DU professor reflects on Tiananmen Square anniversary

DENVER -- On the 29th anniversary of the deadly crackdown on student pro-democracy protesters in Beijing's Tiananmen Square, a University of Denver professor is reflecting on the massacre.

"What really they were against was the corruption in China," says Suisheng (Sam) Zhao, professor and executive director of the Center for China-U.S. Cooperation at the University of Denver.

Decades ago, he was part of the student democracy movements in China.  He had friends at Tiananmen Square that day.

"They were patriots. They wanted to help the government to move forward," he said.

On June 4, 1989, a quarter-million Chinese troops entered the government square with guns and tanks to break up the protests, organized by students.

By the time it was over, hundreds and maybe thousands were killed.  The exact numbers are still not known.

That's because the history of the massacre has been scrubbed by the Chinese government.  They claim no one was killed.

Young people today have very little, if any, knowledge of the massacre, which Chinese internet search engines refer to only as the "June Fourth Incident."

"The government has controlled the internet very, very effectively," Zhao said.

But Zhao, who still visits China several times every year, says those protests in 1989 actually did bring about progress and reform has been made.

"Tiananmen Square really was followed by a big jump, a big development of the Chinese economy," Zhao said.

And now, people are free to complain about the their leaders.  Sort of.

"In China, basically you can talk anything. You can criticize the government... but they are not allowed to have any organized actions," he said.

Never again would they allow a demonstration like the one at Tiananmen Square 29 years ago, Zhao said.

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