China's recent ceremonies to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of former leader Deng Xiaoping have given the Tiananmen massacre myth yet another lease of life. Most media commentators, the BBC especially, have rehashed the standard condemnation of Deng as a hardliner who instigated a massacre of harmless demonstrating students in Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989.

Why someone who had suffered cruelly at the hands of Cultural Revolution hardliners and who did so much to push China on the path of liberalization should himself become a hardliner is not explained. Even less does anyone seem to have felt any need to check out just what actually happened in Tiananmen in 1989. Eyewitness accounts that say there was no massacre have been conveniently ignored. Blatantly anti-Beijing propaganda accounts have been unquestioningly accepted. Fortunately we now have a source whose sober impartiality cannot possibly be doubted, namely the de-classified reports from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing at the time (see Google under Tiananmen, Document 30 especially).

They confirm that there was no massacre in the square, that almost all the students who had been demonstrating there for two weeks had left the square quietly in the early hours of June 4, and that the real incident was panicky fighting triggered by crowds attacking troops, initially unarmed, as they headed for the square on June 3.