Patterico's Pontifications

6/4/2019

Tiananmen: A Terrible Anniversary

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:55 pm



On June 4, 1989, 30 years ago, China massacred protesters in and around Tiananmen Square in China.

The event reminds me of the best and worst in people — in their actions at the time, and in reactions since.

The worst is clear, of course. China brutally killed hundreds, perhaps thousands, and sent a message of ugliness and totalitarianism.

And among the worst reactions I know of, there is the famous Donald Trump praise for the massacre:

When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it. Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength. Our country is right now perceived as weak.

Some extraordinarily dishonest hacks have claimed that is not praise, pointing to the use of the words “vicious” and “horrible.” The kindest thing you could possibly say about such people is that they should never be taken seriously about anything. Ever. The rest of us can read. We are not stupid and, unlike these sycophants, we are not liars.

And yes, it’s critically important to point out the President’s repulsive praise on this awful anniversary.

So that’s the bad.

But then, there are the heroes. Everyone knows about Tank Man, the anonymous man who stood up to the line of tanks. But he should never be forgotten. Here is a picture of him.

Tank Man

Finally, there are the protestors themselves. As I prepare to see the Long Beach Symphony perform Beethoven’s Ninth on Saturday night (never miss a performance if you can manage it!), I commend to you the Following The Ninth: In the Footsteps of Beethoven’s Final Symphony (affiliate link), a fantastic documentary which tells the stories of different ways in which Beethoven’s final symphony provided solace and comfort to freedom fighters in places from Chile to China. Here is a stirring description of the power of music:

On the square, Beethoven’s Ninth became part of Feng’s crime against the state. Once engaged as an organizer, Feng set up a makeshift broadcasting system, cobbled together with car batteries and loudspeakers provided by both university students and working people from the surrounding neighborhood. The improvised system could not compete with the government speakers that lined the square, broadcasting the droning speeches of Li Peng and other lesser apparatchiks who tried to convince those arriving by the tens of thousands to stay home or return to school.

Feng described a singular moment on the square when Beethoven’s Ninth summed up everything he hoped for his country.

With over a thousand students on a hunger strike in the square, Li Peng announced martial law on May 19. In the square, Feng pulled out a cassette. “The students, when we heard the announcements,” he told me, “we were so angry — and I put on the cassette of Beethoven’s Ninth to cover the voice of the government system. So there was a real battle for voice. Hundreds of thousands of students shouting, as we broadcast the music on the square louder than the government system. I just had a feeling of winning, of triumph.”

Feng played the final movement of the Ninth, featuring the “Ode To Joy” with the key line Alle Menschen warden Bruder (All men will be brothers) because “it gave us a sense of hope, solidarity, for a new and better future. And it was really fantastic that it changed us, transformed us. We feel finally we regained our dignity as human beings. We were separated by the government, but now we are free. We just feel free. So on the square, we feel a collective feeling of joy. We were free at last.”

Yes, it ended in bloodshed and tragedy — an outcome few except the most soulless could praise. But for a moment, music provided unity for people opposing a tyrannical government. And as long as we remember, it will not have been for nothing.

As long as we remember.

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

58 Responses to “Tiananmen: A Terrible Anniversary”

  1. Prayers for the dead and their families. Raise a glass to Beethoven’s memory.

    Patterico (115b1f)

  2. The older I get, the more moving and powerful this event is.

    DRJ (15874d)

  3. I wonder what fraction of Chinese are even aware of it? The government has gone to extreme lengths to erase it from history.

    “Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.”

    Dave (f35b22)

  4. I wonder what fraction of Chinese are even aware of it? The government has gone to extreme lengths to erase it from history.

    Some even cynically call it April 65th, since “June 4th” is a sure way to attract attention. Many younger Chinese believe that it never happened, that it is a Western lie intended to destabilize the People’s government. That’s what all their textbooks say.

    Kevin M (21ca15)

  5. On December 25, 1989, Bernstein conducted Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in East Berlin’s Schauspielhaus as part of a celebration of the fall of the Berlin Wall. He had conducted the same work in West Berlin the previous day. The concert was broadcast live in more than twenty countries to an estimated audience of 100 million people. For the occasion, Bernstein reworded Friedrich Schiller’s text of the Ode to Joy, substituting the word Freiheit (freedom) for Freude (joy).[39] Bernstein, in his spoken introduction, said that they had “taken the liberty” of doing this because of a “most likely phony” story, apparently believed in some quarters, that Schiller wrote an “Ode to Freedom” that is now presumed lost. Bernstein added, “I’m sure that Beethoven would have given us his blessing.”

    The performance was recorded and available through Patterico’s Amazon widget.

    Kishnevi (5acb5b)

  6. In counterpoint, we once thought that the Soviet Union and its hegemony over Eastern Europe was a lasting evil and despaired of ever making changes. Time after time popular movements were crushed by Soviet tanks, and we did nothing.

    Perhaps the most potent symbol of this was the Berlin Wall. I walked along it myself in August of 1989 — seeing not only the graffiti, but the names and dates of many failed attempts to cross. It seemed such a permanent evil.

    Yet 3 months later, it was being torn down by free and newly-free people.

    Nothing lasts forever, not even this.

    Kevin M (21ca15)

  7. Mittens mentioned the anniversary in his first floor speech as a senator today, a polemic against the dirty Chinesers.

    Dave (1bb933)

  8. So, Dave, what exactly to you find fault with in Romney’s speech?

    Kevin M (21ca15)

  9. So, Dave, what exactly to you find fault with in Romney’s speech?

    Not much. He repeats some protectionist tropes and doesn’t castigate Trump as every honorable Republican should, but overall a great speech.

    You *do* understand that “dirty chinesers” (I shouldn’t have capitalized it…) was intended as a humorous happyfeet reference, right?

    Dave (1bb933)

  10. It was a tragic massacre and no one who praises it should ever be trusted with power.

    Nic (896fdf)

  11. @2. Meh. The older I get recalling this just means the older I’m getting; remember exactly were I was when this news broke 30 years ago- in a meeting at NBC in 30 Rock amidst a nasty thunderstorm. Came across the monitors in a conference room; meeting abruptly ended, broadcast folk scurried off to make air and deadline, lightning flashed, thunder echoed through Rockefeller Center– and the rain poured.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  12. True socialism. And their current socialism just tries to make this disappear down the memory hole as they monitor their populace for any signs of dissent or the truth getting out. They get to do this with the full support of American media conglomerates.

    NJRob (4d595c)

  13. @3. Not too many- particularly the young. Doesn’t mean much to them these days as long as they have good jobs and wages, a prospering and expanding middle class, rising national pride, food to eat and a warm place sleep and poop indoors. You know… ‘capitalism.’ 😉 A CNN crew noted all their int’l reports surrounding coverage of this ‘anniversary’ were blacked out and when a crew pretended to be tourists and showed images of ‘tank man’ to passing Chinese and asked if they were aware of it, the police detained the CNN crew for six hours.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  14. @12. OTOH, they do buy U.S. T-bills to prop up the debt to finance $14 billion aircraft carriers and other such toys. When they’ve got Uncle Sam cupped ’round the short and curlies, not in his interest to make ’em sneeze and squeeze in a fit of pique- particularly w/goofy tariffs.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  15. Great post and great comments.

    JRH (52aed3)

  16. joe biden says world leaders (including china) asked him to run for president.

    lany (bd7fc0)

  17. @16. And who did he plagiarize that line from– Hannity or Fox & Friends?

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  18. You *do* understand that “dirty chinesers” (I shouldn’t have capitalized it…) was intended as a humorous happyfeet reference, right?

    You left out the prevert word, so I missed it.

    Kevin M (21ca15)

  19. Old Mitch is making a killing off Americans in China.
    Vote this turd out, Kentucky.

    mg (8cbc69)

  20. Two points, in the big scheme of things Tiananmen didnt affect the attention of the great powers, then again neither did the 30-40 million dead under mao. Like friedmans Hama rules

    Narciso (f61c15)

  21. It was considered to isolate China, even though it was consuming itself from the late 40s to the mid 60s

    Narciso (f61c15)

  22. @13: impressive, DC, but they cant reach full Earl Butz nirvana unless they not only remove child per family restrictions but also incentivise female births.

    urbanleftbehind (ff06b3)

  23. This wasn’t the first scare the Chinese Communist government got in Tiananmen Square. The first time was in April, 1976. They nearly had an Hungarian Revolution then.

    I remember telling soeone in the computer room of LIU Brooklyn then.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiananmen_Incident

    They didn’t put it down the same way:

    Action was taken on the night of 5 April, when the number of mourners were a few thousand. Controlled by Jiang Qing and the mayor of Beijing, the militia encircled the area, then went in with clubs and batons to drive the people away from the monument. Four thousand were arrested.

    They had to take soldiers from hundreds if not thousands of miles away, who hadn’t heard about anything,

    April 1976 was much closer call for the regime than June 1989.

    And, even though they put it down, it resulted in people becoming free to talk to each other. That after Vice Premier Teng Hsiaoping (now spelled Deng Xiaoping) was unpurged (whatthe governmentt called the “Gang of Four: was toppled in October)

    Almost completely forgotten is all the things the Communists did to attain power in the first place. It’s even derided to speak of it. Nixon going to China and ignorin all questions of human rights is praised to this day.

    Sammy Finkelman (9974e8)

  24. In the link, Trump also said, “That doesn’t mean I was endorsing that,” but by his praise of their strength, he was endorsing that.
    The other person on the debate stage–a guy who could also have beaten Hillary–said this: “The Chinese government butchered those kids, and when that young man stood in front of that tank — we ought to build a statue of him over here when he faced down the Chinese government.”

    Paul Montagu (ed733c)

  25. In the link, Trump also said, “That doesn’t mean I was endorsing that,” but by his praise of their strength, he was endorsing that.

    Plus “I’m not endorsing that” is not a contemporanous caveat but a modern-day lie. He said it in 2016, not in 1990 when he said the original disgusting quote.

    He said they initially almost blew it, but then did what they did. You don’t even need to look at his praise of their “strength” to understand that is a formulation that means he thinks they did well — that in the end they didn’t blow it.

    Patterico (115b1f)

  26. Good quote, Paul. I had to look it up because I didn’t know Kasich said that.

    DRJ (15874d)

  27. Who continued trading with China after tienaem, who admitted it to the WTO, on the theory that a killer wouldn’t cheat at cards.

    Narciso (f61c15)

  28. True, Patterico. Since the topic is China, in addition to their great “2020 Presidential Candidate Blowout!” video, Reason has three examples of how Trump’s ignorance about tariffs trade taxes is hurting Americans, even the Americans who purportedly benefit from those taxes. It’s long, but well worth a full read.

    Paul Montagu (ed733c)

  29. Maybe if Huawei hadn’t been a partner with bain capital to acquire 3m in 2007?

    Narciso (f61c15)

  30. So I’m confused when he didnt have power he made an ill considered statement, when he does hes taken tough action, in both cases hes wrong, you dont want to go with China, but we can’t do anything to disrupt the relationship either nothing meaningful anyways.

    Narciso (f61c15)

  31. All those historians who comment on the strength and success of the Army of Northern Virginia, or the Afrika Korps, or that they almost blew it at Manasas or Tobruk, are just asking for the Charles Murray treatment. All this time, I didn’t realize it was praise for slavery and Nazi fascism.

    Munroe (f09cab)

  32. This is why they dont talk about the 40,000 Tiananmen square
    https://www.frontpagemag.com/fpm/273906/sinister-bougie-ari-davidThe Sinister Bougie | Frontpage Mag
    https://www.frontpagemag.com/fpm/273906/sinister-bougie-ari-david

    Narciso (f61c15)

  33. Ack, use of “bougie” might be more of an appropriation from the Black community – Bougie is more their term for upper-middle class Cosby Show (80s version) types in the community, probably also used by long-time Nuyoricans like AOC’s parents and older cousins/siblings.

    Though when the first link didnt open, and being a Jewish interest publication, I had thought that Entebbe rescue had happened in the same week of ’76 (actually did not happen until July 3/4) and thats what had pushed out coverage of the 40,000 in Tiannemen.

    urbanleftbehind (5eecdb)

  34. It’s the kind of sh!t Trumpkins eat up. They go into orgasms fantasizing about Trump machine-gunning all the people they don’t like.

    nk (dbc370)

  35. A fine post Mr. Patterico. One of your best. Thank you

    John B Boddie (66f464)

  36. Right, if we wanted that we would rerun airing of z, although that was a sloppy op, the tlatelco massacre of 68 related in Roma, in a smaller scale exercise

    Narciso (f61c15)

  37. @25. Not to cut him any slack, but ‘brain farting’ is more the rule than exception w/him in speech patterns; “Tim Apple,” etc. Metro NYers learned how to ‘read’ him long ago when he’d goes stream-of-consciousness-unscripted, particularly before cameras, but it does become a tedious exercise to discern intent.

    It was quite evident watching his eyes as he made his way through the Queen’s Gallery in Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey- less interested in what he was being shown and more into where the cameras were: he’d repeatedly look up, do a ‘crowd scan’ and ‘flash-search’ for them.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  38. tariff yes free traders are un-american traitors and should be prosecuted for treason.

    lany (bd5c22)

  39. This quote of Trump’s has always been instructive in gauging his fans. Some say Trump said something insane and absurd because of his grandiose and sloppy style… I can live with that. Some say this quote didn’t mean Trump supported oppression and is fake news. That’s a clear sign that particular fan is dishonest.

    Tolerating free speech is not ‘blowing it’. Stomping out free speech is not strength. The USA’s respect for freedom of speech is not a weakness, and if dictators and thugs around the world disrespect us because of civil rights, I’m not sure why I’m supposed to care as much as Trump does. But then, I’m not the guy cringing when I see a USS John Mccain hat on a sailor either.

    Dustin (6d7686)

  40. its akin to the actual policy, that has been in affect for 30 years, why do you think so much American industry offshored to china, because there are no meaningful environmental or labour standards, and the govt has a monopoly of force to maintain that environment, we know the other path in Russia, was the nomenklatura, took off their wool suits, for brioni and zenga and became oligarchs, and they arranged the transfer of their nation’s wealth, to their hands, without any middleman,

    narciso (d1f714)

  41. https://www.nytimes.com/1976/02/16/archives/posters-in-shanghai-said-to-attack-teng-as-a-khrushchev.html

    I thik they had in mind that Teng would do to Mao what Khrushchev did to Stalin. He was purged after teh Aril 1976 events but brought back after Mao died on September 9, 1976.

    Sammy Finkelman (102c75)

  42. 39. It means Trump doesn’t care about oppression, at least if it takes place any place outside of the United States, bit care about human rights is indivisible unless you are a racist, or have some other way of carving away some people whom you are concerned about. It doesn’t mean he is jealous of them.

    In a way, what Trimp it is </i similiar to talking about military strategy, but military stratey can somewhat be separated from the cause. This is about tyranny and callousness. he United Sates should not be compred to those places.

    Sammy Finkelman (9974e8)

  43. does it or did it mean that the us despite being a superpower, didn’t behave toward it’s putative allies in that way,

    narciso (d1f714)

  44. It doesn’t mean he is jealous of them.

    In a way, what Trimp it is </i similiar to talking about military strategy, but military stratey can somewhat be separated from the cause. This is about tyranny and callousness. he United Sates should not be compred to those places.

    Sammy Finkelman (9974e8) — 6/5/2019 @ 3:31 pm

    Sammy, I must have posted that quote a dozen times, and it’s in the post. Trump is indeed comparing the USA to China. That’s the main idea of his point.

    And it’s not a matter of military strategy. Even knock off soviet tanks can overcome a bunch of unarmed civilians standing in a public square in protest. There’s no strategy there. There’s no lesson for an American president to emulate in order to gain respect in the world (again, read his quote).

    Trump likes to ingratiate himself to thugs, and is mostly angry at strong Americans. He is especially threatened by women. Trump was comparing the USA to China and praising our enemies in order to kiss a tyrant’s ass. He does it a lot so it’s not exactly hard to figure out.

    Dustin (6d7686)

  45. 45. Dustin (6d7686) — 6/5/2019 @ 4:40 pm

    Trump is indeed comparing the USA to China. That’s the main idea of his point.

    That’s what’s wrong with what he said, and it’s different from comparing the military strength (even favorably) of an adversary or potential enemy of the United States to the United States. But it is not the point of the post.

    The point of the post, though to say that Trump praised the crackdown. He didn’t really.
    he was playing pundit.

    And actually what he said doesn’t make any sense.

    He seems to regret that they almost lost (because of the wprds “blew it” Then he says China is perceived as strong. But the United States is perceied as weak.

    How is “strength” – really ruthlessness – in imposing their rule, like any kind of “Strength” the United States might have? With the United States maybe it could be the issue of abandoningg…what in 1989? This was ten years after the fall of the Shah. Fourteen years after the fall of Suth Vietnam. Six years after retreating from Lebanon.

    How is any of that remotely comparable to agovernment not surrendring power? What in the world is he talking about?

    Now it could have made sese this way: Remember, Osama bin Laden, a dozen years later, in a captured video shot in Kandahar, Afghanistan, that he probably did not realize recorded sound too, talked about astrong horse and a weak horse.

    And it’s not a matter of military strategy. Even knock off soviet tanks can overcome a bunch of unarmed civilians standing in a public square in protest. There’s no strategy there.

    Military situations is where it might make sense to talk about strengh. The point is, this isn’t that.

    What Trump was talking about in that Playboy interview in 1990 is what is sometimes called will power.

    There’s no lesson for an American president to emulate in order to gain respect in the world (again, read his quote).

    Invade Panama?

    But that’s not he same thing anyway. Yes, what Trump said doesn’t make any sense except maybe in the “strong horse, weal horse” context, but this is linking totally different things.

    Trump likes to ingratiate himself to thugs,

    Trump was talking to Playboy!!

    Trump wanted to sound clever or profound. But he “blew it.”

    Sammy Finkelman (9974e8)

  46. 46. The only things that Trump has ever said that sounded clever or profound are pretty obviously the things someone else wrote for him. How someone so inarticulate could be smart enough to make a killing in New York City real estate is beyond me.

    Gryph (08c844)

  47. How someone so inarticulate could be smart enough to make a killing in New York City real estate is beyond me.

    The explanation is in your first sentence. Not all his people have been Michael Cohens, some are Roy Cohns, and his father was around to help him and advise him until the early 1990s (when he started succumbing to Alzheimers).

    nk (dbc370)

  48. 48. So he was only smart enough to surround himself with the right people. I’m sure inheriting his father’s fortune didn’t hurt his prospects in that regard…

    Gryph (08c844)

  49. Trump was talking to Playboy!!

    Trump wanted to sound clever or profound. But he “blew it.”

    Sammy Finkelman (9974e8) — 6/5/2019 @ 7:37 pm

    He was talking to the media about a thug government. He didn’t have twitter back then so kissing a thug’s ass requires a middle man. I’m sure he was trying to do business there and hoped by showing his tummy to the thugs he would get some kind of favorable treatment. That and bankruptcy are the only arts of the deal he’s ever actually employed all that well.

    Dustin (6d7686)

  50. 48. Gryph (08c844) — 6/5/2019 @ 7:45 pm

    How someone so inarticulate could be smart enough to make a killing in New York City real estate is beyond me.

    He didn’t make a killing and some of it was simply having enough capital, or money, to undertake large projects.

    What Donald Trump was good at was borrowing money, and postponing payment – at one point he had a net worth of minus $8 billion or something.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hCer9g-fh8o

    https://slate.com/culture/2017/01/the-2003-documentary-born-rich-has-a-lot-to-tell-us-about-ivanka-trump.html

    She tells a story—which may also feel familiar at this point—about walking down Fifth Avenue with her father around the time of his divorce from her mother, when Ivanka was 9 or 10 years old. They saw a homeless man sitting outside Trump Tower. “I remember my father pointing to him and saying ‘You know, that guy has 8 billion dollars more than me,’ because he was in such extreme debt at that point,” she recalls.

    Of course, Donald Trump can’t be trusted with numbers, so maybe it was only negative $2 billion or so. He always exaggerates, although not as much as Mark Simone on WOR radio 710 AM in New York.

    And Donald Trump was also moderately good at getting permission. In other words, he was something of a salesman. And he skirted the edge of the law.

    Besides, of course, other people working for him, and he wasn’t all that bad about picking people. One thing he did was hire women, figuring they’d be less likely to lave because they’d be more loyal, and more competent than other people would give them credit for. Women were not just to look at for him, although he wanted that too.

    Or there were friends he made, some unsavory, and being their only or most legitimate friend was an advantage for him too. He was friedly with people like Al Sharpton and Don King, the boxing promoter who, as you may not know, played a part in the origins of Mapp v Ohio, 367 U.S. 643 (1961)
    whhich extended the federal exclusionary rule to the states.

    http://www.clevelandmemory.org/legallandmarks/mapp/illegalsearch.html

    On May 23, 1957, a bombing occurred at the home of Don King, a notorious policy racketeer who later became a famous boxing promoter…[they received a tip that suspect was at a certain house, and later searched it wthout a warrant and found some obscene books and prosecuted her]

    And there was help from his father (mostly money) or people who worked for his father. Some of it, like tax lawyers and accountants carried over although his father was in a different line of real estate: middle income housing, which Donald Trump swore off after they got caught up in the fair housing laws in the 1970s. When you rent or sell only to very rich people, or businesses, discrimination will not an issue.)

    Sammy Finkelman (9974e8)

  51. 30. Dustin (6d7686) — 6/5/2019 @ 9:22 pm

    He was talking to the media about a thug government. He didn’t have twitter back then so kissing a thug’s ass requires a middle man. I’m sure he was trying to do business there and hoped by showing his tummy to the thugs he would get some kind of favorable treatment. </blockquote. He wasn't talking to eh Chinese government, ad this was just a part of a very long inerview.

    In Playboy.

    Now what you can say maybe is that Trump perhaps wanted to cultivate the impression of havin no values. That maybe could help him – but not with the Chinese government. He wasn't doing anything there then, and I don't think he ever has. He was involved with casinos.

    Sammy Finkelman (9974e8)

  52. Trump didn’t actually pick people. He relied on people to pick people to pick people. When you get that many stages away from the actual person, the consensuus may be pretty good. He also believed people could be trained and didn’t need all that much experience, which was correct, and, in particular, he liked to train women.

    Maybe he also felt women had a better ability to distinguish between good advice and bad advice, and they’d be loyal.

    Sammy Finkelman (9974e8)

  53. How someone so inarticulate could be smart enough to make a killing in New York City real estate is beyond me.

    I don’t think he made a killing. He inherited $413 million from Fred, illegally hid much of it from the tax authorities, and then refused to pay creditors and had several bankruptcies.

    Patterico (115b1f)

  54. Billionaires usually get to their billions by hiring people who are smarter, more capable in their individual skills and then keeping them focused and resourced; often by hiring a person or persons who can focus and resource talent.
    Anyone who thinks Mark Zuckerburg runs Facebook is not paying attention to Zuckerburgs flaw set… but yet he is the billionaire.
    Trump has only managed to double his dad’s gift, but like the Kennedy’s he has had to spread it all out over multiple family members over the years. Bankruptcies are part of a developers tool chest… my experience with developers is that they hire lawyers and create lots of LLC’s and other safety nets so that each individual speculation is walled off from the main fortune.
    All developers worth their salt have made use of bankruptcy as the ultimate hedge to their risk. I don’t like it, but its been the law and the way business is practiced legally for a long long time. If you don’t like it, change the law and disbar white shoe law practitioners

    steveg (354706)

  55. To me, its a little like blaming a defendant for his lawyers successful use of settled case law

    steveg (354706)

  56. Not saying I like it.
    But I like team sports and learned quickly that the game is played to however the referees are calling it. When is a touch a foul if the game allows touching? Judges make their calls and often their calls are taken “upstairs” for a higher ruling.
    Back when I was young, I’ve had guys like Trump not pay me. They make it painful to collect… pennies on the dollar after legal fees. So I don’t play in their arena. Those that do should be ready to wage “shark on shark” warfare because developers, unions, contractors and their lawyers are all cage match opponents who take your money for sport.

    steveg (354706)

  57. 54. Perhaps my sarcasm was lost in the text, but those are facts of which I am well aware. I cite them regularly as an answer when someone asks me, “What have you got against Trump?”

    Gryph (08c844)


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