National Geographic : 1991 Jul
'I - HE Y'RE GOING TO SHOOT!" The voice was disembodied, hidden somewhere in a surging crowd of thousands. We turned and fled as one, bumping into one another to escape the People's Liberation Army, which now opened fire near Tiananmen Square in Beijing. People fell, buses burned, and the air was thick with curses. It was June 4, 1989. For the first time since the revolution of 1949, Chinese troops were shooting at citizens in Beijing's streets. "Tell the world our government has gone mad," a woman shouted to me. Another woman rushed around crying out in despair: "Our students, our students! What are they doing to our students!" Through coils of smoke I made out the giant portrait of Mao Zedong that hangs in Tianan men and also the tall white Goddess of Democ racy erected by the students-symbols of divergent philosophies of how to order society. By morning Tiananmen Square was full of tanks. Hundreds ofyoung people were dead students, workers, small businessmen, and a few soldiers. Over the next weeks thousands more were jailed, and for every one person put in prison, a hundred more were harassed, and a thousand were scared into silence. "If you make a remark about the price of tomatoes," a shopper said, "a neighbor might consider that a political complaint and tell the police."