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Photos: Tiananmen Square then and now

Reuters/Petar Kujundzic
On patrol.
Published This article is more than 2 years old.

June 4 is the anniversary of Beijing’s 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, when Chinese government troops opened fire on hundreds of pro-democracy protestors—many of them students—and then went on to lock down the country, arresting survivors and expelling the foreign journalists who witnessed the bloodshed. Images of the incident were banned in China immediately after it happened, but one scene has nonetheless become internationally famous: “Tank Man,” the anonymous, insanely brave young man who dared to step in front of oncoming tanks and stop their advance.

A citizen stands passively in front of a convoy of tanks on the Avenue of Eternal peace

Shot in photo and video from the balcony of a Beijing hotel by several different journalists, including Charlie Cole for Newsweek, Jeff Widener for the Associated Press, and Tsang Hin Wah of Reuters, that scene went on to become an icon of China’s spirit of resistance, in the West—and in China, among plenty of curious young Chinese with today’s VPN connections.

China remains, in some ways, on lock down; young people in China still do not learn about that day in history, all mention of the date itself has been banned from social media today and Chinese newspaper Global Times has declared, “Chinese society has reached a consensus on not debating the 1989 incident,” as Sophie Richardson of Human Rights Watch wrote yesterday for Quartz.

All the more reason to remember the energy that charged Tiananmen Square protestors back in 1989, before it was extinguished. Below, a few rarely-seen photos of the Tiananmen protests, paired with scenes of the same locations around Tiananmen Square today. Any tourist can now visit the massive square, but stopping to reflect too long on its history is a no-no; visitors are kept circulating by Segway-mounted security guards, and legend holds that any man holding an umbrella in dry weather is a member of the secret police.

Reuters/Stringer/Kim Kyung Hoon
LEFT: A demonstrator gives the victory sign as workmen finish putting a drap over a huge protrait of Chairman Mao on the Gate of Heavenly Peace, May 1989. RIGHT: In front of a portrait of China’s late Chairman Mao Zedong at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, June 2013
Reuters/Bobby Yip/Kim Kyung Hoon
LEFT: Student protesters arriving at Tiananmen Square to join other pro-democracy demonstrators, May 1989. RIGHT: A tourist poses for a photograph in front of the giant portrait of Chinese late Chairman Mao Zedong at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, October 2013
Reuters/Bobby Yip/Petar Kujundzic
LEFT: Pro-democracy demonstrators pitch tents in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square before their protests were crushed by the People’s Liberation Army on June 3, 1989. RIGHT: Firefighters carrying fire extinguishers patrol Tiananmen Square in front of the Monument to the People’s Heroes during the closing ceremony of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), in Beijing, March 12, 2014.
Reuters/Carl Ho/Stringer
LEFT: A group of journalists supports the pro-Democracy protest in Tiananmen Square, May 17, 1989. RIGHT: Participants wearing masks during a hazy day at the Beijing International Marathon in front of Tiananmen Square, in Beijing, October 19, 2014.
Reuters/Petar Kujundzic
LEFT: A Beijing citizen stands passively in front of a convoy of tanks, June 1989. RIGHT: Paramilitary policeman stands guard with a shield and a stick, March 2014

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