By JIXU SHENGHUO
BEIJING – All is quiet in Tiananmen Square today, save for the footsteps of undercover police and the occasional hum of an overhead drone.
But it wasn’t like this 25 years ago.
On the night of June 3, 1989, this 100-acre quadrant bore witness to the dying embers of the burgeoning pro-democracy movement, after Party leaders ordered soldiers to clear the square.
Today, the only conversation is the crackle of security personnel’s walkie-talkies.
“Unit 657, report.”
“Roger that. Everything A-OK in the square,” comes the terse response. “Just a few pigeons… Request orders, 10-4.”
There is a pause before the reply comes through: “Detain pigeons.”
Although it is a warm summer’s day, I shudder.
Where was formerly a ‘Goddess of Democracy,’ now stands only a menacingly thin gentleman, clad in khakis and carrying a Chinese flag. And where bullets once zipped past lines of unarmed students, today the only line is the lunch queue outside KFC.
The effect, at least for this correspondent, is eerie. Despite the temperature – a balmy 36ºC – I find myself shuddering. Later, as the reception on my phone gets worse, I wonder: is it just the tunnel I’m in, or are there larger forces at work?
Something is up, agrees the sole genuine tourist in the square.
Li Bin, 32, of Shandong province, knows nothing about the events of 25 years ago but says the atmosphere in Tiananmen Square today is certainly unusual.
“It definitely feels as if something happened,” says a bewildered Li. “But no one seems to know what.”
I feel a shudder begin at the base of my spine… [That’s enough – Ed]