Service remembers massacre

by Chris Griffith
Published 2 June 1996 in The Sunday Mail


my face


Australia's top doctor, Dr Wendell Rosevear, yesterday said he was "really scared" when he watched the tanks roll into Tiananmen Square before the horrendous 1989 massacre in China.

Tuesday marks seven years since China's Mongolian-based 27th Army stormed Beijing and murdered protesting students. The Red Cross estimated 7,500 died and another 60,000 were wounded.

Amnesty International is hosting a candlelight vigil at 5 pm, Tuesday in the Queen Street Mall.

A week ago the Australian Medical Association awarded Dr Rosevear its highest accolade for the Best Individual Contribution to Health Care in Australia. He is also Brisbane Citizen of the Year.

Yesterday he was among a list of eminent speakers at a "Seven Years On" memorial service held to remember those killed and to discuss recent human rights abuses in China -- as he has done every year since 1989.

Dr Rosevear gave The Sunday Mail an eye-witness account of the events that lead to the horrible massacre.

He said he was holidaying in China when he witnessed "the peak of the revolution" before the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989.

"The student revolution had been going for two or three weeks and it was gaining momentum all the time. People were starting to understand the issues and the issues were: they wanted the right to vote, they wanted freedom of speech, they wanted freedom of the press, and they wanted to get rid of corruption."

"I saw one million people in the square, and three to four million marching around the city. Many students in the square were on a hunger strike and many of them were feinting at the rate of one every five minutes. They were being taken to hospital.

"I saw little kindergarten children sitting out in front of their kindergarten cheering on the protesters, I saw old people, old men and old ladies - they all had a sense of expectation and hope on their faces."

He was "really scared" when the tanks rolled in.

"I saw the army coming and the helicopters started circling the square. I was really scared that they'd start landing and shooting at people. So I decided to leave and I went back to my hotel and we had to try and get out of the city."

Fortunately, he had witnessed the friendlier Beijing 38th-army division's move into the square. This division had refused to attack the students.

"We set out to go to the airport but we couldn't get there because no taxi was brave enough to drive through the city or past the army. So we thought we'll have to use push bikes to get past the army. Eventually we found one taxi willing to drive us past the army. I saw the people negotiating with the army and making friends with the soldiers."

Dr Rosevear said he believed this year's remembrance was especially important to Hong Kong which faced an uncertain future.

The colony relinquishes control to China on July 1st next year.

"A lot of people who're got the money and the brains have left already and they've migrated to Australia and Canada and places like that."

Dr Rosevear, who believes drugs should be legalised but says he is "anti-drug" and "pro-choice", said British Hong Kong had been created on the foundations of drugs and corruption in the mid 1800s.

"Hong Kong is very much a product of the Opium War. Britain was wanting to sell the opium they were producing in Burma and they had this opium war. And as a trade off, we'll stop the war if you give us Hong Kong."

He said the murdered Chinese students were yet another example of people willing to make personal sacrifices for what they believed.