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June 6th, 2014
12:07 PM ET

Bullets in Beijing: Tiananmen leader Shen Tong looks back

Shen Tong is a Chinese dissident who helped lead the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989.

Ahead of the 25th anniversary of the crackdown, I asked him about his experience during the demonstrations, and the chilling moment when he realized troops were not shooting rubber bullets.

We also talked about a lack of awareness in China about what happened back then.

"It seems like there is a collective amnesia not only due to the lack of information but also due to at least this tacit agreement between the post-'89 police state and the urban population," he tells me via satellite from New York.

"'Let’s forget about the past and why rock the boat' because there are several groups of elite populations, not just in China, that are making so much money so quickly."

But Shen is certain that the collective amnesia concerning Tiananmen will inevitably lift.

"There are plenty of indications that collective memory, so important to the national psyche, cannot be forgotten," says Shen.

"So even though a lot young people don’t know the details... those memories can come back very quickly as we’ve seen time and again in history."

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