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The original world nomad "Real knowledge is to know the extent of one's ignorance." - Confucius.

Chaos in China - notes from my paper diary of 1989

CHINA | Wednesday, 21 August 2013 | Views [1520] | Comments [1]

Memories can be disarmingly deceptive. It scarcely seems possible that its been 25 years since I first visited China. Because of the 25th anniversary of Tiannamen, I was asked recently about rarely reported chaos in Chengdu out west and what I knew of it. I described what it was like to be surrounded by a couple of million Chinese and what I'd seen and what I'd not.

Later, I dug out my old paper diaries from that time. Reading them once more I was surprised by some of the details which I hadn't clearly remembered that way. In this digital age when nobody seems to keep a paper travel diary any longer, I wonder about digital permanence and how it changes what people write, since the audience for a personal paper diary was myself.   

So here, verbatim, was what I wrote on June 7th 1989.

"China in turmoil! Out of control & anarchy.

Arrived here in Chengdu yesterday & took a bus to the Jinjiang Hotel as recommended in the book - only to find smashed windows & a large crowd & the hotel closed. Checked into another hotel nearby, shower & then out again to find out what was going on.

Further towards the city centre there were tell-tale signs: many buildings with smashed windows, broken paving stones & a huge crowd. As we neared the large statue of Mao you could feel the tension in the crowd - they were waiting to see something happen.

Cautiously we entered the main square - packed with people as as far as the eye could see, many burn't out buses & trams, no police & no westerners. In a few seconds we were surrounded by a huge but friendly crowd; even so it was scary as hell as the people were nervous & every so often there would be a small stampede, so to be hemmed in was highly dangerous. We were told there were more than 1,000 dead  in nearby streets & battles with Police were continuing.

Took many pictures & then beat a retreat - we were both highly nervous. I later returned alone to see if the reports of 1,000 dead were true & to record it - walking about with a camera to rounds of applause from the people was embarrassing - I would prefer to remain anonymous.

Saw a government building in the square, manned by the army & under seige by the rest of the population. Was being shown this by the 'students' when a grenade (from the army) landed 3ft away."

 

 

Tags: 1989, chengdu, china, riot

Comments

1

Wow, amazing recount of events. Seems like so long ago in some ways. History is never forgotten.

  miss_traveller Jul 2, 2015 2:43 AM

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