To millions of TV viewers, the name 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 3 and 4 June 1989. Kate was one of the few Western television reporters out on the streets at the time and she 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 shed 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 from speaking to Western journalists. This is the first time many have spoken on television – a not inconsiderable risk, but one which they insist on taking to have their story heard.
The Chinese authorities insist the “turmoil” of 1989 was the work of a small group of “counter revolutionaries”. They claim only 200 civilians were killed.
The journey takes Kate to Hong Kong, Taiwan, Shanghai, Beijing and Chengdu. Despite Kate 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”.
Wednesday 3 June
9.00-10.00pm BBC TWO