Quelling the people: the military suppression of the Beijing democracy movement

TitleQuelling the people: the military suppression of the Beijing democracy movement
Publication TypeBook
1992
AuthorsBrook, T
PublisherOxford University Press
CityNew York
0195074572, 9780195074574
History

The Beijing Massacre was a watershed in the history of modern China. In the early hours of June 4, 1989, the People’s Liberation Army forced its way into the center of Beijing. Its objective was to take control of Tiananmen Square, headquarters of the fledgling Democracy Movement, at all costs. Even the Chinese leaders may not have realized that the Army would carry out a massacre that would shred the legitimacy of the government in the eyes of its own people and of the world community. In Quelling the People, Timothy Brook offers the first detailed and objective reconstruction of the Army’s actions during that night, as well as in the weeks leading up to the massacre. Brook goes behind the scenes, interviewing dozens of eyewitnesses, reviewing Chinese and foreign press reports, collecting unofficial hospital reports, and working from over a hundred student documents smuggled out of Beijing University. What he discovers is something very different from the official story. He demonstrates that the soldiers killed two to three thousand people as opposed to the reported hundreds. He finds that the soldiers, armed with combat weapons, were not trained to handle civilian opposition, and had no strategy except to open fire into crowds. In short, they should never have been used as riot troops. Given such poor resources, Brook asserts, the Chinese leaders should have sought a nonmilitary solution, for in deploying their incompetent troops, the government came close to provoking a civil war as the military units which had participated in the massacre squared off against each other. In addition, he looks into the Chinese government’s extensive propaganda campaign - from videos edited to show that the Army was in the right, to books with the same storyline, to the celebration on National Day, an attempt to create the illusion of normalcy and unity. As Brook writes, "The Chinese government’s sole hope is amnesia...It asks that we succumb to its logic...That what the soldiers did, they did in self-defense...That nothing really happened. That nothing has changed." Filled with vivid, personal accounts of both participants and observers, Quelling the People not only sets the record straight as to what happened at Tiananmen Square, but it also provides a provocative story of the people who stood up to fight for democratic change, the soldiers who were sent against them, and the disregard for human rights that resulted in the tragic deaths of thousands.