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25 years later, Tiananmen Square largely quiet

On Wednesday, there was no trace of remembrance of the 1989 massacre in Tiananmen Square. Swarms of police patrolled the square and the roads leading up to it.

GOH CHAI HIN/AFP/Getty Images

On Wednesday, there was no trace of remembrance of the 1989 massacre in Tiananmen Square. Swarms of police patrolled the square and the roads leading up to it.

BEIJING — It was a quiet day in Tiananmen Square. Even as tens of thousands gathered in Hong Kong on Wednesday and global headlines marked the 25th anniversary of China’s brutal crackdown on student protesters, there was no trace of remembrance at the site of their killing.

Tourists posed for pictures below the iconic portrait of Mao Zedong. Children ran laughing through the square.

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The only sign of that day’s effects: swarms of police patrolling the square and stationed every few hundred feet on the roads leading up to it.

For weeks, as the anniversary approached, security in Beijing grew tighter. Foreign journalists were called in and warned. Officials mobilized tens of thousands of informants to look for suspicious activity, according to state media. Authorities jailed or forced out of the city dissidents most likely to criticize the government.

The repressive tactics this year began earlier and were more extensive, a sign that the party views the historical event as an enduring threat.

In hushed interviews at the square Wednesday, some demonstrated just how effectively the party has quashed public memory of a crackdown that killed hundreds, if not thousands. Many claimed to have no memory of the massacre or were too afraid to respond.

‘‘Today? What is special about today?’’ a tourist, 41, from Hunan province answered in response to a query. When pressed whether he had not heard about an incident in 1989, he said nervously, ‘‘Oh, you mean the student protest back then? That was today? I had forgotten all about it.’’ He then quickly walked away.

Three local college students — among the few willing to acknowledge and talk openly about the massacre — said they had come to the square out of curiosity. Several police officers hovered nearby.

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