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Life and Death in Beijing, A Photo Journal


I had promised myself I’d scan all the photos my friend X had taken during the night of June 3-4, 1989. I am exhausted and have managed to scan two-thirds. X, I believe, is living safely in France today.

Nineteen years ago, tonight, I’d returned to Beijing after traveling to five Chinese cities. Mr. Zhang, my driver, took me slowly past Tiananmen Square and told me the students will eventually go home. It was summer vacation, after all. There was laughter in the square, jokes told at the expense of the ruling elite.

As I scanned these photos, I was ever more astonished by X’s courage. I can tell he was all over the square and at hospitals. How did he ever manage? I can attest there could not have been images nearly as bold shot that night.

I was asked by a mutual friend, D, to take the rolls of film to Hong Kong for development. Then I returned to China 3 weeks later. The photos were not to show the outside world, but to men like the Chilean Ambassado sent by Pinochet--the paunchy bemedaled militaryman who once accused me of trying to run him over with my friend's car. He had been ensconced in his embassy and did not believe the massacre had taken place.

Here is my piece, "Life and Death in Beijing."

and an earlier post, a review of Ma Jian's masterpiece, "Beijing Coma."

photos copyrighted









I've written a piece from my perspective of those tense and heady days

Washington Post comic strip, "Against 'Forgetting," by Belle Yang

CALA Best Picture Book of 2008 Awarded to "Always Come Home to Me."  Please see Youtube video! 




9 Comment count
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I'm speechless

I'm speechless

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The News of the Tiananmen Massacre

I have a friend who lives in Japan. At the time of the Tiananmen Massacre he told me about film on Japanese television showing students being machine-gunned and the bodies being thrown into trucks.

There was, at least as far as I know, no such film on American television. In fact, I don't remember any mention of the large number of people who were killed. It is understandable that graphic film might not be shown as a matter of taste and/or propriety but why did I never hear even an estimate of the number of unarmed students butchered that night? Did I just miss it or did American media not report it?

And I never saw any pictures like these in American magazines either. 


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There is no official count

I called a few hosptitals and the count was easily a couple of hundred. I would guess the body count was in the thousands.

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Stunning dramatic

progression of the photographs; the story, too, stunning, but arrives at a moment of peace.

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The irony in all this is communism was supposed to be the answer to the type of oppression seen at Tiananmen. All so a few hundred men could save face. Nothing more than selfish ego at play, nothing more.

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Belle these pictures...

wow. Thank you so much for sharing them with us.

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Incredible.  Hard to look

Incredible.  Hard to look at.  Thank you, Belle, for sharing this.


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Hello From TBD

I found this from TBD. I have a page here, too. Thank you for sharing this moment in history. In terms of modern China, Tienamen Square was probably a turning point in China's history. The pictures are graphic ... this is the price freedom loving people everywhere must be willing to pay.