Crack down of Tiananmen Square demonstrations with military power (official death toll: 200)



1989, June 3


The demonstrations are sparked by the desire to commemorate the reformer Hu Yaobang, who had died on April 15 of this year. The student's protests are becoming increasingly provocative and evolve into demands for far-reaching economic, political and social change. On May 4, a student declaration is read on Tiananmen Square, calling on the government to guarantee constitutional freedoms, free press, fight of corruption and accelerated economic and political reforms. On May 13, the students announce a hunger strike, using the huge armada of foreign media representatives to gain global attention. The international press had actually arrived for the upcoming Sino-Soviet summit visit of Mikhail Gorbachev.
The government is not only beginning to loose face, but also fears spreading social unrest as during the Cultural Revolution. Zhao Ziyang's moderate strategy to deal with the student's protest is failing. A rift emerges between China's top leaders, with the "hardliners" Deng Xiaoping and Li Peng on one side and the "moderates" Zhao Ziyang and Hu Qili on the other side. On May 20, the government declares martial law but failes to enforce it and the demonstrations continue. However, during the night of June 4, Tiananmen Square is cleared of demonstrators with military means. By the end of 2003, as many as 2,000 persons remain in prison for their activities during the June 1989 Tiananmen demonstrations. The famous photo (left), taken on 5 June 1989 by photographer Jeff Widener, shows the PLA's advancing tanks halting for an unknown man near Tiananmen Square.



Nathan, Andrew J. (2001): The Tiananmen Papers: Introduced by Andrew J. Nathan. In: Foreign Affairs, Vol. 80, No. 1, 2-48


Chang, Albert (2005): Revisiting the Tiananmen Square incident: A distorted image from both sides of the lens. In: Stanford Journal of East Asian Affairs, Vol. 5, No. 1, 9-25


Wong, Jan (1997): Red China Blues: My Long March from Mao to Now. (Doubleday, trade paperback, ISBN 0385482329)


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Copyright 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 by Gerhard K. Heilig. All rights reserved. - 30 Sept. 2012