30 years after the Tiananmen Square massacre everything - and nothing - has changed in Beijing

  • Video report by ITV News Asia Correspondent Debi Edward

Thirty years on from the Tiananmen Square massacre, everything - and nothing - in the capital has changed.

Beijing as a city is unrecognisable, the infrastructure, the buildings, the roads, the shops, the restaurants - the very fact that foreigners like me are allowed to live here.

It is a modern metropolis where bikes now share the road with Bentleys.

But the government is the same.

In fact, although capitalism has thrived, in some regards communist ideology has become more entrenched.

Still to this day, what happened on June 4 1989 is officially described as an ‘incident’ not a massacre.

One of the world's most well known images - the Tiananmen Square Tank Man - is largely unknown in China. Credit: AP

The students are portrayed in the few articles which refer to the ‘incident’ as counter revolutionary rioters who posed a threat to the nation's security and stability.

That is why wherever we tried to film, we were stopped.

At the cemetery where some of those who died have been laid to rest, we were questioned and told in no uncertain terms to get back in our car and leave.

At Muxidi along Chang'an Avenue, where it’s believed there was the biggest loss of life, we were again surrounded by plain clothed and regular police officers, and forced back into the car.

Thousands of people attend a candlelight vigil for victims of the Chinese government's brutal military crackdown three decades ago on protesters in Beijing's Tiananmen Square at Victoria Park in Hong Kong. Credit: AP

The Chinese Government wants the world to forget about Tiananmen Square but the survivors won't let that happen.

We travelled to Taiwan to meet with Wu’er Kaixi one of the student leaders of the democracy movement.

In a moving interview he described the anger he feels at the freedom he has lost and the right he no longer has to see his parents.

He is not allowed into China, and they are not allowed out.

One of the student leaders of the democracy movement was Wu’er Kaixi, who spoke to ITV News on the massacre's 30th anniversary. Credit: ITV News

His father is now in his eighties and although they can Skype, Wu’er fears they will never get the chance to meet again.

When I asked him about the day 30 years ago when tanks rolled into the square, he told me how in the days before he had been talking about the worst the government would do to them if the were forced out of their occupation.

All they could think was they’d be given life sentences - never did it occur to them that the Army would be brought in with live ammunition.

He describes the movement they started as unfinished business, he’s hopeful one day there could be political change in China.

Taiwan, home to many Tiananmen exiles, erected an inflatable display in its capital Taipei of the iconic Tank Man image to pay respect to those killed. Credit: AP

Yet he went on to say he worries about the direction in which the country is going and the failure of Western nations - such as the UK - to keep it in check as they clamour for trade and business deals.

He says the Chinese people have been given what he describes as a "lousy deal" - in exchange for the economic freedom they now enjoy, they've given up their political freedom.

If time is a healer I did not sense that from those we spoke to about Tiananmen Square. Their grief and emotion appeared still so raw.

Wu’er Kaixi led student protests and was later banned from China. Credit: ITV News

In many respects the lack of political progress in China, the continued efforts to erase them and their fight from the history books makes it harder.

After three decades those who survived and the relatives of those who died are no closer to justice.

The people of China are no closer to democracy, but they are determined the world will remember the day the government wants its people to forget.