Unlock These Never-Before-Seen Photos Of The Tiananmen Square Protests With Your Phone

06/04/2015 03:39 pm ET | Updated Jun 04, 2015

negatives

Photographer Xu Yong was in Tiananmen Square 26 years ago when Chinese government troops opened fire on their own people -- and he captured those moments.

Hundreds -- possibly thousands -- of unarmed protesters and onlookers were killed when tanks and soldiers entered central Beijing on June 3-4, 1989, to put down the student-led protests. Xu has held on to his camera negatives for decades and recently decided to publish them in an art book, titled Negatives, in what The New York Times called a "provocative" move against hard-liners in the current government.

Xu's book release coincides with the candle light vigil held Thursday night in Hong Kong by tens of thousands of students in solidarity with those killed during the Tiananmen Square protests.

For the first time in the annual vigil's quarter-century history, some student groups didn't take part and instead held their own memorials, a sign of an emerging rift between young and old over Hong Kong's pro-democracy identity that took root during the 2014 Occupy Central protests. The recent vigil was the only large-scale public commemoration of the victims on Chinese soil, and the Tiananmen events remain a taboo topic on the mainland.

“Unlike digital photographs, which can be manipulated, negatives never lie," Xu said about the unadulterated negatives.

"On the attempt to cover-up and induce amnesia on an historic event, negatives have more direct impact as evidence than normal photographs or digital media, Xu wrote in a description of the project. "However, perhaps using this form to immunize against amnesia is not that important. What should be carefully considered are the social conditions that have resulted in the prolonged process of completing these works."

Xu's more than two-decade-old negatives aren't stuck in the past. They can easily be seen in color on smartphones. If you're on an iPhone, go to your "settings" icon, hit the "general" tab, click "accessibility" and then mark the label "invert colors" to on. Android-users: go to "settings" then "accessibility" and select "inverted rendering" at the bottom of the menu.

Once you switch the color spectrum, you can either view the negatives on your phone's browser, or hold up the camera to a physical copy of the book or a desktop window to see the images in full color.

Historical magic. Take a look.

  • Xu Yong / New Century Press
    June 4, 1989, Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China.
  • Xu Yong / New Century Press
    June 4, 1989, Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China.
  • Xu Yong / New Century Press
    June 4, 1989, Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China.
  • Xu Yong / New Century Press
    June 4, 1989, Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China.
  • Xu Yong / New Century Press
    June 4, 1989, Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China.
  • Xu Yong / New Century Press
    June 4, 1989, Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China.
  • Xu Yong / New Century Press
    June 4, 1989, Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China.
  • Xu Yong / New Century Press
    June 4, 1989, Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China.
  • Xu Yong / New Century Press
    June 4, 1989, Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China.
  • Xu Yong / New Century Press
    June 4, 1989, Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China.
  • Xu Yong / New Century Press
    June 4, 1989, Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China.
  • Xu Yong / New Century Press
    June 4, 1989, Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China.
  • Xu Yong / New Century Press
    June 4, 1989, Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China.
  • Xu Yong / New Century Press
    June 4, 1989, Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China.
  • Xu Yong / New Century Press
    June 4, 1989, Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China.
  • Xu Yong / New Century Press
    June 4, 1989, Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China.
  • New Century Press
    'Negatives' by Xu Yong

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Also on HuffPost:

  • DALE DE LA REY via Getty Images
    People take part in a candlelight vigil in Hong Kong on June 4, 2015, to mark the crackdown on the pro-democracy movement in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989.
  • PHILIPPE LOPEZ via Getty Images
    Participants hold candles during a vigil organised by students to commemorate China's 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, at the campus of the Hong Kong University, in Hong Kong on June 4, 2015.
  • PHILIPPE LOPEZ via Getty Images
    Participants hold candles during a vigil organised by students to commemorate China's 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, at the campus of the Hong Kong University, in Hong Kong on June 4, 2015.
  • Anthony Kwan via Getty Images
    Participants take part at the candlelight vigil as they hold candles at Victoria Park on June 4, 2015 in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong.
  • Anthony Kwan via Getty Images
    Participants take part at the candlelight vigil as they hold candles at Victoria Park on June 4, 2015 in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong.
  • Anthony Kwan via Getty Images
    Participants take part at the candlelight vigil as they hold candles at Victoria Park on June 4, 2015 in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong.
  • Anthony Kwan via Getty Images
    Participants holds candles and placards at Victoria Park on June 4, 2015 in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong.
  • DALE DE LA REY via Getty Images
    People take part in a candlelight vigil in Hong Kong on June 4, 2015, to mark the crackdown on the pro-democracy movement in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989.
  • Anthony Kwan via Getty Images
    Participants take part at the candlelight vigil as they hold candles at Victoria Park on June 4, 2015 in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong.
  • Anthony Kwan via Getty Images
    Participants holds candles and placards at Victoria Park on June 4, 2015 in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong.
  • PHILIPPE LOPEZ via Getty Images
    Participants hold candles during a vigil organised by students to commemorate China's 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, at the campus of the Hong Kong University, in Hong Kong on June 4, 2015.
  • DALE DE LA REY via Getty Images
    People take part in a candlelight vigil in Hong Kong on June 4, 2015, to mark the crackdown on the pro-democracy movement in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989.
  • PHILIPPE LOPEZ via Getty Images
    Students re-paint a message of commemoration to China's 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, on the campus of Hong Kong University (HKU) in Hong Kong on June 4, 2015.
  • PHILIPPE LOPEZ via Getty Images
    Policemen keep vigil as a pro-democracy supporter looks on before the commemoration of China's 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown in Hong Kong on June 4, 2015.
  • PHILIPPE LOPEZ via Getty Images
    Students rehearse songs before the commemoration of China's 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown in Hong Kong on June 4, 2015.
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