Paul Jacob

Late on this very night 18 years ago, after six weeks of peaceful protests calling for more democracy and greater freedom, the Chinese government rolled tanks into Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

The Communist government said 200 to 300 soldiers and "ruffians" were killed. The Chinese Red Cross put the death count at between 2,000 and 3,000.

People, that is.

"All this talk about children being the flowers of the motherland, the hope of the nation, is all for show," said Ding Zilin, a woman whose son was killed. "When they feel that it is in the interest of the Party and the state, they bring on swords, machine guns and tanks."

After the massacre in the square, more citizens were arrested, imprisoned and in some cases, we are told, executed. Many fled the country.

I will never forget what happened in Tiananmen Square. How could one fail to remember the joy that was broadcast around the world for weeks? People shed their fear and spoke openly and freely about, well, freedom . . . and its importance in living a life of dignity. A self-directed and deliberate life these students had begun to experience first hand . . . in living color broadcast into our living rooms.

And who could forget that 30-foot tall papier-mâché statute, The Goddess of Democracy and Freedom, built in the square? Or that the words of our own Declaration of Independence were being echoed in Chinese?

Certainly the brutal massacre — the suppression — beginning the night of June 3 and into June 4, 1989, will long be remembered.

And there was "The Unknown Rebel" who the following day stood in front of a line of tanks, blocking their progress. After being hustled away, he was reported as "in hiding" by one source, while two others declared he was caught just days later and executed. Whatever the truth, his simple, lone act of defiance will live forever, inspiring future generations of freedom fighters.

Who can say for certain what impact the protests in Tiananmen Square had around the world?

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.