We started our tour of China at Tiananmen Square, a symbol of China that is both famous and infamous. It's the largest public square in the world. I've read the size of the square was to show the power of the Communist Party and maybe also of China. It's a concrete behemoth with massive statues and buildings flanking it. It's not beautiful, but it is impressive.
Tiananmen Square is probably most known for the massacre in 1989 when the government forcefully put down a pro-democracy rally by bringing in troops and tanks and killing hundreds of people and injuring thousands more. It's still clear today that any insubordination will not be tolerated. This may be a "public" square, but you are not free to do as you please. A security check is required before entering the square. There are strict opening and closing hours and guards keep you from actually getting close to any monuments. In fact, there's a strong military and police presence here. There are also undercover military officers amongst the crowd. You know this, because some stand in plain clothes at attention with the military. My guess is it's their way of letting you know, anyone could be a soldier. During our time on the square we saw soldiers march in unison across the square for what reason, I can't say.
|Military March in Tiananmen Square|
We also saw a man run through the protective ropes surrounding a monument. He didn't hurt or threaten anyone, but he was promptly tackled by police. He fought back, but he was outnumbered and within minutes was shoved into a van and taken away. As police quickly went to tourists to see their cameras and what pictures they had captured, we made a hasty exit.
|Shortly After Being Tackled|
|Then, He Was Taken Away In a Police Van|
Now, this isn't the only picture of Tiananmen Square. It's was filled with thousands of happy tourists on our visit, most of them Chinese, clearly excited to visit their capital city. They posed for pictures before Mao's portrait and proudly waved Chinese flags in their photos. More than a dozen of them happily grabbed us to pose for photos together. No translator was necessary. I held children, shook hands, and posed for many photos. I guess we were part of the atmosphere too.
|Happy to Pose for Pictures With Fellow Tourists|