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'Bearing Witness Is Really All We Have': Memories Of Covering The Tiananmen Aftermath

NPR's Deborah Amos arrived in Beijing days after authorities cracked down on Tiananmen protesters. She stayed for six weeks and shares her memories of covering a critical time in China's history.

In June 1989, days after Chinese authorities cracked down on protesters in Tiananmen Square, NPR international correspondent Deborah Amos landed in Beijing to cover the aftermath. Fresh off a reporting stint covering Poland's first democratic election — which took place on June 4, the same day as the Tiananmen crackdown — Amos spent the next six weeks reporting in and outside of Beijing, sometimes in secret. It was her first time covering China.

Speaking with NPR digital editor Hannah Bloch, Amos — who also teaches journalism at Columbia and Princeton universities — shares some of her memories of covering this turning point in China's history.


You arrived in Beijing soon after the crackdown. Why do you think Chinese authorities allowed foreign journalists in at that point?

It was surprisingly easy. We got to Hong Kong and we got on the plane and the plane was relatively empty. But there was no doubt who we were — because when I arrived in Beijing, the baggage carousel was filled up with television equipment.

I had not been to China. It was not my area of coverage. But what I understood, because I'd been a Middle East correspondent for so long, is how you cover autocratic governments in the middle of a crackdown. I'd been in Iraq. I'd been in Syria. And so I knew

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