Chinese censors remove video showing off Tiananmen massacre medal

The video garnered angry comments, and some supportive ones, before being deleted.
By Yitong Wu and Max Wu for RFA Cantonese
2024.03.21
Chinese censors remove video showing off Tiananmen massacre medal People Liberation Army soldiers leap over a barrier on Tiananmen Square in Beijing, June 4, 1989.
(Catherine Henriette/AFP)

Chinese censors have deleted a video in which a People's Liberation Army soldier brags about a medal given to her father for participating in the 1989 Tiananmen massacre, highlighting the government's efforts to hide that part of its history, according to media reports and social media posts.

In the video posted March 18 to the official account of the People's Liberation Army Rocket Force on the video-sharing platform Bilibili, a woman clad in a camouflage uniform holds up a medal she said was presented to her father after he was among the troops that entered Beijing in early June 1989 to put down weeks of peaceful, student-led protests in Tiananmen Square.

The woman said she used to enjoy wearing the medal herself when she was a little girl.

“My father is a retired soldier," she says, according to subtitles on screenshots published by several media outlets including Taiwan's Liberty Times newspaper, Radio Taiwan International, and the citizen journalist X account "Mr Li is not your teacher."

"Here is the medal he was given for defending the capital," the woman says.

The "Defender of the Capital" honor was handed out to soldiers and other enforcers of martial law in Beijing, which was ordered by late supreme leader Deng Xiaoping on May 20 and defied by protesters and hunger strikers, who remained on Tiananmen Square.

‘You’re bragging?’

The video soon started to garner comments referencing the killing of civilians by the People's Liberation Army on the night of June 3-4, 1989.

"You're bragging about how the People's Liberation Army killed our compatriots?" said one comment, while another said the medal was fit for a "butcher," according to screenshots of the now-deleted video.

"A 'medal of honor' won for massacring unarmed students on behalf of a dictator," wrote another.

ENG_CHN_MassacreMedal_03212024.2.JPG
Medical workers at Beijing's Fuxingmen Hospital look at bodies of protesters killed by Chinese soldiers around Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989. (Reuters)

"You must be pretty ignorant to be proud of this," said another comment. "Proud of having innocent people's blood on your hands," said another.

Some comments were from "little pink" supporters of the government, one of whom commented that not enough people were killed in the massacre.

Chinese censors work hard to keep any mention of “June 4,” “6/4” or the Tiananmen massacre from the public. Last October, censors deleted a photo showing two hugging Chinese athletes who inadvertently displayed the numbers “6” and “4” on their uniforms.

The video in question was deleted on March 18, the reports said. A capture of the Rocket Force's Bilibili account made on that date by the Internet Archive was unavailable on Thursday.

Part of the machinery

Fang Zheng, whose legs were crushed by a tank during the assault on Beijing, said the soldier has become part of the ruling Communist Party's machinery of oppression.

"This little pink soldier is a second-generation June 4 massacre soldier who has sadly become an integral part of the CCP's brutal machine," Fang told RFA Cantonese.

ENG_CHN_MassacreMedal_03212024.3.jpeg
A People’s Liberation Army tank crushed the legs of Fang Zheng, a 1989 Tiananmen Square protester seen in this undated photo. (Courtesy of Fang Zheng)

"As a child, she may not have known the meaning of the 'Defender of the Capital' medal and thought it was an honor for her father," he said. "But the Defender of the Capital medal basically means he suppressed and massacred people."

He said many soldiers in the 27th Army had been at pains to hide the fact that they had taken part, although others have spoken out.

Lt. Gen. Xu Qinxian served a five-year jail term for refusing to lead his 38th army troops into Beijing on the eve of the crackdown. The 27th Army carried out the order after attempts by the 38th Army to enter the city ended in chaos.

Former student leaders have said that they were expecting the army to use water cannons and rubber bullets, but diplomatic archives later declassified by the U.K. government said the army was ordered to "spare no one" as they used dum-dum bullets, automatic weapons and armored vehicles to carry out mass killings in Beijing.

‘History written in blood’

Fang said the government still tries to avoid mentioning the massacre in public to this day.

"The June 4 massacre is something the Chinese Communist Party can't get past, so it covers up this part of its history," he said.

Former 1989 student leader Zhou Fengsuo said it's possible that the young woman didn't even know what took place in the early summer of 1989. He said the June 4th Memorial Hall museum in New York also has specimens of the medal shown in the Bilibili video.

"It's a typical vacuum paradox created by years of brainwashing by the Chinese Communist Party," Zhou said. "But this history written in blood can suddenly get shouted out for the world to hear in unexpected places."

"Back then, the government gave out a lot of commendations, medals and watches," he said. "But later, they were seen as incriminating evidence. By keeping these things in the museum, we can confirm the history of the Tiananmen massacre from a different angle."

Translated by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Malcolm Foster.

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