Sunday, April 12, 2009

Tiananmen 20 years later: A survivor's story

Associated Press
BEIJING – Twenty years after China's military crushed dissent around Tiananmen Square, the details are still fresh in Qi Zhiyong's mind. The acrid smell of tear gas. The people run down by tanks. The dizzying pain when a bullet tore through his left leg.

The student-led protests in the heart of the Chinese capital had gone on for weeks, an extraordinary call for political freedom and an end to government corruption. Sparked by the April 15 death of a beloved Communist Party chief deposed by hard-liners, they were mostly peaceful, even after martial law was declared on May 20.

But late on June 3, 1989, the government lost its patience.

"I saw people being run over. Blood sprayed everywhere," says Qi, then a 33-year-old construction worker. "The tanks kept moving, as if the people weren't there. My hair stood on end. I was chilled to the bone."

Witnessing the crackdown and losing his leg transformed Qi from a loyal Communist Party supporter into an activist with a simple goal: speaking out about the events which the leadership has all but erased from history.

His efforts cost him his job, his wife and his freedom. But a newfound Christian faith and pure doggedness have kept him going.

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