Reliving The Nightmare In Tiananmen

This first-person account was filed by CBS News London cameraman and editor Brian Robbins, who shot this video:



Just after midnight on June 4, 1989, my soundman, Hiroshi Iizuka from CBS News Tokyo, and I arrived at the Beijing Hotel side of Chang An avenue.

We could hear shooting. A large group of students and civilians at this corner of Tiananmen Square were facing lines of soldiers.

We could see burning vehicles on the Square and we tried to approach discreetly, but were told the soldiers would certainly shoot.

As we contemplated this warning, far ahead of us, a lone student walked out and gave a "V" sign. Soldiers raised their guns, a blur of people ran in front of me and my soundman pulled me down sharply as they opened fire in our direction.

People around us were hit.

My video goes black as I ducked.

As the camera comes up, you see crouching people, sparks of ricochet.

We scrambled up, heard a woman scream near me as she was shot. The dead and wounded were taken away; one man shot in the back, another dead. There were many, we couldn't keep up.

As dawn broke, the shooting started again. We ran to the side of the Beijing Hotel. Tanks and armored personnel carriers approached, heading for the Square.

The crowd ran, falling over bicycles. I dropped the camera at this point as we were pinned down by gunfire and I couldn't reach it as bullets were whizzing past.

Then some locals got angry and ran to stone passing tanks. More shooting into the crowd, more killed and wounded. At this point, Chinese people old and young came to us and said, "we will escort you away safely, too dangerous, you must show the world."

People kept saying that to us that night, "you must show the world."

I've been back to China many times since the massacre; during the martial law that followed, and then during the years of incredible economic growth, as the events of Tiananmen Square, 1989, faded.

Twenty years from that day, China is a different place.

Covering the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, I realized just how far China had come. It really is going to shape the world. The country is impressive, chaotic, exciting.

"Could Tiananmen happen again?" is the question asked often.

I am not Chinese, so it is impossible for me to predict, nor should I try.

But surely as the quality of life improves for Chinese people, the thirst for freedom cannot be far behind. Whether it comes gradually, or boils over, is the challenge ahead.

After what I witnessed 20 years ago, I just hope it's peaceful.
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