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The Forgotten Revolution

No matter what President Clinton says in Tiananmen Square, his visit to this place represents a triumph for the Chinese dictatorship, reports CBS news Anchor Dan Rather.

Lest we forget, nine years ago, on another warm June night, this square was filled with tens of thousands of demonstrators -- and the hopes and dreams of tens of millions of other Chinese.

They came from all parts of China in the Spring of 1989 -- students at first, then others -- to push for freedom and an end to corruption. They began with great innocence, and only gradually realized they had momentum -- and the message -- to demand real change from China s leaders.

The Chinese government's response to that demand on June 4th, 1989, is what hangs over the Clinton visit. At least hundreds were killed.

In the years since, Chinese leaders insist, it has been business as usual -- with a growing emphasis on business -- even among some survivors of Tiananmen. Liu Suli, jailed two years for organizing protests in 1989, is today building a chain of bookstores in Beijing. He is also starting up a publishing company, with his fiancé Gonchi, another Tiananmen veteran. They are in business now, and cautious about recalling 1989.

"I think we should focus on what's happening today," says Liu. "I will not forget what happened, but we must be able to move on. . .Everybody has a right for a better life. And that desire for a good life is probably more basic than other rights."

One of the leaders of the Tiananmen demonstrations was a student named Li Lu. In the days after the crackdown, he made the government's most wanted list - he was the object of a police search throughout China.

But Li Lu escaped, came to the United States and made lots of money. Like others of the Tiananmen generation, finance became the focus of his life. This dissident now manages a Wall Street money fund.

". . .This is exactly what we wanted on Tiananmen Square," says Li. The "free market never succeeded without free men and free society. You can't imagine a free market coupled with a dictatorship."

But that is exactly what the Chinese government is doing -- keeping a tight dictatorship while relaxing controls on making money and on a few personal freedoms -- and it may be working.

For those of us who were here in 1989 as the historic moment built, there is the haunting realization that the drive for democracy has stalled, at least on the surface and at least for now. It has been nearly drowned out in many ways by a kind of free market and drive for dollars.

The same people who crushed the movement for freedom have been working ever since to have the world forget it, and to have an American president come and stand here. With tis presidential visit, they get what they want.

Reported by Dan Rather
©1998, CBS Worldwide Inc., All Rights Reserved

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