China: Tiananmen Square, June 4, 2011

Jun 08, 2011
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A visitor arrives on Beijing's infamous square and returns with photos and more than a few thoughts on that fateful date.

This morning I visited Tiananmen Square for the first time, and it wasn't until after I arrived that I realised today, June 4, is the 22nd anniversary of the military action taken during the 1989 protests in Tiananmen Square, and throughout Beijing.

Martial law had been declared in late May but it wasn't until June 4 that the Chinese government opened fire on its civilians, and rolled the tanks and troops into Tiananmen Square.

Knowing this gave me a whole new perspective today, watching Chinese tourists pose for pictures, holding their fake Louis Vuitton bags high in the sky, smiling and eating ice cream, and occasionally asking me to pose for photographs with them.

I asked those who spoke to me if they knew of the anniversary, but all I received were confused looks and shrugged shoulders.

All is good here in the land of the free (labour).

Tomorrow, June 5, is the anniversary of the man ("Tank Man") who stood in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square, refusing to move. It was never clear what happened to the man, but common sense suggests he was probably executed for his defiance.

When I asked a Chinese official in the square why it was closed, her English went from being quite good to very confused...

Because of today's anniversary, the Mao Mausoleum located in Tiananmen Square was closed. When I asked a Chinese official in the square why it was closed, her English went from being quite good to very confused, saying she didn't know, smiling her way out of answering the question.

Security was heavy today at the square, although I imagine in a city where every subway rider has all of their bags X-rayed before every ride, security is probably always heavy at Tiananmen Square.

It's worth mentioning as a white tourist, that I had my bag X-rayed before entering Tiananmen Square. But I was not subjected to a visual inspection and pat-down, like the Chinese citizens I saw were. I also saw Chinese citizens in the square asked to produce identification.

Tiananmen Square is nice: spacious, clean and surrounded on all sides by culture and history.

947 Mausoleum of Mao Zedong; Tiananmen Square, Beijing. (Photo: Dewey Hammond)


948 I counted at least 49 workers in this partitioned area of Tiananmen Square, scraping gum off the concrete in what must be a never-ending effort to keep the square squeaky clean. (Photo: Dewey Hammond)


949 An eerie coincidence given the date, I found this less-than-one-inch toy gun lying in the middle of Tiananmen Square.(Photo: Dewey Hammond)


950 Monument to the People's Heroes; Tiananmen Square. The blue sign on the ground reads: Please do not enter. (Photo: Dewey Hammond)


951 National Flag of China; Tiananmen Square; behind that is Tiananmen Gate (ironically a.k.a. Gate of Heavenly Peace), which leads to the Meridian Gate, which leads to the Forbidden City. (Photo: Dewey Hammond)


952 National Museum of China, as seen from Tiananmen Square. (Photo: Dewey Hammond)


953 Police officer in Tiananmen Square; June 4, 2011. (Photo: Dewey Hammond)


954 Zhengyangmen Gate (colloquially called Qianmen Gate): Gates in Beijing are a lot like horror novels in the United States: Every gate seems to be advertised as the biggest and best, just as nearly every horror novel in the States has a quote attributed to Stephen King claiming it's the scariest book since Silence of the Lambs. (Photo: Dewey Hammond)


955 Qianmen Gate; Beijing's central north-south axis passes through Qianmen Gate. (Photo: Dewey Hammond)

This post was originally published on in June 2011