The Film

This transcript is being provided for reference purposes only.
It may not be reproduced without prior written permission from the .
© 1995, Long Bow Group Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Major funding for this program was provided by The National Endowment for the Humanities,
The Ford Foundation and The Rockefeller Foundation.
Produced in association with the Independent Television Service (ITVS).

The Gate of Heavenly Peace



On the night of June 3rd 1989, tanks and armored vehicles of the People's Liberation Army moved into Beijing and put an end to seven weeks of peaceful protest.

WANG DAN - Student

After the shooting on the night of June 3rd, when I found out that so many people had died, I felt neither anger nor sorrow - nothing. I was completely numb, there was a huge emptiness. I just couldn't believe they would open fire.

DING ZILIN - Professor

In the first few days after my son was killed, many friends, colleagues and students came to express their sympathy. They all said that soon the official verdict would be overturned.

But as investigations and arrests began, fewer and fewer people came to see me. When people ran into me, they were silent. It was as though nothing had ever happened.


Events do not deliver their meanings to us. They are always interpreted.

On the morning of June 5th, there was a moment that would come to symbolize the hope and the tragedy of those spring days.


He disappeared into the crowd afterwards, and no one knows where he is now. No one is even certain of his name.

But for the millions who saw this scene all over the world its meaning was clear: Here was human hope and courage challenging the remorseless machinery of state power.

The Chinese government interpreted the scene just as simply, but differently:


Anyone with common sense can see that if our tanks were determined to move on, this lone scoundrel could never have stopped them. This scene recorded on videotape flies in the face of Western propaganda. It proves that our soldiers exercised the highest degree of restraint.


In the days after the end of the protest at Tiananmen, large numbers of people were arrested all over China.


I heard the government's "most wanted list" on the radio. At first it seemed only students were on the list, but I finally heard my own name.

I couldn't stand the humiliation of being hunted down by the police. I wanted to maintain as much dignity as possible while facing the inevitable. So I decided to go to the police on my own.

I told the police, "I've come here because you've got your facts wrong. I don't know if it's deliberate or because you don't understand what really happened. Since I was involved I feel it's my duty to straighten you out."


When individuals stand up to power, they bring to the encounter the lessons that power has taught them, and the harm it has done them. Merely to stand up does not free us from these things.

Behind every gesture of hope and courage lies a life, a society, a history.

Next chapter: OPENING

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