As an IT entrepreneur, Zhang Lei often thinks about the future. But these days he's reflecting on the past; Zhang was a student in Beijing on June 4, 1989, when the government cracked down on pro-democracy protesters at Tiananmen Square.
"[At the time] I made calls to my classmates to find out the latest and ask about their safety," Zhang said from his office in the Chinese capital. "I felt just how big of a change and a turning point it was. This event will be something that a generation of Chinese will never forget."
In the weeks leading up to the 1989 crackdown thousands of students marched to Tiananmen Square calling for a more democratic government. The demonstrations quickly attracted citizens from all walks of life, ballooning to an estimated 1.2 million. Then on June 4th, Chinese troops fired on protesters, killing, by unofficial accounts, anywhere from hundreds to thousands.
"Everybody was scared. They didn't know where the government was going. They were still rounding up people. It was a very tense time," said James McGregor, China chairman of consultancy APCO Worldwide, who worked as the bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal from 1990 to 1994.
"I used to ride my bicycle around and talk to people at night in the dark. That's when they will talk to you because they were anonymous," he added.
Twenty-five years later the ruling Communist Party remains tense about that day. The days around the anniversary are always politically sensitive, with dissidents routinely detained to silence any discussion of the 1989 protests. On the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown, however, the security apparatus is in overdrive. Even journalists have been warned not to report from the square.