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I still can't understand why those
events back then happened.
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The Chinese government's response
was completely wrong.
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It is time that the present government
Mid-May 1989 for the past month thousands of students have been camping out on Beijing's Square of Heavenly Peace. Initially this camp is in commemoration of Hu Yaobang, who had been described as China's most reform-minded politician. Two years earlier he was dismissed as party secretary for being too progressive.
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He had the sympathy of the entire
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That is why not only the intellectuals,
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but also the rest of the population
wished to mourn him.
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We requested permission to take part
in the memorial ceremonies,
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but our request was denied
by the government.
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They were acting irrationally.
They refused to cooperate.
The then 22-year-old Zheng Fang joins the memorial camp. It develops into a movement calling for more democracy and less corruption. The students want press freedom and the resignation of premier Li Peng. There are also demonstrations in other cities. Hundreds of thousands stop working and join the students. 3000 youngsters go on hunger strike to show their commitment.
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An accumulation of several social
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led to this explosion of emotions.
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There was lots of enthusiasm
and passion among us students.
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But we were also very naive.
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We wanted to take control of
the future of our country.
Party leader Zhao Ziyang, standing next to Wen Jiabao, then young but now the Chinese premier, implores the students to give up their protest. This conciliatory attitude costs him dearly. He is dismissed a few weeks later. He remains under house arrest until his death in 2005. It is no coincidence that the protests coincide with Gorbachev's visit. He has just launched his policy of glasnost. With the erection of a statue of liberty, the Tiananmen protest reaches its peak. The square empties. International interest wanes. Only the hard core remain.
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After Gorbachev's visit, the army was
suddenly deployed against us.
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Beijing was put under martial law
and surrounded by soldiers.
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The atmosphere became grimmer.
And we all became very nervous.
Tanks roll into the square. A wave of fury wells up against the soldiers. They are overwhelmed and fall back. Heavily armed units are sent to the square. They've been ordered to clear it at any cost. The night of 3-4 June 1989 changes Zheng Fang's life for ever.
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The tanks moved in on us from
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They must have been able to see
that we were leaving peacefully.
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So why did they plough into us
at such high speed
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Afterwards I heard that many people
had been knocked down
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and had been killed or badly injured.
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I was knocked unconscious. When
I woke up, I found I had lost my legs.
20 years later, the precise number killed and injured that night is still unclear. For years afterwards the students who were involved were subject to reprisals. Some are still languishing in Chinese prisons. Others managed to flee the country. Zheng Fang's injuries were a curse and a blessing. He recanted and focussed on a career as a wheelchair athlete. This interview is the first time he has talked publicly about his past.
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That is because we here in China
are not allowed to talk about it.
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The Chinese press is not even allowed
to mention it.
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But you foreign journalists are willing
to listen to us.
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Your reports may not get through
to China, but that doesn't matter.
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The important thing is that 1989
is not forgotten
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and that the truth is preserved.
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Because I do not want this
gradually to slip
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from the Chinese collective memory.
The day after this interview Zheng Fang left for the United States. He applied for political asylum, which means he can never go back to China. At least, not while the Communists are still in power.
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