VOA’s Mandarin Service asked audience members to share their memories of the events surrounding June 4, 1989. Responses arrived on social media and even in photographs of paintings.
The responses below have been edited and condensed for clarity.
In the spring of 1989, Zhang Quansheng was a college student in Tianjin, a city that is about a 90-minute drive from Beijing today. He participated in protests at his school, and also spent time in Tiananmen Square.
In front of the stage, I saw an aged worker from a textile factory in Tianjin, who took out 50 yuan from his handcuffs, complained in tears, and, in tears, donated money to support the student movement. ...
The ordinary citizens in Tianjin showed great support for the student movement that year. In addition to money, they also gave out lots of different things. To put it this way, everyone supported the movement with everything that they had: those who sold the Chinese pancakes would give out pancakes, those who drove the buses gave free rides to students… even the old housewives would pack boiled eggs and give them to every student they could in the demonstration. This tells you about the will of the people. …. Hundreds of millions of people nationwide were moved by the students on the hunger strike.
I have never again returned to Tiananmen.
Meishi recalls how on the evening of June 2, 1989, a military SUV hit four civilians in Beijing, causing three deaths. I was at the scene and there were military uniforms and military hats on the car.
Mading Li who passed through Beijing while on a business trip, was so astonished by the scene at Tiananmen Square that he decided to join the protesters.
The memory that can't be erased in 30 years, life was changed by the events of June 4.
The cries for democracy and freedom, calls against corruption … amazed me. The students’ patriotic and kindhearted actions touched me deeply and inspired in me a longing for democracy and freedom. So I participated, actively.
I discussed China's democracy, the rule of law, and the promotion and protection of human rights with teachers and students. The consensus was that …[the] demand for democracy, constructions of a comprehensive legal system, and the protection of human rights are issues that China urgently needed to solve.
I think this democratic movement was unprecedented since the founding of the Communist China. It is also an opportunity to fundamentally change the Communist autocracy.
At 10 o'clock on the evening of June 3, the number of armed policemen suddenly increased around the square and began to disperse the crowd. Many people, including myself, were forced to leave the square by the military police.
I took the train to Shijiazhuang that night and the noise from the demonstration woke me the next morning.
Many people in the crowd looked like students and their heads were wrapped in bloodstained bandages. Their clothes were torn and covered with dirt and blood. I asked a student what had happened. He told me that Tiananmen Square was awash in blood at 3 in the morning. … They escaped and rushed to Shijiazhuang by train to tell the student organizations there about what had happened. I was shocked. Many students were still on a hunger strike and wouldn’t have been able to fight back if things got violent.
[After Tiananmen], I was officially characterized as “politically unreliable.” My whereabouts and social activities were monitored for more than a decade.
Since 2012, every year before June 4, I’m called up for political investigations, concentrated politics classes and in other ways experience restrictions. Even my participation in Christian activities was suspected to be related to June 4 and was interrupted.
In 1989, I was a young man just over the age of 30 and was fearless and ambitious. Now I am over 60 years old, but I have always hoped that democracy, the rule of law and protections of human rights will be built, promoted and realized in China.
Laotao was in Shenzhen working at a university. Her “husband” was a government official.
Twice the faculty and staff members of Shenzhen University went into the street to show support for the students in Beijing on the sit-in and hunger strike.
Everyone wore a paper hat inscribed with the word "Support."
Along the way, people joined our demonstration, and many people contributed donations.
From the start at Shenzhen University, policemen and police cars cleared the way for us, stopping other vehicles to allow our cars to form a line. There were also police officers on both sides of the parade to maintain order and it was quite peaceful. The second demonstration was similar.
In the beginning of June, Shenzhen University Student Union sent a volunteer team of five people (known as the Death Squad, it included my students) who went all the way to the capital with 100,000 RMB in donations.
On June 3, tanks came in and there were gunshots. I barely slept, watching news reports from TV stations based in Hong Kong. My husband was with me that night. Fortunately, he did not say anything but held me tight. I remember feeling so cold that I kept shivering.
On Monday, June 5, I learned the Shenzhen University Death Squad had withdrawn to Tianjin on the morning of June 3, and everyone was safe.
Every morning, students from Hong Kong sent bundles of newspapers and magazines to the border. People from Shenzhen University picked them up. Then the post office started to intercept the mail.
Only college graduates who were validated as having not participated “in the counterrevolutionary turmoil” were likely to find a job. Even private companies were afraid to hire those without the validation.
Listen (name) watched a neighbor’s television.
I was 11 years old in 1989. I learned about the Tiananmen Square event on TV…. It was CCTV [the state station].
On TV, I saw the students stopped the military vehicles, burned military vehicles, burned soldiers. The bodies of the soldiers were hung on the flyover. … There were pictures of … the scene to quell counterrevolutionary riots. Later, on the TV, some people said that there were many people who died. … It was a rumor that they died…TV said that several people were arrested.
For a long time, due to the lack of information, I was a "Mao’s fan," a "Little Pink" (a cybernationalist). In 1998, I [had] an awakening of humanity, an awakening of self-awareness. I started to want to get rid of everything imposed by the external environment. I was eager for new knowledge and freedom, for knowing how to rid slavery and become a real human, to live like a human.”
One nameless netizen was only four years old.
I went to Tiananmen Square with my family. … I ate delicious Yili vitamin bread. … The tents, flags, crowds, garbage on the square, are part of my memory. … The tanks and armored vehicles were close to each other, and they are [part of] my happy and beautiful memories.
The gunshots that lasted all night sounded like New Year firecrackers, but the atmosphere at home and the faces of people were very different. … A [man] blocked a team of tanks on the TV, and even climbed to the top and knocked. … He was simply an idol in the boy’s mind.
Usually I sat in front of the TV and watched cartoons all day, however the hanging bodies, the burnt faces … played back to back. No one in China learned [what had happened]. This has been a nightmare for me for 30 years.
Courtesy images of paintings by Chinese artist Weng Bing remembering the events at Tiananmen Square 30 years ago: