FULLY BOOKED: Screening – Kate Adie Returns to Tiananmen Square

Screening Tuesday 2nd June, 2009

To millions of TV viewers, Kate Adie remains synonymous with war reporting.  It became a joke in the British Army that when Adie arrived on the scene they knew they were in trouble.

But there is one assignment that stands out as the most difficult of her career: reporting the massacre of hundreds of civilians in Beijing on June 3rd and 4th 1989.  She was one of the very few Western television reporters out on the streets then, and witnessed the killings at close quarters.

Twenty years on, Kate returns to China. Denied an official journalists’ visa, she and her crew have to travel incognito, posing as tourists and meeting contributors in secret.

The events of Tiananmen Square are still completely taboo inside China – those who speak about them are labelled dissidents – harassed by the police and persecuted by the Communist Party. It is their experiences that sheds new light on the story, and on China’s human rights records.  Survivors and families of those who died have been placed under house arrest every June for the last 19 years. Several were forcibly expelled from the city during the Olympics to prevent them speaking to Western journalists. This is the first time many have spoken on television – a not inconsiderable risk, but which they insist on taking to get their story heard.

The Chinese authorities insist the ‘turmoil’ of 89 was the work of a small group of ‘counter revolutionaries’. They claim only 200 civilians were killed. Eyewitnesses believe the deathtoll was in the thousands.

The journey takes her to Hong Kong, Taiwan, Shanghai, Beijing and Chengdu. Despite being followed and blocked from meeting some people, the film presents a compelling picture of the confrontation and the reasons behind it – ‘when an army was ordered to open fire on its own people’.