TIME Pakistan

Twin Protests Suspend Life in Pakistani Capital

Supporters of Pakistan's fiery anti-government cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri listen their leader at a rally in Islamabad on Aug. 17, 2014 Anjum Naveed—AP

The protests have taken a strain on the city of roughly 1.7 million inhabitants

(ISLAMABAD) — Twin protests demanding the Pakistani government step down have wreaked havoc in the capital, Islamabad, where commuters must circumvent shipping containers and barbed wire to get to work, protesters knock on people’s doors to use the bathroom, and garbage is piling up.

“People are talking of revolution but (they) don’t care about the difficulties we are facing due to this situation,” said Zafar Habib, a 56-year-old government employee in Islamabad.

Tens of thousands of people have descended on the capital in recent days, answering the call from cricket-star-turned-politician Imran Khan and anti-government cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri to push for the government’s ouster. Both claim widespread fraud in the May 2013 vote and want new elections, something the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is not likely to concede.

Both Khan and Qadri have vowed to remain in the streets with their supporters until Sharif leaves office, raising fears of political instability in the nuclear-armed nation, which only saw its first democratic transfer of power last year.

The protests have taken a strain on the city of roughly 1.7 million inhabitants, many of whom work for the government, embassies, or non-governmental organizations. The difficulties began last Wednesday, when the government started to beef up security, and show no signs of letting up in the next few days.

The most affected neighborhoods have been in the eastern part of the city where the protests have been centered, not too far from the so-called “Red Zone” and a diplomatic enclave that house government offices, embassies and other sensitive installations.

Residents say protesters — mostly women — knock on their doors early in the morning, hoping to use their bathrooms.

“This is frustrating! I and other residents were trying to accommodate the women but then today some men also knocked on my door,” said Sajid Khan, a real estate agent.

Male protesters have also been crowding the washrooms in local mosques or simply going into the nearby forests. Garbage is beginning to pile up as well.

“My main concern is the deteriorating hygienic condition. This will make us and our children ill,” said retired government servant Jahangir Zahid.

Residents and people trying to get to work have also been stymied by both the protesters and the security measures the government has taken to deal with them. Early last week the government started putting up shipping containers to control access to and from the city. The hundreds of vehicles brought by protesters have also clogged the roads.

“I have to put in more hours and fuel to reach my office these days,” said software engineer Adeel Ahmed.

While the crowds have fallen well short of the million marchers that both Khan and Qadri promised, their presence and the heightened security measures have virtually shut down business in the capital. The rallies have nevertheless remained festive, with families picnicking and men and women dancing to drums and national songs.

Police estimate the crowds in both sit-ins have gradually dwindled since they arrived in the capital late Friday. Both rallies began as caravans of vehicles setting out from the eastern city of Lahore.

According to police, there are currently around 25,000 to 30,000 people in both demonstrations. The two rallies are centered along parallel streets, each with its own stage for speakers, but the crowds overlap and mingle at various times, especially when the leaders or key figures address the gatherings.

Business owners say many of their suppliers are not able to reach their shops. Shaukat Ali, who owns a meat shop, said Sunday that his supplier hasn’t been able to come so all he had was a crate of chickens to sell.

Bicycle store owner Adeel Zafar said his shop has been closed for a week because of the protests.

“Why we are being punished?” he said.

Protesters say they have little choice but to rely on local residents for help. Saeed Ahmed came from the city of Faisalabad, about 300 kilometers (185 miles) away, to support Qadri. Ahmed said they were ready to suffer what may come in support of Qadri’s revolution but complained that local residents weren’t too cooperative.

“At least let us use the restroom and share a little food with us,” he said. “This is what our religion teaches us.”

TIME Breastfeeding Wars

What Starbucks Tells Employees About Breastfeeding Customers

PraxisPhotography—Getty Images/Flickr RF

A young male barista comes to the defense of a nursing mother winning accolades and some criticism as the story goes viral.

A Starbucks employee who defended a woman’s right to breastfeed in the coffee shop was not acting under instructions from head office, but on his own, according to the company.

In a sign of how supercharged the emotions have become about public nursing, a Canadian midwife’s tale of nursing her baby at a local Starbucks in Ottawa went a little viral in early July, getting picked up by news outlets around the globe. The story was, to many, a heartwarming one: after a woman complained to a young, male barista that another woman was breastfeeding without a modesty shield, the barista said he’d take care of it. However, instead of telling the nursing mom to cover up, he just brought her an extra coffee for having to deal with the unpleasantness.

This is not actually Starbucks’ official policy. In fact, Starbucks doesn’t have an official policy on breastfeeding, according to spokeswoman Laurel Harper. The cappu-chain does have an official policy about making customers feel welcome, Harper noted (several times). “We empower our local partners to reach a decision about how best to make a customer’s experience a positive one,” she says. (Starbucks calls its employees partners, because they all get stock in the company.) It was up to the employee to decide which customer in this case was going to have a less-positive experience.

The company also doesn’t have a policy on what to do if a customer comes and exposes different, less nourishing body parts, either, but does expect “partners” to be familiar with local law.

Not all of the reactions to the story, which was first picked up by woman behind the Canadian website PhD in Parenting, have been of the “Awww, good for him” type. For many people, public breastfeeding is akin to indecent exposure. They can’t understand why they have to be confronted by nudity. “I know it’s just life for the nursing mom, but seeing something partially exposed isn’t normal for everyone around them,” was one of the more moderate comments. “I’ve been in a few situations where I just happened to turn my head and my gaze caught sight of something I didn’t want (or mean) to see.” For others it’s an inoffensive as watching someone drink, say a Venti iced skinny hazelnut macchiato with an extra shot and no whip. It’s not their beverage of choice, but it’s not a big deal.

But perhaps because of the very primal urge mothers feel to feed their children, emotions run very high whenever the subject comes up and the right to breastfeed has become something of a cri de couer for mothers—and others—and Nurse-In protests are becoming more popular. One the most recent was at a Connecticut Friendly’s in June. If the actions of the young Starbucks “partner,”are any indication, the culture is tipping in the moms’ favor.

As for the 19-year-old barista in question, he hasn’t been named. Although you might be able to find him by looking for the mom in Ottawa with the biggest smile on her face and working back.

TIME Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s People Are Left Wondering How Long They Will Have to Wait for Genuine Democracy

Civil Human Rights Front Gather For July 1st Marches
Protesters hold banners and flags as they march during the annual pro-democracy protest on July 1, 2014 in Hong Kong. Anthony Kwan—Getty Images

The answer, if Beijing has its way, is a very long time indeed

Two and a half years ago, at a polling station in Taipei, I met a man from Hong Kong. It was the final day of what had been a hard-fought race between Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou’s Kuomintang, which wanted closer ties with the People’s Republic of China, and the more independence-minded opposition. What did the man from Hong Kong think?

He said he was not there to protest or politick; he was interested in the process itself. He flew in on his own dime to bear witness to democracy being exercised, and to take notes. To him, Taiwan represented the possibility of full democracy in Greater China. Hong Kong would get its chance, he said, and it would be ready. It was only a matter of time.

It has now been 17 years since the Union Jack was lowered over Hong Kong and this former colony returned to Chinese sovereignty. Under a political conceit known as “one country, two systems,” the city was told that its day-to-day way of life — common law, unfettered communications and all the rest — would remain unchanged for 50 years. But on matters of state, such as security and foreign policy, Hong Kong would be beholden to Beijing.

The forced marriage of Asia’s Manhattan and a highly repressive, one-party nation has always been an awkward one. Hong Kongers did not choose it. But in Beijing’s “two systems” provision, many of them were lulled into thinking that Hong Kong and China were to enjoy a sort of parity; to them, the emphasis on the territory’s new designation as China’s “Special Administrative Region” fell very much on the first word.

Beijing has never seen it that way. To the grandees of the Chinese Communist Party, the return of Hong Kong to China in 1997 righted a historical humiliation suffered at the hands of British opium merchants, and the autonomy Beijing was prepared to grant Hong Kong was a civic autonomy only. It certainly didn’t amount to the de facto independence that many Hong Kongers still yearn for.

Beijing has made its position consistently clear — most recently in a white paper on its relationship to Hong Kong, in which it emphasized its “comprehensive jurisdiction” over the territory, and in an ill-timed editorial in the state press exhorting Hong Kongers to show more patriotism.

“It’s like they own us,” says Fion Leung, 27, who took part in a massive pro-democracy march in Hong Kong on July 1, timed to coincide with the anniversary of China’s resumption of sovereignty. “It’s like Beijing owns us now and they never asked us — Britain or China, nobody asked us anything.”

The hundreds of thousands who marched on July 1 — some are calling it Hong Kong’s biggest political protest in a decade — are left wondering just how long they will have to wait before somebody asks them how they would like to shape their city’s future. They are frustrated with a lot of things, from land-use policy, and a border with mainland China they regard as far too porous, to freedom of the press, appalling income inequality and a lack of social mobility — the latter an especially distressing development for a people raised on entrepreneurship and the examples of the city’s rags-to-riches billionaires.

Most of all, these politically sophisticated and well-educated citizens are outraged that they still have to agitate for these issues to be addressed, instead of being allowed to resolve them through a genuinely democratic legislature and through a leader who has a popular mandate. Nearly 800,000 Hong Kongers vented their constitutional frustrations in a recent informal, civil-society backed poll on how the city’s top official, known as the chief executive, should be elected. (The post is currently filled by a 1,200-strong electoral college of mostly pro-Beijing voters.) Local authorities refused to recognize the results. China’s state-backed press dismissed it as a farce.

The July 1 protest was meanwhile largely peaceful, though it ended with the arrest of several hundred people, mostly students, who occupied parts of the city’s financial district overnight. The Hong Kong government struck a cautious response, telling media that it respected people’s right to protest, but holding firm against the idea of allowing the public to nominate chief-executive candidates in 2017 — a key demand of many demonstrators but a red line for Beijing.

Across the border, nightly newscasts played up the small, pro-China celebrations taking place on the same anniversary but chose not to mention the massive street protests. On much of the country’s social media and search engines, the term July 1 was blocked. The Hong Kongers who hoped that the city’s freewheeling ways would, after 1997, light the way for a more tolerant and open China have been taken by surprise by a Communist Party more determined than ever to control every tweet, post and program that mainlanders see. The believers in “one country, two systems” never took into account Beijing’s ability to game the system. Both systems.

TIME Hong Kong

Police Arrest 511 People at Hong Kong Democracy Protest

Policemen remove protesters in Central district after a rally seeking greater democracy in Hong Kong on July 2, 2014 Philippe Lopez—AFP/Getty Images

Demonstrators at the annual rally were calling for voting rights

Updated: July 2, 2014, 1:05 a.m. ET

Chinese authorities in Hong Kong have arrested over 500 protesters who took part in a sit-in to demand electoral freedom, in the city’s Central district in the early morning hours of Wednesday.

The demonstration, held on the anniversary of China’s resumption ofsovereignty of the former British colony in 1997, was described by some as the largest such rally in a decade, the BBC reports. Tens of thousands of protestors joined a massive march to push for democracy.

Police said 511 people were arrested Wednesday for unlawful assembly and preventing police from carrying out their duties, according to the Associated Press.

Organizers claimed that about half a million people participated, while police placed the number at closer to 100,000.

After a march earlier in the day, hundreds of protesters staged a sit-in in the central financial district, which police deemed “unauthorized,” leading to the arrests.

Facing annual protests by locals, Beijing has promised to introduce universal suffrage in Hong Kong by 2017, though how that will be implemented remains to be seen.



A Supreme Court Guide for Where to Stand When Protesting

A Supreme Court ruling raises questions about what's allowed, and what's not

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a Massachusetts law mandating a 35-foot “buffer zone” around abortion clinics is unconstitutional because it limited speech on sidewalks and other “public fora.”

But in dozens of other decisions over the last 30 years, the court has held that buffer zones can be constitutional. Even if they’re outside medical facilities. And even if they encroach on public fora. So what gives? How’s a protester supposed to know where it’s constitutional to protest and where it’s not?

Here’s a quick-and-dirty guide on when and where (constitutional!) buffer zones still apply:

Outside some local abortion clinics…

Justices Question Mass. Abortion Clinic Buffer Zones
A yellow line is painted on the sidewalk and pavement surrounding Planned Parenthood Clinics at 1055 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, Jan. 15, 2014. David L. Ryan—Boston Globe/Getty Images

While the court’s decision Thursday will almost definitely lead to legal challenges to existing buffer zone laws, cities and counties from San Francisco to Pittsburgh to Buffalo will probably keep them on the books. Because many of these local laws are narrowly written and target specific clinics or medical facilities, they may not be affected by today’s ruling, in which the justices primarily objected to the broadness of the Massachusetts law—the only state-level statute in the country. In Portland, for instance, protesters cannot come within 39-feet of the entrance to one specific Planned Parenthood building.

Outside hospitals and other medical facilities

HealthONE & North Suburban Medical Center in Thornton, Colo. PR Newswire/AP

In 2000, the Supreme Court upheld a Colorado law mandating a 100-foot buffer zone around the entrance of a “health care facility.” The law also banned protesters from “knowingly approach[ing] within 8 feet of another person” in order to hand her a leaflet or handbill, or “engage in oral protest.” This is an interesting case because it’s very similar to the case that the court decided today, and the justices came to the opposite conclusion, and yet they did not overrule it. Why? It’s not entirely clear. The legal differences between the two cases have legal scholars scratching their heads.

On or Near Military Bases…

Memorial Held At Ft. Hood For Victims Of Last Week's Shooting
U.S. Army soldiers salute during the national anthem at Fort Hood military base in Killen, Texas on April 9, 2014. Erich Schlegel—Getty Images

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court ruled that it was perfectly legal to shoo an anti-war protester away from a military base in California that he’d already been kicked out of once. It didn’t matter, the justices said, if the protester stood within a clearly marked “designated protest area.” In that case, the court decided on statutory grounds that all the land owned by the Air Force was considered “the base,” and the protester had been kicked off “the base.” So even though the protester now wanted to stand within an easement designed for public protest, he was out of luck. The court left the question of whether that violated the First Amendment to the lower court.

At Military Funerals…

Last Trip Home: Family Mourns Soldier Killed In Friendly Fire Incident In Afghanistan
Soldiers carry the casket of U.S. Army Pfc. Aaron Toppen from Parkview Christian Church following his funeral service on June 24, 2014 in Mokena, Ill. Scott Olson—Getty Images

The Supreme Court decided in 2011 that the Westboro Baptist Church was allowed to protest military funerals on the grounds that “even hurtful speech” got First Amendment protections. The court, however, gave legislatures explicit permission to pass buffer zone laws restricting people from protesting outside cemeteries and funeral homes. At least 41 states took them up on the offer, and last year, U.S. Congress passed a sweeping law on veterans’ rights, one part of which prevented demonstrators from picketing a military funeral within two hours before or after the service, and from coming within 300 feet of grieving family members.

Outside Places of Worship…

United Methodist church, Massachusetts. John Humble—Getty Images

While there hasn’t been a Supreme Court case on the matter, many states have laws on the books restricting protestors from getting too close to all kinds of religious sanctuaries, including mosques, churches, synagogues, and temples. Those buffer zones range in size from a few feet to shouting-distance.

At Polling Places…

DC voters head to the polls in the Democratic Primary for mayor
Democratic voters wait in line at the Eastern Market polling place to vote in the Democratic primary for the District’s mayor race in Washington, April 1, 2014. The Washington Post/Getty Images

In 1991, the Supreme Court upheld a Tennessee law restricting protesters, campaign staff or others from coming within 100 feet of the entrances to polling stations to solicit votes or display campaign material. In that controversial 5-3 decision, the court found that since the Tennessee law didn’t block out political messages entirely—just within a narrow buffer zone—it passed muster under the First Amendment.

When the President is Nearby…

Barack Obama, William M. Knight
President Barack Obama returns a salute from Col. William M. Knight as he steps off of Air Force One in Andrews Air Force Base, Md, May 9, 2014. Carolyn Kaster—AP

At a campaign event in Oregon in 2004, President George W. Bush’s Secret Service agents forced anti-Bush demonstrators, who had gathered on a public sidewalk, to stand farther way; however, they did not move a group of pro-Bush demonstrators—much to the chagrin of the American Civil Liberties Union, which took the case all the way to the Supreme Court. Just last month, the justices decided that the lawsuit could not go forward because the agents themselves could not be held liable. That anti-climactic decision left open the question of what rights protesters have in demanding proximity to the president.

At Political Conventions…

US Campaign 2012
President Barack Obama onstage at the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on September 6, 2012 in Charlotte, N.C. Charles Ommanney—Getty Images

Every four years, the Republicans and Democrats hold their big, glitzy conventions and every year, hordes of protestors are herded around by police, prevented from coming within a few hundred feet of the entrances, and otherwise treated like chopped liver. In light of today’s court decision, do those impromptu buffer zones violate protesters’ First Amendment rights? Erwin Chemerinsky, a top lawyer on matters of free speech, calls that “a really interesting question,” but concedes that “we just don’t know yet.” Challenges to those laws have never made it to the Supreme Court.

Outside the U.S. Supreme Court itself…

Treasury Secretary Lew Speaks At Making Home Affordable 5th Anniversary Summit
Pro-life activists gather outside the U.S. Supreme Court June 26, 2014 in Washington, DC. Win McNamee—Getty Images

Last year, the Supreme Court issued a new regulation banning demonstrators from doing their thing on the marble plaza in front of the Supreme Court building in Washington, DC. The new regulation was in response to a federal judge’s decision last year that a previous regulation barring protests on the plaza was unconstitutional. He cited previous Supreme Court rulings that laws barring demonstrations on court property are unconstitutional, but the court’s marshal says the new regulation is necessary in order to ensure “unimpeded ingress and egress of visitors to the court” and maintain the appearance that SCOTUS is a “body not swayed by external influence.”

TIME Religion

Protesters Rally at the White House to Free Meriam

Protestors want the Obama administration to help save a Christian woman sentenced to death in Sudan.

On Thursday morning, nearly 100 protestors gathered in front of the White House to push for the release of Meriam Ibrahim, a 27-year-old woman in Sudan who has been sentenced to death for marrying a Christian man. Representatives from the Institute on Religion and Democracy and more than three dozen affiliated organizations, including travelers from as far as Jacksonville, Fla., clasped paper red chains in their hands and gave speeches to urge President Obama to speak up in her defense.

Ibrahim, 27, was sentenced last month to 100 lashes and to death for apostasy for marrying a non-Muslim man, Daniel Wani. Her case has drawn western attention because her husband is a US citizen and because she gave birth while in prison. Her sentence has been delayed while she nurses the child, and she is being held with her newborn daughter and 20-month-old son while her case moves through an appeals process. “We’re here at the White House because it’s up to President Obama,” Faith McDonnell, event organizer and member of the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD), says. “We need to get them out of prison and really it will take the administration to call and say you’ve got to stop this now.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) gave a brief speech at the rally and Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) attended. “We are here today to speak out for faith and for liberty,” Cruz said into a megaphone. “Meriam Ibrahim is a mom, she’s a wife, she is married to an American citizen, a New Hampshire resident.” He continued: “Her crime is very simple, she is accused of and convicted of being a Christian, and tragically in Sudan that is a crime that carries with it a horrific punishment.”

Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) introduced a bill on June 9 to grant the mother and her children permanent resident status in the US, but Meriam supporters worry that the legislation would not pass quickly enough. Death rates at the prison are high, they fear, and many are concerned that the more time passes, the less likely the survival of Meriam, or her newborn baby, will be. Meriam’s case deserves attention, they argue, especially because it is about religious freedom and women’s freedom in the developing world more broadly. “This is an issue that completely shouldn’t be a partisan issue about whether someone should be executed for their faith,” JP Duffy of Family Research Council (FRC) says.

Other top U.S. voices are speaking out as well. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tweeted last month that “Meriam Yahya Ibrahim’s death sentence is abhorrent. Sudan should stop threatening religious freedom and fundamental human rights.” Mia Farrow also has pushed a campaign on Twitter to protest Meriam’s fate to the Sudanese Embassy.

The protestors plan to continue their efforts until action is taken. On Friday, they took their protest to the Sudanese Embassy. The hashtag #FreeMeriam continues to gain popularity, the website rescuemeriam.com has been created to further increase awareness, and a WhiteHouse.gov petition to free Meriam has received more than 45,000 signatures.

TIME China

Tank Man at 25: Behind the Iconic Tiananmen Square Photo


In the spring of 1989, Jeff Widener was working for the Associated Press in Beijing, where political turmoil around student protests was escalating.

On June 4, the Chinese government cracked down hard, killing some students who had gathered in Tiananmen Square. The next morning, Widener was dispatched to the unfolding chaos. With film rolls stuffed down his pants and camera equipment hidden in his jacket, he made his way to a sixth-floor room of a hotel on the edge of the plaza.

Then suddenly, something caught his attention: A column of tanks rolling by, and a man carrying shopping bags, who had just stepped out in front of them.

“I assume he thinks he’s going to die,” remembers Widener. “But he doesn’t care, because for whatever reason—either he’s lost a loved one or he’s just had it with the government, or whatever it is—his statement is more important than his own life.”

The result is an iconic picture of defiance in the face of aggression. “I was just relieved that I didn’t mess up,” says Widener, whose photograph appeared on the front pages of newspapers the next day from New York to London and has been known since as one of the greatest news photographs of all time.

Read more: Tank Man at 25: Behind the Iconic Tiananmen Square Photo – LightBox.

TIME China

The Tiananmen Massacre: 25 Years Later, Three Students Tell What They Saw

Tiananmen Square 1989
A man flashes the symbol for peace in Tiananmen Square, in Beijing, in 1989 Stuart Franklin—Magnum

Jonathan Chan, Kenneth Lam and Liane Lee were eyewitnesses to the bloody events of June 4, 1989. Now a quarter-century later, the former Hong Kong activists and student supporters of the Tiananmen protests share their painful memories

Corrections appended, June 4, 2014

On June 5, 1989, Jonathan Chan arrived at Beijing airport with two swollen bumps visible on the back of his head. In a line of tired and weary student demonstrators, eager to slip out of the capital if not the country, the 24-year-old slid his hand into his pocket, fingering the single roll of film he had rescued moments before his camera had been smashed by Chinese soldiers. A journalist standing next to him took notice, quickly explaining how he might break open the roller, overexpose the images, and protect himself if he were stopped by airport immigration. Then Chan walked to the front of the line and waited for the inevitable question.

“Were you on the square?” the immigration official asked.

“I was,” Chan said, expecting to be detained.

Frowning, the official leaned in.

“Then go and tell the world,” the official said softly, before waving him through.

For the past 25 years, that’s exactly what Chan, Lam and Lee have tried to do. As leading student activists from Hong Kong, they played a vital role in the protests at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, not only as fundraisers and couriers of supplies for their fellow protesters, but also as emissaries of information, able to evade Communist Party censors by returning to Hong Kong — then still administered by the British and enjoying a vigorously free press and communications regime — to share their stories.

They arrived in Beijing in late May 1989, eager to join the call for a more open, representative and prosperous China. But they left, 10 days later, wearing clothes still stained with the blood of their friends, and with the images of the injured and dead still fresh in their minds. In the quarter-century since, seeing the “dark side of humanity,” in Lam’s words, they have actively fought against a growing amnesia surrounding the massacre at Tiananmen, instigated by a Chinese Communist Party desperate to erase from the history the hundreds, possibly thousands, of dead and wounded.

“Every year I have to remind myself that I have a job to do,” Lee tells TIME. “I was rescued by the people of Tiananmen Square and they have an expectation of me.”

‘If We Don’t Cry Out, Who Will?’
In the spring of 1989, thousands of students were taking to the streets each day, calling for government action on reforms that had been promised since the country had begun opening up in the late 1970s, but which had not been delivered. For a heady moment, it looked like the communist state might be forced to concede, and onlookers in the then British colony of Hong Kong took notice. The Hong Kong Federation of Students (HKFS) was one of the first groups to assist. For weeks, the group hosted fundraisers and collected donations. The group also helped organize Hong Kong’s largest protest in support of the Tiananmen movement, drawing between 600,000 and a million people onto the streets in late May.

“We all wanted to do something for the movement,” Chan tells TIME. In 1989, he was No. 2 at the HKFS. The group had been sending small delegations to Beijing to gather information on the ground. “If we couldn’t be at the very heart of the protests each day, we hoped to provide some kind of back-end support.”

On May 25, 1989, Chan; Lam, who was then aged 20; and Lee, 26, boarded a plane to Beijing with 20 other students in tow. Divided among them were 300 tents and nearly a million dollars in cash donations — a staggering sum that demonstrated just how desperate Hong Kongers were to show support. Their plan was to split into two groups: the first would distribute supplies to the tens of thousands of students in Tiananmen Square. The second would consult with student leaders in the square and help share information as the movement continued to grow.

“People were disappointed in the government. They thought, If we don’t cry out, who will?” says Lam. “It was the most beautiful message.”

The protests had begun April 15, after the death of Hu Yaobang, a reformer within the Communist Party who favored economic overhaul and political liberalization. These positions earned him praise from the country’s youth, and his unexpected death drew thousands of students and intellectuals to the streets in a gesture of mourning that was, at the same time, a demonstration of reformist fervor. On April 26, however, an editorial condemning the protesters appeared in the state-run Peoples Daily. In the piece, the government alleged that the movement was “a planned conspiracy … to fundamentally negate the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party and to negate the socialist system.” But casting the students as enemies of the people only raised the stakes.

“If the students were going to be judged as members of these so-called mobs,” Lee says, “there was no way they could return to their normal lives.” As seasoned NPR reporter Louisa Lim writes in her book, The Peoples Republic of Amnesia, the weeks of student protests were “a Rubicon that, once crossed, transformed [students’] lives forever. The preordained career paths that ordinarily would have been theirs — the government posting, the academic career … were gone.”

In May, many of the students pledged a hunger strike unless granted a meeting with government officials. With temperatures exceeding 30°C (86°F), thousands suffered dehydration and exhaustion, drawing more than 1 million citizens to the square in support on May 19.

“The people of Beijing really felt united,” Lam recalls. “Preschool children, officials from government offices, grandparents, even members of the Communist party. They were so moved by the students’ message. At that point, we couldn’t imagine the government would attack its own people.”

Monument to the People's Heroes in Tiananmen Square
Kenneth Lam (left), Liane Lee (right) and another activist (name unknown) pose in front of the Monument to the People’s Heroes, in Tiananmen Square, Beijing, in April 1989. Jonathan Chan

On May 20, as the government declared martial law, mobilizing seven army battalions to converge on the square, groups of laobaixing (the Chinese term for commoners), formed “dare-to-die squads” devoted to obstructing military trucks, tanks and the troops themselves. Soon, workers’ groups and picketers joined in, citing frustration with the laggard speed of government reforms, rampant government corruption, and ever-stricter limits on press freedom. A U.S. embassy communiqué, sent to the State Department on June 3, noted a prescient conversation overheard on the streets of the capital: “One should not be surprised at the night’s events, since throughout Chinese history, whenever rulers have no solution for problems which they themselves have created, they do very foolish things.”

‘Tell the World What Happened Tonight’
Just before 9 p.m. on June 3, 1989, Lee, Lam and Chan took the elevator down to the lobby of the Beijing Hotel. There, a small gathering of journalists warned them of conditions in the square, telling them it was too dangerous to leave the building.

The three hurried back up to their rooms, burning sensitive records in the room’s tin trash can and smashing the fax machine, which they had used to send reports home, by picking it up and dropping it repeatedly. After dividing up the rest of the donations, storing the cash securely in their pockets and backpacks, they placed a call from a hotel phone to the HKFS headquarters. Friends and colleagues, who had been listening to reports, told them to stay in their rooms. Lee, unswayed, called her pastor in Hong Kong. She told him where she was and that she was planning to join the students in the square. “Please say a prayer for me,” she said, before hanging up.

On the 15-minute walk from their hotel to Tiananmen Square, little was said. Rumors about military movements had bubbled up all day, and protesters were monitoring army units approaching from the outskirts of town. Chan, Lee and Lam set off for the National Museum of China, on the east side of the square. Standing arm in arm, they joined about 50 other students and workers, waiting nervously as soldiers massed on the steps of the building. To the soldiers, protesters sang The Internationale, an anthem of the socialist and leftist party as well as the Chinese Communist Party’s. Lee remembers the surreal scene, especially the sight of a young boy reading a book in the glow of the streetlights. “Don’t worry, they won’t hurt us,” he said. “We just have to stay calm and peaceful. Who on earth would shoot us?”

Then Lee heard gunfire. She and Chan recalled hearing a shaky male voice come over a loud-hailer: “I’m holding in my hand the bloodstained shirt of my classmate,” someone was saying above the din. “They are starting to kill us. What are we going to do now?”

With increasing frequency, the injured and the dead appeared, carried towards the makeshift aid station run by the Beijing United Medical College. Around 11:30 p.m., Lee heard a scream: a young boy was running after an ambulance. “My brother, my brother!” he shouted, as Lee caught him midstride. “They killed my brother,” he said, collapsing in her arms. Within minutes he was up again, running after the ambulance, yelling for his brother before vanishing around the darkened corner. Lee then fainted. On regaining consciousness a while later, she saw the boy again. This time, he was the one being carried into the square, and he was lifeless.

By 12:30 a.m., Lam lost contact with both Lee and Chan. The military was advancing from all sides, and the student leaders who remained were divided over their next course of action. They had listened to the government’s warnings over the loudspeakers all day, and were now witnessing the beaten, battered and broken converge on the square. Around 1:30 a.m., Lam watched as an articulated bus struck a column of soldiers. As the driver was pulled from the vehicle and beaten, an enraged worker broke from the line of protesters, throwing the glass bottle he was carrying toward the soldiers. Lam heard two gunshots, and saw the worker fall to the ground.

Lam said he watched the blood pour from the worker’s wounds onto the road. “It was like a water tap had been turned on,” he said. “I just turned white. This is when I knew they wouldn’t stop. They were prepared to kill.”

Nowhere was this fact clearer than in the emergency medical tent. There, volunteer doctors treated the wounded as best they could, ferrying their patients into circling ambulances destined for the nearest hospital. Chan had carried Lee there after she fainted, and when she came to, she said, “I saw people dying beside me. I wanted more than anything to help.”

Chan, in the interim, had risked his own life in an attempt to document what was happening. Walking purposefully up to a line of troops he dared to raise his camera and was quickly swarmed by six or seven soldiers who struck him with their batons. Fellow students, recalling the moment later, believed the camera saved his life. “I think they thought I was a journalist,” Chan said.

In the medical tent, Chan and Lee assisted as best they could. “It was so dark in the square,” Chan said, “but we tried to stay focused on what was right in front of us.” Minutes later, an ambulance arrived, imploring any Hong Kong students to get in the vehicle immediately. Lee refused, telling the driver to tend to the injured first. But when a second ambulance arrived, the driver issuing the same call, a female doctor pulled Lee aside and told her: “Please, get in the ambulance. You need to leave the square safely. You need to get back to Hong Kong. You need to tell the world what happened tonight — what our government did to us.”

Lam, separated from Chan and Lee, meanwhile returned to the Monument to the People’s Heroes. As chaos swirled around them, witnesses noted the relative calm among the few student leaders who remained. Many had simply climbed the stone steps, finding a quiet place to sit. There, they sang songs, the words of The Internationale interrupted every so often by the sound of nearby gunfire.

Just past 4 a.m., the remaining lights were briefly turned off, casting the chaotic square into darkness. Some believed this was a sign of the military’s final strike. Minutes later, bright spotlights were illuminated, casting into relief a terrifying array of armored personnel carriers, tanks (some ablaze) and columns of soldiers in front of the Great Hall. Slowly, troops and tanks converged on the monument. Then student leaders pushed Lam down the steps, shielding him as they went. “You have done enough here,” Lam remembers them saying. “You must get back to Hong Kong alive.”

As he looked over his shoulder, he could see soldiers making impromptu pyres of the tents he had brought from Hong Kong just days ago, their black acrid smoke billowing into the sky.

‘It’s Time to End the Old Regime’
On June 1, 2014 — almost 25 years to the day — Lam and Chan join a march in Hong Kong to commemorate the victims of Tiananmen. Under Hong Kong’s brilliant blue summer sky, they stand at opposite ends of a 12-ft. black banner that reads: “The truth cannot be distorted.”

But the great fear, of course, is that it can.

“When we marched 25 years ago, you still thought that things would be better,” Chan says, the afternoon sun in his eyes, sweat gathering on his brow. “Everyone was so hopeful then.”

Today, he works as a social worker, serving ethnic minorities in Hong Kong’s suburbs. His friend of more than a quarter-century, Lam, is a local solicitor, specializing in labor rights. Lee, unable to attend the commemorations this year, now lives in the U.S. and has devoted her life to publicizing the truth of Tiananmen. Last month, she spoke at a congressional hearing in Washington, D.C.

Tiananmen Square 25 Years Later
Kenneth Lam carries a sign that reads: “The truth cannot be distorted” during a pro-democracy march in Hong Kong on June 1, 2014. Lam witnessed the military crackdown in Tiananmen Square in 1989. Adam McCauley

In the months leading up to this year’s anniversary, authorities have detained, disappeared, or put under house arrest dozens of Chinese activists, according to human-rights groups. Last month, five of 14 individuals who had gathered for a June 4 Commemoration Seminar in Beijing were also arrested for creating a “public disturbance” — despite hosting the event in a private home.

“All of these [incidents] reveal just how scared China’s leaders are of their own history,” says the author Lim, whose book addresses the Chinese government’s campaign to erase and distort memories of Tiananmen. “Given the party’s strenuous attempts to excise the memories of June 4, it is important for the issue to be revisited before it is too late. Some of the principal players are growing old and their stories risk being lost forever.”

Younger generations of mainland Chinese aren’t even aware that there was a student-led protest. “It sounds incredible, but the Communist Party has been more successful than one could imagine at imposing this collective amnesia,” says Willy Lam, a professor at the Centre for China Studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. “About half of my students are from the mainland. They are master’s students who did their undergraduate degrees in China and most of the students had no idea of June 4.”

Ignorance continues, in part, because of educational decrees have outlined clear limits on the topics allowed in university classrooms. Last August, the issue of educational censorship received international attention after a leaked document, known as Document 9, listed “offensive Western ideals” that could not be discussed in the classroom. These topics included issues such as the separation of government powers, multiparty political systems, universal suffrage and a publicly accountable military.

“Document 9 is a sign of the government’s paranoia and suggests a great deal of internal insecurity,” says Jeff Wasserstrom, chancellor’s professor of history at the University of California, Irvine, a sometime TIME contributor and the author of China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know. But China has traditionally been a country of contradictions, he adds. “Fifteen years ago, people would say that the contradiction would be the fact that they were a communist country that clearly endorsed capitalism. Now, the biggest contradiction is how the Communist Party could appear so strong, but also so worried.”

In her book, Lim tells the story of Zhang Xianling, a co-founder of the Tiananmen Mothers group, which includes relatives and friends of victims, and democracy activists, as well as the mothers and fathers of those who died in the square. Zhang’s 19-year-old son was killed at Tiananmen and her investigation into her son’s death raised the ire of the state, prompting a police escort anytime she visited her son’s grave. Now, a closed-circuit television camera is kept trained on the spot where her son is buried, awaiting her return, Lim says. “Such a great, glorious and correct party is afraid of a little old lady,” Zhang told Lim. “It shows how powerful we are, this group of old people, because we represent righteousness. They represent evil.”

As Kenneth Lam and Jonathan Chan and other demonstrators march through the streets of Hong Kong, they are subjected to harangues from small gatherings of pro-China groups, who have staked out territory on the route. Their signs, rightly, note that soldiers and police were also harmed during the events of June 4, but the refusal of Beijing’s supporters to accept the legitimacy of the 1989 protests, or the fact that Tiananmen was an entirely unequal contest between tanks and unarmed students, quickly sparks tensions. As voices rise amid a rush of finger-pointing, Lam reaches into his backpack, cues a song on his phone, and then begins to broadcast The Internationale from a small speaker, the words drifting through the crowd:

We see through their disinformation:

Designs to turn us into war.

But soon, the soldiers in formation

Will break ranks and fight no more.

And if those cowards think it’s their right

To sacrifice us to their dream,

They’ll see the power of our own might;

It’s time to end the old regime.

“I once had this belief that the world could be better,” Lam says. “But June 4 is an incident that can cause the collapse of belief. We are here today to make sure we don’t lose the truth too.”

Correction: The original version of this story misstated the age of Liane Lee. She was 26 at the time of these events. It also misstated the significance of The Internationale in China. It is the Chinese Communist Party’s anthem.


Police Tear Gas Protestors On Taksim Square Anniversary

Demonstrations on the one-year anniversary of Turkey's Taksim Square protests descended into violence as police tear gassed protestors

Police fired tear gas and water cannons at protestors in Istanbul Saturday on the one-year anniversary of the Taksim Square protests. It was a heavy-handed effort to prevent the mass protests that rocked the country last year, and in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, 25,000 police were deployed, charging protestors who huddled together en masse, reports the BBC. Earlier in the day, a CNN reporter was detained by police.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has faced an increasingly divided electorate in the face of attempts to block YouTube and Twitter and quell opponents.

Erdogan warned young people Friday not to partake in demonstrations, saying the movement begun last year against his government was founded by “terrorist organizations” that “manipulated our morally and financially weak youth to attack our unity and put our economy under threat”.


TIME Civil Rights

LGBT Groups Protest Amazon’s Support of the Boy Scouts of America

A campaign to persuade Amazon to drop the Scouts from a list of groups customers can donate to has been started by 17-year-old gay Eagle Scout Pascal Tessier after the Boy Scouts of America decided to exclude gay adults from the organization

Gay-rights advocates on Wednesday handed over a petition signed by 125,000 people to Amazon, urging them to drop the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) from a list of charitable organizations, since the BSA doesn’t welcome openly gay adults within its ranks.

The action comes as BSA kicks off its national meeting this week in Nashville, following a year of controversy after the organization decided to bar gay adults while accepting openly gay children.

Seventeen-year-old Pascal Tessier, considered the first approved openly gay Eagle Scout, initiated the petition last month, after BSA excluded gay scoutmaster Geoffrey McGrath and revoked his church’s charter agreement.

“We’re just asking [Amazon] to follow their own values and their own policies, because they’re good values and good policies,” McGrath told MSNBC. “We’re asking them to make themselves proud.”

Amazon scores high on corporate equality indexes and recently excluded an organization listed by Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group from the charitable giving program AmazonSmile. However, other organizations in the program, like the National Organization for Marriage, are known to campaign against LGBT equality.

The BSA so far has shown few signs of amending its policies, with the executive board recently lowering the maximum age of youth membership from 21 to 18 years. This means that Tessier would be forced out from BSA’s extended network on his next birthday.

“It’s a step backwards, if anything,” Tessier said.


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