Tiananmen Square protests 1989

六四事件 or 1989年天安门广场大屠杀

The 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, commonly known in mainland China as the June Fourth Incident (Chinese: 六四事件, liùsì shìjiàn), were student-led demonstrations in Beijing (the capital of the People's Republic of China) in 1989. More broadly, it refers to the popular national movement inspired by the Beijing protests during that period, sometimes called the '89 Democracy Movement (Chinese: 八九民运, bājiǔ mínyùn). The protests were forcibly suppressed after Chinese Premier Li Peng declared martial law. In what became known in the West as the Tiananmen Square Massacre, troops with assault rifles and tanks fired at the demonstrators trying to block the military's advance towards Tiananmen Square. The number of civilian deaths was internally estimated by the Chinese government to be near or above 10,000.[2][5]

Set against a backdrop of rapid economic development and social changes in post-Mao Zedong China, the protests reflected anxieties about the country's future in the popular consciousness and among the political elite. The reforms of the 1980s had led to a nascent market economy which benefited some people but seriously disaffected others, and the one-party political system also faced a challenge of legitimacy. Common grievances at the time included inflation, limited preparedness of graduates for the new economy, and restrictions on political participation. The students called for democracy, greater accountability, freedom of the press, and freedom of speech, although they were loosely organized and their goals varied.[6][7] At the height of the protests, about 1 million people assembled in the Square.[8]

As the protests developed, the authorities veered back and forth between conciliatory and hardline tactics, exposing deep divisions within the party leadership.[9] By May, a student-led hunger strike galvanized support for the demonstrators around the country, and the protests spread to some 400 cities.[10] Ultimately, China's paramount leader Deng Xiaoping and other Communist Party elders believed the protests to be a political threat and resolved to use force.[11][12] The State Council declared martial law on May 20 and mobilized as many as 300,000 troops to Beijing.[10] The troops suppressed the protests by firing at demonstrators with automatic weapons, killing multiple protesters and leading to mass civil unrest in the days following.

The international community, human rights organizations, and political analysts condemned the Chinese government for the massacre. Western countries imposed arms embargoes on China.[13] The Chinese government made widespread arrests of protesters and their supporters, suppressed other protests around China, expelled foreign journalists, strictly controlled coverage of the events in the domestic press, strengthened the police and internal security forces, and demoted or purged officials it deemed sympathetic to the protests.[14] More broadly, the suppression temporarily halted the policies of liberalization in the 1980s. Considered a watershed event, the protests also set the limits on political expression in China well into the 21st century. Its memory is widely associated with questioning the legitimacy of Communist Party rule and remains one of the most sensitive and most widely censored political topics in mainland China.[15][16]

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