Naturally we were interested to visit the place of the Tiananmen Square Massacre on June 4th 1989. I don’t think that anyone that saw the news footage of the military armed with assault rifles and accompanied by armoured tanks will ever forget the squashing of the democracy movement that was in progress from April until the massacre of goodness knows how many hundreds? thousands? that occurred here.
We weren’t going to be fortunate enough however to walk in the square itself as a government convention was in progress and that side of the road was closed to all but participants. We had to content ourselves to what we could see from the road (although the guide constantly told us that we were in the Square itself. We made one attempt to find out th guide’s version of the massacre to discover it was a waste of time. They would only tell you what they had been taught to say and the people on the whole did not know about it or saw it as a lesser deal than we in the west did.
The police and military presence was massive and the lighting was fitted with video cameras, loud speakers and flood lights. It felt like a place you wouldn’t want to put a step wrong.
The square has been used for a meeting place. It is totally flat and devoid of any seating or ornamentation. Anyone entering is subjected to a thorough search and international visitors have their documentation examined. We didn’t have ours looked at which makes me believe that we were on the edge of the square in a street called Chang’an Ave. A wide street that is used for street parades and marches. At the end of it is the Tiananmen Gate (Gate of Heavenly Peace) and nearby is the Forbidden City.
On the East side of the square (where we were walking) is the National Museum of China. We didn’t go in but I loved the leafy floral display on the outside.
The Monument to the People and Mao Ze Dong’s mausoleum were opposite. Mao wished to be cremated but instead he was embalmed and placed to rest on view to the public every day except Mondays. We visited Ho Chi Minh who lies in state in Hanoi, waiting in a queue for hours and then silently filing past looking at his preserved body as we went. Even if we’d had a choice I don’t think I would have joined the queue here to do similar.
As I mentioned earlier, the street lighting served dual purposes. I’d never been anywhere that was like this before.
Finally we were leaving Tiananmen Square and entering into the Forbidden City. Suddenly it felt as though we were again in a peaceful place. The uniforms gone. The crowds didn’t feel as large. The feeling of oppression lifted and I felt like I’d gone back in time.