FOR one former Beijing policeman, memories of the 1989 Tiananmen
Square protests that crescendoed to the brutal military crackdown
are still sharp: standing, arms interlocked with other police,
staring down student demonstrators, using weapons for the first
time, and mounting machine guns on police station roofs out of fear
"If I were in the position of the government, I would have done
the exact same thing," says the former officer about the Army's
massacre of unarmed students and citizens on June 3 and 4.
Six years after being ordered to turn on their own citizens,
China's security forces -- the People's Liberation Army, the
paramilitary People's Armed Police (PAP), and the Public Security
Bureau or police -- are as troubled and uneasy as the society they
are pledged to preserve.
Still, in a moment of reflection, the former cop wonders about
the fate of the student leaders and dissidents who fled China in
the aftermath, especially Fang Lizhi, the astrophysicist who took
refuge in the US Embassy and was later allowed to seek exile in the
"He was so outspoken and brave to tell the truth," the 15-year
police veteran, who resigned last year, says with admiration.
The police in China today are in a quandary. Official corruption
in China has become so pervasive, it has vitiated police relations
with communities and darkened the daily lives of many Chinese.
Increasingly, press reports claim, the Army is thrust into
situations at odds with the police and is often needed to intervene
in disputes between civilians and local police.
As the ruling Communists wrestle over succession to ailing
leader Deng Xiaoping, the military, paramilitary, and secret police
are poised as key powerbrokers in the struggle and divided by
loyalties to rival politicians. At the same time, crime is
overwhelming cities and rural areas and demoralizing and sweeping
police into gambling, prostitution, and drugs.
"The situation is helpless. Corruption is too widespread," says
a former officer who served 10 years in the Beijing police and now
drives a taxi. "The Public Security Bureau is not very good at
cracking crime cases because it's hard to get people to show any
"There is lots of scope for friction among the security forces,"
says a Western military official in Beijing. "The element of trust
that should exist between a country and the police seems to be
going down steadily in China."
As the sixth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square unrest
approaches Sunday, the Chinese police have again been called on to
stifle dissent. A series of petitions urging a more open political
system and a reassessment of the 1989 unrest has produced the most
sustained pro-democracy drive since then. Several prominent
activists across China have been arrested or questioned during the
last two weeks.
Those dark days after martial law and the military massacre rent
the Army and, analysts believe, led to the court-martial and even
execution of several hundred officers, remain extremely sensitive
among military officials. Indeed, in the interest of maintaining a
united front, leaders are unlikely to reopen such a divisive issue
in the near future, analysts say.
What did emerge from the 1989 turmoil was revival of the armed
police as the premier security force. Estimated to number 800,000
to 1 million, about the size of the Army, the paramilitary police
now get the best recruits, training, and equipment in order to
maintain Communist control. "PAP troops will do their utmost for
the nation's stability," Armed Police Commander Ba Zhongtan, was
quoted as saying by the New China News Agency. …