The brutal Chinese army crackdown on the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests killed at least 10,000 people, a secret British diplomatic cable has alleged.
Unearthed this week by news website HK01, It has been reported the document, written just over 24 hours after the massacre, gives a much higher death toll than the most commonly used estimates ranging from several hundred just over 1000, reported news.com.au.
It also reveals sickening details of the incident which shocked the world. It alleges injured female students were bayoneted as they begged for mercy, human remains were "hosed down the drains", and a mother was shot as she tried to go to the aid of her injured three-year-old daughter.
It also alleges the 27 Army of Shanxi Province — which co-ordinated the response on the day of the incident — described the thousands of pro-democracy protesters as "60 per cent illiterate and "primitives".
The secret cable was written by Sir Alan Donald, who was a British ambassador to China, June 5, 1989 and was placed in the UK National Archives.
"Students understood they were given one hour to leave square but after five minutes APCs attacked," the envoy wrote.
"Students linked arms but were mown down including soldiers. APCs then ran over bodies time and time again to make 'pie' and remains collected by bulldozer. Remains incinerated and then hosed down drains.
"Four wounded girl students begged for their lives but were bayoneted."
In the document, Donald says he has gleaned this information from a "good friend" in China's ruling State Council who, he writes, was "reliable and careful to separate fact from speculation and rumour".
"27 Army ordered to spare no one," he wrote. "Wounded girl students begged for their lives but were bayoneted.
"A three-year-old girl was injured, but her mother was shot as she went to her aid, as were six others.
"1000 survivors were told they could escape but were then mown down by specially prepared MG [machine gun] positions.
"Army ambulances who attempted to give aid were shot up, as was a Sino-Japanese hospital ambulance. With medical crew dead, wounded driver attempted to ram attackers but was blown to pieces by antitank weapon."
He also claimed the army shot one of their own officers for faltering on orders.
"27 Army officer shot dead by own troops, apparently because he faltered. Troops explained they would be shot if they hadn't shot the officer," he wrote.
The chilling cable ends: "Minimum estimate of civilian dead 10,000."
Nearly three decades after the crackdown, the communist regimen continues to forbid any debate on the subject, mention of which is banned from textbooks and the media, and censored on the internet.
There was no sign of reaction to the report on Chinese social media, where an army of online censors blocks any reference to the Tiananmen crackdown and most things critical of the Communist Party.
As to the credibility of the toll, former student protest leader Xiong Yan, who is now an American citizen, said: "I think it's reliable."
China scholar Jean-Pierre Cabestan also said the figure was credible, pointing out that recently declassified US documents gave a similar assessment.
"That's two pretty independent sources which say the same thing," said Cabestan, a professor at Hong Kong Baptist University.
The British ambassador's report was "not particularly astonishing considering how crowded it was in Beijing, the number of people mobilised" against the Chinese government, said Cabestan, who was in the Chinese capital in the days leading up to the crackdown.
Former student leader Feng Congde, now also based in the United States, pointed out that Donald had sent another telegram three weeks later putting the death toll at between 2,700 and 3,400.
Feng said that toll was quite credible and fitted with figures from the Chinese Red Cross, who at the time estimated 2,700 fatalities, and by student committees based on hospital reports.