Beijing Journal (Tiananmen Square, 1989)

25 years ago today, the protests in Tiananmen Square turned into a massacre as China’s own military turned against the protesting citizens, resulting in hundreds of civilian deaths. The struggle for democracy was summarily crushed, and in the months and years that followed, the Chinese government further strengthened its position and tightened restrictions in the country.

In memory of that grave day, we present the tape “Beijing Journal,” which was recorded over the course of a few months in the spring of 1989 by American teacher and journalist Pat Keeton. It was one of the first video documents of the Tiananmen Square protests to be shown on American television when it was featured in the pilot episode of THE 90’s.

Because the Chinese government declared martial law a few weeks prior, which severely restricted media coverage of the protests, most of the images from that fateful day give us a distant, bird’s eye view of the events. In its most iconic image, a solitary protestor is dwarfed not only by the four tanks lining the street in front of him, but also the scale of the image itself. That general sense of distance makes this tape’s personal, over-the-shoulder look at the protests feel jarringly intimate. This is history through the eyes of someone who wasn’t just there, they were a part of it.

Watch the full episode of THE 90’s or check out more from the Global Perspectives on War and Peace Collection.



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