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The iconic photo of the "tank man", taken by Jeff Widener of the Associated Press, which consecrated the account of the Tiananmen events peddled by the Western media, portraying them as a massacre of peaceful demonstrators.
I've heard from several Chinese American friends (now US citizens), who lived in China in 1989, that the student leaders behind the Tiananmen Square protest/massacre (April 14 to June 4, 1989) were supported by the CIA.

Oh, come on, I thought, another conspiracy theory!

However, my curiosity was stirred, so I spent hours hunting the internet for clues that this might be true. I discovered several coincidences that raised an eyebrow.

The U.S. Ambassador in China at the time, James Lilley (April 20, 1989 to 1991), was a former CIA operative who worked in Asia and helped insert CIA agents into China. President H. W. Bush served as Chief of the U.S. Liaison Office in Beijing (1974 - 1976) , then went to serve as Director of the CIA (1976 - 1977).

Why did President H. W. Bush replace Winston Lord as ambassador to China (1985-1989) during the early days of the Tiananmen Square incident with a former CIA agent? After all, Lord spoke some Chinese and was a key figure in the restoration of relations between the US and China in 1972. Wasn't he the best man for the job during a crisis like this?

I returned to my friends and asked, "How do you know the CIA helped the student leaders of the protest?"

"It's obvious," was the answer. The reason, my friends explained, was the fact that it is very difficult, almost impossible, for anyone in China to get a visa to visit the United States. Yet most of the leaders of the Tiananmen incident left China quickly and prospered in the West without any obvious difficulty. After these student leaders came to the West, many were successful and became wealthy.

I returned to my investigation to verify these claims. Let's Welcome Chinese Tourists was one piece I read from the Washington Post documenting how difficult it was to get a visa to visit the US from China. I read another piece in the Chicago Tribune on the same subject. My wife told me her brother and two sisters were denied visas to the US.

After more virtual sleuthing, I learned that Wang Dan, one of the principal organizers of the Tiananmen incident, went to jail because he stayed in China when most of the student leaders fled. Today, Wang lives in the West and cannot go back. Two others went to Harvard and a third went to Yale. Where did they get the money? It's expensive to attend these private universities.

How about the other leaders who fled to the West? "Some have reincarnated themselves as Internet entrepreneurs, stockbrokers, or in one case, as a chaplain for the U.S. military in Iraq. Several have been back to China to investigate potential business opportunities."

Then there are the Dalai Lama and Tibetan separatists who have received CIA support. "The Dalai Lama himself was on the CIA's payroll from the late 1950s until 1974, reportedly receiving $US15,000 a month ($US180,000 a year). The funds were paid to him personally, but he used all or most of them for Tibetan government-in-exile activities, principally to fund offices in New York and Geneva, and to lobby internationally." Sources: The CIA's Secret War In Tibet and the CIA. "Retired CIA officer Roger E. McCarthy published his book, which describes his role in support of the CIA's assistance to the Tibetan resistance to China's occupation of Tibet, which began in 1950."

Yes, the circumstantial evidence was compelling, but maybe all of these facts are just a coincidence.