    I don’t think you should “feed the troll” 🙂

  22. EugeneZ Says:


    You have a point in your criticism of “overseaschinese” for being too extreme, but please do not fall into the trap of being too accomodating to the crackdown or the reasons the crackdown – out of respect for the dead, their families and for those of us who suffered emotionally. I think ChunZhu’s posting is a much more balanced view, and asked the legitimate question – was the violent crackdown, and all the shooting with real bullets necessary on the night of 6/3? Can the same result be achieved if given more time (maybe a couple of more months), instead of killing, can the government use forecful but less violent means to take over the square and achieve the same goal of enforcing the curfew? Students were not armed with guns, to the best of my knowledge.

    I wish that the killings of 6/3 could have been avoided. 19 years after the event, I can now support the government in restoring order and getting back on the track with their agenda of economic development, but I can not and will not defend the excessive use of force that caused the deaths of around 200 civilians including many students. I do not think such bloodshed was absolutely necessary. The party, which now enjoys tremendous overall support domestically, even among ex 6/4 participants, should reflect upon this part of the history and issue public apology for their excessive use of force on the night 0f 6/3/89. If not on the 19th anniversity, then 20th, or 21th, …

  23. Nimrod Says:

    Thanks, EugeneZ, and I agree. I remember reading somewhere that even Deng told his military lieutenants that the operation was botched horribly, at their next meeting — this may just be a rumor. But it is true that China was not a confident country then, quite the opposite, and there were a lot of paranoid people convinced it was the Cultural Revolution all over again and the army was the last resort to restore order. It was not a time of rationality and we all suffered for it.

  24. EugeneZ Says:


    Thanks for your suggestion for writing something up about the 6/4 experience. I will probably do it for the 20th anniversery – if you guys can keep the good work and continue to make this blog interesting!

    I have to admit that it was high on emotion, and quite tangled up with a lot of things – youth, idealism, blind worship for western style democracy and freedom, the era of late 80’s, friendship, romance, etc.

  25. FOARP Says:

    @Nimrod – A massacre is a massacre. The justification you give for the actions of the PLA on June the 4th 1989 are exactly the same as those given by General Dyer for the Amritsar massacre – that a curfew had been announced and the demonstrations were illegal. He even said before he gave the order to fire “They’ve had their warning”, when asked by the investigating commission if he would have opened fire using a machine gun if he could have, he answered in the affirmative. The lowest estimate for casualties caused by at least a company of soldiers firing their rifles into a dense crowd of men, women and children is three hundred or so. The Amritsar massacre happened in 1919 in what is now an independent India, and its legacy still casts a shadow over Anglo-Indian relations, I doubt the legacy of June the 4th will be forgotten any quicker.

    the army did not plow into the capital in order “to fire on its citizens”

    Then who gave the order? If he was acting without authority why was he never punished? Your attempt to avert responsibility from Deng Xiaoping smakcs of pure wishful thinking.

    @AC – I also suspect that overseaschinese may not originally be from the mainland – but what of it? Too often you see on discussion threds the phrase “Anyone who doesn’t think X isn’t Chinese” – is this what you are saying here?

    @Yo – isn’t it rather strange that your only comment on this thred has been to tell us not to respond to a commentator as he is a ‘troll’? What does that make you?

    @EugeneZ – Gunfire was the quickest way of clearing the square, and of sending a definite message that the demonstrations were not to be repeated. This is what General Dyer tried to do at Amritsar also.

  26. Buxi Says:


    Have you not noticed that there are numerous Tiananmen veterans on this very thread? Have you not listened to the voices of the others that have been translated?

    There is still anger and frustration, but how many Tiananmen veterans agree with you that “a massacre is a massacre”? That Tiananmen is equivalent to Amirtsar?

    Then who gave the order? If he was acting without authority why was he never punished? Your attempt to avert responsibility from Deng Xiaoping smakcs of pure wishful thinking.

    His point is the army didn’t enter into the city with the *intent* of finding people to kill. His point is that the army entered the city with the express purpose of restoring government control. If the students and protesters left, not one person would have died. General Dyer didn’t give his victims that option.

    This may have been a foolish decision still, and Deng Xiaoping might have blood on his hands… but your suggestion that the Chinese government wanted to kill people in order to “send a message” is what smacks of wishful thinking.

  27. FOARP Says:

    @Buxi – As I’m sure you’re aware, if the crowd had not been in the Jallianwala Bagh Dyer would have had no-one to shoot, a ban on assemblies had been announced and the crowd were in clear disobedience of it – I see little difference between the two incidents except for the colonial setting. Maybe Chinese school children will one day learn about the Tiananmen square massacre in the same way that I learned about Amritsar. Dyer at least was dismissed from his post for his actions – a totally inadequate punishment of course.

    Furthermore, the two incidents are equivalent also in that they both showed that, as Ghandi himself said, the maintenance of an unreasonable system requires unreasonable actions. Britain granted India independence in 1947, 28 years after the massacre, it would be over-optimistic to predict that one-party rule in China will out-last the 28th anniversary of Tiananmen, but it won’t last forever.

    As for the purpose of the killings – what then would you suggest? Are you saying that the whole thing was an ‘accident’? In any case, the massacre definitely did have the effect of discouraging further protests in a way that the simple clearance of the square would not have – so a message was indeed sent.

  28. Nimrod Says:

    FOARP, is the suspension of assembly the same thing as a curfew and martial law? I think you know the answer. You presupposed a setting and script for TAM and went about looking for an analogy. But seeing as the closest example you got was a British officer waiting for a crowd to form then shooting into it, I think is good enough to see the circumstances were significantly different.

  29. Buxi Says:


    Note that the students on Tiananmen itself, after it was surrounded by the PLA, was allowed to peacefully leave and march back to campus. The square itself was cleared without more violence; that’s the directly equivalent to Amirtsar.

    Why were there killings at all? Have you really not seen the videos?


    Pay attention in particular to the 3 minute mark in the above video, when a truck in a military convoy breaks down. Those two were stoned to death. See any of that in India?

    If the government has guilt, it is because:

    – as BMY said, it sent in troops to a situation that might have resolved itself in a non-violent way,
    – or, it didn’t give in politically.

    If you really want to compare this to Amritsar, then the Chinese government’s guilt is equivalent to the British government’s guilt in declaring martial law (and denying self-rule) in the first place. There is no Chinese equivalent to Dyer.

  30. yo Says:

    Yeah, I only posted once on THIS THREAD, great observation buddy. Since this is the only thread on the site, that must make me a troll. Well then, down with America , democracy sucks, Obama is a Muslim, low cost ED treatments, click here!!!!!!!

    Just to clarify since you took my off the cuff lighthearted comment so seriously, I’m being sarcastic. Maybe you should relax before jumping on your high horse.

  31. FOARP Says:

    @Buxi – There was indeed violence against colonial authorities during 1919 in the Punjab, several colonial officials were killed the day before – none of this excuses the massacre.

    I remember having a big argument with a friend of mine about the shooting of a Palestinian boy who had been shot whilst throwing stones at Israeli soldiers. My friend labled the soldiers who had done it ‘bastards’ and asked why soldiers need fear stone-throwing youths. I answered that stones can indeed kill people, but that more importantly, 18 year old soldiers can make the wrong decision under pressure and the threat of violence.

    Had the soldiers in the truck shot back, or had the APCs opened fire on the stone throwers shown in the video, this would have been understandable. This is not what happened, what instead happened was a concerted attempt to clear the area around the square using deadly force. You see this clearly in this video:

    BBC link

    The Chinese equivalent of Dyer is the man who ordered this.
    So who ordered the killings – and why?

    @Nimrod –

    is the suspension of assembly the same thing as a curfew and martial law?

    Since a curfew and martial law also entailed a ban on assembly, yes, of course it is.

  32. Buxi Says:


    That BBC video isn’t coming up… but in any case, I think you’ll have a hard time convincing me that it provides evidence of what you said:

    Had the soldiers in the truck shot back, or had the APCs opened fire on the stone throwers shown in the video, this would have been understandable. This is not what happened, what instead happened was a concerted attempt to clear the area around the square using deadly force.

    We’ve all seen the videos, and we’ve all read the eyewitness reports. You can’t convince me that rioters with murder on their minds were isolated to this one stretch of the road where the traffic camera happened to catch them. There was clearly a large crowd of rioters who were doing everything they can to oppose the military from getting close to the square, including throwing molotov cocktails, waving knives, throwing rocks, and ramming buses.

    Beijing’s responsibility is very similar to that of the British government for not compromising politically, and for declaring martial law.

  33. Nimrod Says:

    By the way, in Amritsar, martial law was declared after the massacre. That’s important.

  34. Charles Liu Says:

    Umm, to date the US government has not “turned the verdict” on Kent State Massacare. Our government language on Kent State is that it’s an “incident”, “student revolt”.

    Sound familiar? I believe this is called “offial narrative”, not something unique to China.

  35. hotshotdebut Says:

    Our company’s driver was in the 27th at the time. He didn’t say much about that. It was his fresh year in the army. I don’t think he ever used any force. He said he was protecting the country. I just cannot picture him at that time, because he seems so nice these days. I hope I can learn more from him in the future.

  36. FOARP Says:

    @Charles – However, a court did order compensation, and an expression of regret was issued. I have never seen the Kent State killings referred to as a ‘student revolt’

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