"Ba gong! Ba gong!" the crowd chanted. "Strike! Strike!"
The wounded and dead were taken away on carts and pedicabs.
Chinese rushed up to any foreigner they saw, urging them, even begging them to get out the news of what had happened. "They kill the people," said a 30-year-old worker named Yang. "You should tell the world this is a reactionary government."
Tell the world. To foreigners, that seemed like such a simple, obvious request; of course, foreigners would report what they had witnessed. Yet to the Chinese, who have over the past four decades seen countless brutalities remain "internal"--unnoticed and unrecorded--it was a plea of desperation.
At 3:15 a.m., some of the troops formed a line across Changan Avenue, between the Beijing Hotel and the square. An angry crowd faced off against them about 50 yards to the east. The soldiers crouched, their weapons ready. They held that way for a full 15 minutes.
Then they opened fire on the crowd. The volley lasted for several minutes. Witnesses saw Chinese in the crowd begin to fall. One witness said he saw roughly half a dozen people who appeared to be killed. Another, witnessing the same attack, figured that about 50 people were shot and wounded, though he had no idea how many were killed.
Still, the crowds formed and formed again. And the troops fired and fired again.
All the while, television cameras and print reporters were free to record the carnage. Chinese authorities made no attempt to keep journalists away from the action. The immediate reaction worldwide was a predictable outpouring of shock and outrage.
Did the regime lack the resources to shut off foreign news coverage? Perhaps. But another theory held that hard-liners intentionally let the world watch the events in Tian An Men Square, to scare away the foreign business interests that had interfered with their goal of making China economically self-sufficient.
Hard-liners such as Li Peng, a senior U.S. diplomat said, "don't really want to be in the world economy. . . . They don't want foreigners to influence what their prices are."
\o7 A young American English teacher who arrived at the relatively small Beijing Second Hospital in the pre-dawn hours of that endless night saw seven dead bodies on the floor, all bloodied, their shirts torn open. Most of the bodies were nameless; many of the protesters had come from out of town.
A man in his 20s, from the Canton Foreign Language Institute, began shouting to the American in English: "The Chinese government are animals! Seven students killed all by machine guns. How cruel our government is.
Sitting on a hallway floor was a recent graduate of Qinghua University, China's leading science institution. He had a bloody right thigh. He had come to the hospital with two other wounded friends that evening, he said. One of them had already died.
The American visited several hospital rooms. The wounded were kept seven to a room. Most hospital beds had two people in them. One victim, a student, told the American: "Our government has turned into wild beasts. They have no heart, and they have no brain."
At 4 a.m., the lights at Tian An Men Square were suddenly turned out.
There were still a few thousand students left. Most of them were gathered around the Monument to the People's Heroes in the center of the square, where there was a strange calm--the calm of the cataclysm. For the previous hour or so, the singer Hou Dejian and others at the monument had been trying to arrange with troops a withdrawal of the protesters from the square.
Now a contingent of at least 200 soldiers emerged from the Great Hall of the People. Armed with rifles, bayonets at the ready, they moved quickly around the square, south of the monument. Armored personnel carriers had moved across the north of the square, positioned in front of Tian An Men, the Gate of Heavenly Peace, and facing south. The protesters were surrounded.
At 4:30 a.m., the loudspeakers broadcast a new notice: "It is time to clear the square, and the Martial Law Headquarters accepts the request of the students to be allowed to withdraw. . . . All the people in the square should leave at once."
Some did. "There is no more time. We can't let any more blood flow," someone said over the student loudspeaker. "We must leave." Holding hands, weeping, many of the students filed safely out of the square. Some of the students who left swung around to the west, starting back toward the Beijing campus district, when they were subjected to heavy gunfire.
But some students--no one is sure exactly how many--stayed behind, guarding, clinging to the last to the monument. A few others may have stayed behind in their tents or sleeping bags. A foreign eyewitness who had seen many young people still lying in their tents two hours earlier believes that these people left the square. Some of them may have departed in Hou Dejian's negotiated withdrawal.