JIM LAURIE

JimChinamontage.jpg
Tian An Men

June 1989. [0200 4/6]  I assigned myself to the hospitals that night. I wanted to measure the true extent of the massacre.  How many dead?  How many wounded?  Later I met an emotional factory worker from Dalian who said he saw many die needlessly.  He spoke too much and paid a terrible price for his words. But first.... the scene at the Beijing Children's Hospital was chaotic.

Applause
On June 3 at about 9 in the evening, I was awakened by the ABCNEWS desk from a short nap. All reporters in Beijing had been working around the clock with little sleep: covering the largest anti-government demonstrations in China in a generation.   The hurried call from our assignment editor warned me that units the People’s Liberation Army, armed and in trucks, had begun to advance on central Beijing from the west.
After weeks of hesitation and seeming paralysis, the government was about to crush the student movement.
We had nearly a dozen people in the field with two-way radios — cameramen, producers and young students recruited for the coverage.
I assigned myself to the hospital watch. Until nearly 4 a.m., a crew of four scurried from hospital to hospital, radioing in. At Beijing Children’s Hospital a chaotic and bizarre scene reduced me nearly to tears.
As we approached, thousands of people crowded around us and began cheering and applauding—for us.
“Get inside the hospital. Shoot. Shoot. ’Pai Dian Shi.’ Take pictures,” they shouted. “The world must know.”
Hospital officials welcomed us first and then changed their minds and barred our entrance. A short time later our vehicle was commandeered by students who used it to ferry wounded from the streets to clinics and hospitals.
Not far away a small clinic had been overwhelmed with patients. Bullets whizzed by nearby. Young people were bringing badly wounded people by bicycle and peddle carts. Clinic staff with panic on their faces turned people away.   I had counted a dozen bloodied, motionless youngmen on make shift stretchers or in the hospitals.  Dead?  Wounded?  How many more?                                                                                     We were never able to provide an accurate account of the dead that night.

****

Early the next morning, producer Alisa Joyce, cameraman Charles Pinkney, and I were on the streets again continuing to try to establish the extent of the bloodshed.   We had reported a few hours earlier a report from the Red Cross saying that as many as 2,600 had died.  On the streets, we interviewed many.   One man stood out.

A Man, Emotional Words, a terrible price

How does it feel to ruin man's life? I don't suppose many journalists spend time pondering that question.   I don't know how many reporters can say that through their work, through their medium, they have landed an innocent man in jail.

The following item is as it was published by ABC News.com on June 3, 1999, ten years after “Tian An Men”

An Angry Man
A Correspondent Looks Back
on a Life He Helped Ruin


S U M M A R Y

A correspondent remembers the horrors of the Tiananmen Square massacre — and a life he feels he helped to ruin.

By Jim Laurie
ABCNEWS.com
H O N G  K O N G, June 3, 1999 — Many Chinese, then as now, spoke of the Tiananmen Square massacres with overflowing emotion. The image of one of those people will haunt me forever.

Like other reporters, I witnessed dozens of unarmed civilians killed at the hands of People’s Liberation Army soldiers who had marched on Beijing after student protesters took control of the sprawling square in the heart of the capital.
In all, hundreds, perhaps thousands, were killed.
One man who spoke with passion late on the morning after the massacre was a worker named Xiao Bin. Xiao Bin was a man who, because of me, ended up in jail, and whose life today — 10 years later — remains in ruins.
He was jailed, in effect, for talking to me on television.


Heartfelt Words
Xiao Bin was an angry man who spoke from the heart, not from the head. He was one of dozens my colleague Alise Joyce and I had interviewed that morning.
In a crowd on a Beijing side street he stood out, taller than the rest, his arms flailing. He was more impassioned than anyone I had seen. And when there’s emotion, the camera rolls.
“The bastards killed thousands!” said Xiao Bin. “Tanks ran over people. Crushing them.”
”Ni Kanle ma?” we asked. “Did you see it?” “Wo kanle.” Xiao Bin answered. “I saw.”


A Signal Intercepted
Xiao Bin was a factory worker at a rubber products plant in the northeastern city of Dalian. He had come to Beijing to watch and support the student protesters demanding democracy for China.
Twenty-four hours later Xiao Bin made his appearance in a short story I did for ABCNEWS that appeared also, much to my lasting horror, on China Central Television.
The video had been intercepted by the government off a satellite transmission going out from Hong Kong. And when this emotionally overcome and angry man was seen by 200 million viewers in China, they read a blue scroll under his name.
“This man is wanted.” It said, “He is a rumor-monger and counter revolutionary. Please turn him in to your nearest Security Bureau office.”
A few days later he was turned in, convicted and sentenced.


Guilt, and a Broken Man
It hit me hard. Xiao Bin, I felt, was my responsibility. I had been incautious, insensitive. Experienced journalists, I told myself, carry the responsibility of protecting those they interview. I had not protected him.
In 1994 Xiao Bin was released from prison after serving five years of his 10-year sentence.
Today he struggles to support himself and his family. As a convict, he has no job prospects and is unemployable. He is still watched by the local Security Bureau.
Xiao Bin lives in Dalian with his wife and son. He turned 52 last Feb. 28, which makes him a few months older than I am. His son is in middle school. His wife works as a statistician for a factory.
Xiao Bin is, of course, but one of tens of thousands whose lives were altered by the events of 10 years ago, including, in a small way, my own.

On May 11, 1989, Jim Laurie was ABCNEWS’ Moscow Bureau Chief, and was sent to help cover the events in Beijing, where he had been Beijing bureau chief from 1981 to 1984.

Twenty years after the tragic events of Tiananmen, my colleague and producer, Alisa Joyce Barba wrote of her memories of Xiao Bin for National Public Radio.

May 31, 2009

I sent a man to labor camp 20 years ago this week. His name was Xiao Bin. He was 42 years old, a factory worker from the northeast Chinese city of Dalian. It was a day after the Chinese troops had cleared out Tiananmen Square in the heart of Beijing. It was June of 1989. The city was a wreck: streets still full of burned debris; roaming crowds of angry and excited citizens; tanks still playing chicken with students on the main thoroughfare.

We were two or three blocks away from Tiananmen Square, on a side street. I was working with ABC News correspondent Jim Laurie and a camera crew. There were crowds everywhere, talking excitedly. One group had coalesced around a tall, thin, middle-aged man who was shouting and gesticulating. "The tanks ran over students," he declared. "They ran right over them as they sat in the square." We turned our cameras on him. "Did you see it yourself?" I asked. Those words came to haunt me, "Ni ziji kan ma? Ni ziji kan?" "Yes, I saw it myself," he responded.

We were all still trying to sort out the truth of what had happened on Tiananmen Square that night. Who died? How many? Where did they die? Confirmation of anything that had really happened or was happening was impossible to come by — it was a state secret.

Two days after our story aired on ABC World News in the U.S., the raw footage of our interview with Xiao Bin appeared on Chinese nightly news. There was our shot of the tall, angry, gesticulating man, my voice asking him, "Did you see it yourself?" and him saying, "Yes, they ran over students with tanks." And then below this shot, a scroll overlaid the footage, saying, in Chinese, "This man is a counterrevolutionary rumor-monger. If you see him, turn him into the Public Security Bureau." The next day he was shown on national TV on his knees, crying, asking forgiveness for his crimes. He was sentenced to 10 years in a labor camp.

We watched that TV footage in our hotel rooms. It felt very personal. It felt like the Chinese state, its vast security apparatus, had come right into our rooms, into our faces and said, "We will hurt the people who talk to you, and we will silence you." It was terrifying.

In the months and years after Tiananmen, as the crackdown continued, reporting in China changed. And that's partly because of Xiao Bin. His became a well-known cautionary tale, at least in Beijing: This is what happens if you speak to foreign journalists. We'd interview people and they'd ask, "Will I get in trouble if I speak to you?" Honest answer: Yes. You will.

In the 20 years since the terror of those days, China has prospered beyond anyone's wildest imaginings. Beijing today is unrecognizable from the city that hosted those marches, demonstrations and hunger strikes. Its population of bureaucrats and intellectuals, who once joined the students in jubilant protest, has grown rich and appears to have made an implicit deal with the Communist Party — you enrich us, and we'll stay off the streets. We'll be quiet.

One has to wonder, though, with this global recession, as cracks are beginning to appear in the armor of the Chinese economic juggernaut, will that deal endure?

And finally, what happened to Xiao Bin? Five years after he was sent to labor camp, a small item appeared in the Chinese news — Xiao had been paroled. He was sent home to Dalian and tracked down there by ABC staffers still working in China. Xiao was in poor health, they discovered, and he wanted help to go to America. That was the last we heard.

for more see http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=104731094