THERE was no shooting in Tiananmen Square in June 1989. Or that, at least, is the version that is still given by China's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Wu Jianmin. ''In fact it was quite quiet that night in Tiananmen Square,'' Mr Wu said. ''And there was no shooting.'' Granted, Mr Wu must have been feeling rather emotional when I spoke to him in Monte Carlo last month, on the day the Beijing team was wondering why, after all the hype and promise, they had not been given the 2000 Olympic Games the evening before. He must have felt on that day more than any other that he had to reiterate the line that ''China cares about human rights.'' And he convinced me. Not that there was no shooting in the square: there are too many eye witness accounts of the shots fired in the northern area after the soldiers and tanks filed in from the west. Nor that ''China does not have a human rights problem'' or that ''no prisoners in China are tortured - we have very strict rules against that.'' But the statements by this assured, likeable career diplomat, who seemed to believe what he was saying, convinced me in a startling way that without firm, irrefutable proof, government lies can become the accepted truth. If a government can continue to maintain that the Tiananmen massacre did not happen, despite the film footage of tanks and wounded that shocked the world, and despite the dozens of moving eye witness accounts describing shootings and killings of studentsin the dead of night, then what hope is there for the other atrocities in China and other countries to be believed, and to be prevented? ''You can find official lies coming out of almost every government in the world,'' said Amnesty Hong Kong representative, Robyn Kilpatrick, who yesterday launched local participation in an international 10-month campaign, ''The Lives behind the Lies''. ''And they cover up a great deal of suffering.'' A report issued this month by Amnesty International, Getting Away with Murder, makes numbing reading. ''The great mass murderers of our time have accounted for no more than a few hundred victims,'' it begins. ''In contrast, states that have chosen to murder their own citizens can usually count their victims by the carload lot. As for motive, the state has no peers, for it will kill its victim for a careless word, a fleeting thought or even a poem.'' The report provides a horrifying list of government atrocities that have almost certainly happened, and have almost invariably been denied, in at least 60 countries in every continent. In Afghanistan, for example, political killings have been committed by every group involved in the conflict. Last February, for instance, government troops attacked members of the Shi'a Moslem minority in Kabul's Afshar district. Several civilian men were killed in front of their families, with the following eye witness account from a young nurse: ''There were 12 of them. They broke down the door, then made advances towards my sister and me. My father tried to stop them but they hit him and then tortured him. They cut off one of his feet and both his hands in the courtyard. One of them threw my father's hands to a dog belonging to one of the commanders.'' Needless to say, there was no official investigation. Closer to home, in the Philippines and Sri Lanka, there are long lists of thousands of men, women and children who have simply disappeared. It is hard to get proof or information: relatives, lawyers, and eye-witnesses who have tried to find where they have gone, have themselves been murdered, ''disappeared'', or been arbitrarily arrested, the report claims. ''This report is pretty grim,'' Ms Kilpatrick said. ''But in some areas we can at least see some improvement. In the 1980s there were massive disappearances in Argentina and Chile, but through public outrage and appeals, we now believe the situation has improved.'' And the release two years ago of three ''disappeared'' brothers who had been imprisoned for 18 years - the last 10 in complete darkness - gave her, and many other Amnesty members, the encouragement that some ''disappeareds'' could return, even if frail, shrunken and sick like the Bourequats. ''One of the brothers - Ali Bourequat - visited Hong Kong earlier this year. I asked him how he survived for all those years,'' Ms Kilpatrick said. ''He told me that he kept believing that the international community would not forget about him, would not stop fighting for him. And he said that those other prisoners who stopped believing, perished.'' Over the next 10 months, she said, the more than one million members of Amnesty International would be encouraged to help explode the assumption made by governments or opposition groups that the international community will forget about those who have ''disappeared'', or will resign itself to the political killings of men, women and children. ''We want to lessen the effect of government hypocrisy; and we want to keep people remembering that these atrocities really are taking place,'' Ms Kilpatrick said. Phone Amnesty International on 300 1250 to find out more about the campaign The Lives behind the Lies.