The Cover Up


Although millions of people in countries across the world saw the news footage on television, the Communist Party denied that the military crackdown on students demonstrating in Tiananmen Square ever actually occurred. Instead, the party reported that students involved in a "counter-revolutionary rebellion" attacked the soldiers as they attempted to move towards the square. While initially the soldiers refrained from using force against the students, in order to protect themselves, it became necessary for them to open fire.

In order to substantiate this announcement it became necessary for the Communist Party to manipulate the news reports. For example, the party obtained news footage exhibiting students stoning and burning military vehicles and disposed of any image displaying soldiers had firing on demonstrators. The images of rowdy students were widly brodcast. Also, to prevent the public from discovering the actual number of student casualties, the government forbade hospitals to report the number dead or injured. A government spokesperson even reported that while 3,000 civilians died, 6,000 soldiers perished. In order to ensure that the true death toll was never publicly know, soldiers sealed of Tiananmen Square and cremated remaining bodies.

In order to ensure the protection of the Communist Party cover-up, the government began arresting students believed to have taken any party in the demonstrations. Those suspected of being leaders of the demonstration were hunted with the most vigor. Television advertisements showing pictures of the demonstrators, gave telephone numbers, encouraging citizens to report wanted students to the government.

To foster faith in the government's ability to control "counter revolutionary rebellions," it was reported that 1,000 people were arrested in Beijing. Chinese national television showed students being arrested and taken into custody and by June 20, the government reported more then 1,500 people had been arrested.

In June, the government began executing those arrested. Between June 22 and 23, twenty-seven demonstrators were killed by a firing squad. The government hoped to foster the image of strength and quash the image of weakness that had built while the demonstrations were allowed to continue.

While the demonstrating students were portrayed as "ruffians," the soldiers who quelled the disturbance were portrayed as heroes. The government even reported that the troops "did not kill or harm a single person" while clearing Tiananmen Square. Deng Xiaoping honored ten soldiers who were killed as a result of the massacre as "the defenders of the People's Republic of China" and were immediately inducted into the Communist Party.

Although the attempt by the government to cover up events in 1989 appeared successful in some parts of the Chinese countryside where television access was limited, those who lived in Beijing and other large cities were able to discover the truth. This was true of most people living outside the country, as well. As a result of the country's deficiency in covering up the truth, many demonstration leaders were able to escape China unharmed. Also, the government's behavior was condemned around the world.



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