The 24th Anniversary of Tiananmen Square

Tiananmen Square_man_blocks_tank_238Yesterday, I had two reminders of how important shortwave radio is in China.

The first was this incredible recording shared by David Goren–an unidentified Radio Beijing announcer who departed from the script and commented on the massacre of protestors in Tiananmen Square in 1989. It’s believed this announcer is still imprisoned:

The second was an article that a journalist friend had posted. It’s simply a list of search terms that the Chinese government blocked on Sina as of June 4th. Of course, the list contains words you would assume would be included, like: 1989, 89, vigils, and memorial ceremony. But it also includes words like: Internet block, sensitive word, and inappropriate for the public. Think of how many sites and posts this blocked (certainly ours!). Of course, there are many more terms on the list–check out this article on China Digital Times for more information.

So why is shortwave radio still important in China? It’s impossible to block those search terms on radio.

7 thoughts on “The 24th Anniversary of Tiananmen Square

  1. Dave Richards AA7EE

    This is quite amazing. That announcer had a great deal of courage to deliver that commentary. Terribly sad if he is still imprisoned but unfortunately, it is very believable. What a historic recording. Thanks so much for posting it Thomas.


  2. Keith Perron

    I would not use the term “rogue” to describe this guy. In fact he was not a regular newsreader at Radio Beijing (today China Radio International). It was the news editor on shift that day who read that newscast. His name is Lin Shao Peng. After he spent a few years at a communist retraining camp, he was banned from ever working in media in China. But in March 1996 he founded Phoenix Television based out of Hong Kong. He worth over 50 million dollars. How this story got on air is very simple. The guy who was scheduled to read news that day had gone down to Tiananmen Square like many other Radio Beijing staff to support the students. Li Dan who later became the President of China Radio International was just a news writer back then and was on duty. They got a call from someone there to say what had happened. The news editor on duty who was an anti-communist wrote the story, walked into the studio and read it on air. After June 4th the witch hunt started. People like Li Dan, Xua Huazhen (former deputy director of the English Department of CRI from 1994 to 2007), Lin Shao Wen, and Li Yuan (later a producer in the English section). Reported to the authorities all those in the English section who reported the students. An interesting backstory. In 2003 I went to the first floor of CRI where all the archives are kept of every single broadcast. Thousands upon thousands of tapes. I found the shelf that had tapes from May 1 to June 30, 1989. All the tapes from June 2, 3, 4, 5, 6th are missing. When I left CRI at the end of 2005 a women who has been at CRI for over 30 years gave me two cassette tapes from June 3 and 4. These are tapes she had copied before the original open reel masters were removed from the archives. I am holding them now and can not release them until the proper time, because she still has family. For the 25th anniversary next year it should be safe.

    1. RBWitness

      Your story is not true to what happened at the time and the names mentioned were either incorrect (somebody who didn’t exist) or true names but wrong stories. wjmknight’s version is closer to what happened. And don’t ever give any credit to Li Dan. He got promoted quickly after June 4 because he was anti student movement.

  3. Chris

    Thank you for this story. I have been a SWL for a long time and in 1989 I was living in San Francisco and was an avid BBC listener. I had been follwoing the demonstrations in the square for days as had my friend Helmut. I think it must have been June 4 when I heard a broadcast on the BBC that some of the staff at the British Embassy had reported that in the dead of the night they heard tanks rolling into the city. So I called my friend Helmut and said that we should go to the Chinese embassy to demonstrate certain that there would be a lot of people. So we did as we lived only a short distance away. To our chagrin there was only one man there, an older Chinese American gentleman with a sign saying “Stop the Red Menace”. We had brought signs and so we and he stood outside with our signs and gradually more people started showing up, almost all of them were Chinese students. There was a phone booth next to us there and they were communicating with people in the square. It was the middle of the night there. Then at some point the woman who was relaying what was happening said that all the power in that section of the city went out. That is when the troops started moving in and soon afterward she lost the connection. By the end of the day there were maybe 300 people there demonstrating, I had never seen Chinese students demonstrating and their style of demonstrating was quite unlike the American style but I was very impressed by their level of organization. They all displayed an amazing familiarity with the politics of the Chinese leadership and I eventually realized that many of them were literally their children. They were risking a lot to be there, under the watchful eyes of the embassy staff who could be seen taking pictures out of the windows. The next day there were literally tens of thousands of people and the demonstration had to be moved to Portsmouth square.

  4. wjmknight

    The announcer is Yuan Neng, who was transferred from his job for broadcasting the report.

    According to The Persecution of Human Rights Monitors: December 1988 to December 1989 , the script was by Wu Xiaoyong, Deputy Director of the English Language Service at Radio Beijing. His father, Wu Xueqian, at the time was a Senior Council Vice-President. Wu was put under house arrest for two to three years and later moved to Hong Kong, his father’s connections having likely played a part.

  5. Pingback: Remembering Radio Beijing on the 25th anniversary of Tiananmen Square | The SWLing Post

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