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Tiananmen Square, 20 Years Later

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the massacre in Tiananmen Square. To mark the occasion, TNR has taken a look back at what our writers said at the time.

  • In a TRB column, then-TNR editor Hendrik Hertzberg was optimistic that the students would prevail, establishing a democratic government in short order. He also argued that the government's use of "People's" to mark state institutions, ironically, undermined the nation's authoritarian system.
  • A week later, Pierre Ryckmans, writing under his pen name Simon Leys, was more concerned, predicting in the June 19 issue that the end result would be "grim”--but that the demonstrations were still necessary, and the regime's collapse was to come shortly.
  • By the June 26 issue, the crushing of the opposition was complete. The issue's editorial called for the Bush administration to pursue tougher measures against the Chinese government as punishment for the massacre, and urged Britain to revoke its promise to return Hong Kong.
  • Hertzberg used that week's TRB column to honor the Chinese protesters who took to the streets of DC in horror at the outrage, arguing that they could in fact make a difference by drying up investment in China and putting lie to the regime's claims of being a "People's Republic.”
  • Two months later, a short Notebook item in the August 28 issue caught up with Wuer Kaixi, a student leader who fled to the U.S. and promptly joined the Kennedy family's social circle.

By The TNR Staff