His remarks, broadcast live on Chinese television from a news conference in the Great Hall of the People - yards from where hundreds of students were mown down by tanks - stunned viewers in a country where public discussion of the "counter-revolutionary rebellion" is taboo. The US and China still disagreed "about the meaning of what happened then", Mr Clinton said. Viewers also heard him describe Tibet's Dalai Lama, usually reviled in the Chinese media, as "an honest man" and a "holy man".
His comments came after his summit meeting with Chinese President Jiang Zemin. US officials hoped that yesterday's events would silence critics back home, who have accused the president of going soft on human rights. Mr Jiang seemed relaxed about Mr Clinton's comments. "That is democracy," he said.
Clinton in China, pages 16 and 17