1989 Tiananmen Square protests

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Tiananmen Square in 1988

The 1989 Tiananmen Square protests were protests in April and June of that year. China calls this the June Fourth Incident, but to most of the world it is the Tiananmen Square massacre.

Overview[change | change source]

A memorial in the Polish city of Wrocław depicting a destroyed bicycle and a tank track is a symbol of the Tiananmen Square protests

The Tiananmen Square protests were student-led demonstrations calling for democracy, free speech and a free press in China. There were other protests on Tiananmen square in 1919 and 1976. The protests of 1989 were organised by groups of students, intellectuals and labour activists. There was no common cause or leadership in the protests. However, most protesters did not like the way the Communist party of China ran the economy.[1] Some people also wanted a change towards more democracy.[2] Most people protested on Tiananmen Square in Beijing, but some also did in other cities, like Shanghai. The protests in cities other than Beijing stayed peaceful.

On June 4, 1989, the government used force to end the protests. This left many people injured or dead. The exact number is not known today. The Chinese government speaks about 200 - 300 victims[source?], the New York Times says there were between 300 and 800[source?], and the Chinese Red Cross talks about 2,000 - 3,000[source?].

The official Chinese position on the events was that the protests needed to be dispersed in order not to harm the stability of the country.

Many of the scenes were shown around the world over western media (the most famous image is that showing a man standing in front of a file of tanks in the middle of the square).

The protests had various causes. The corruption of the Communist Party was a main issue. The control of the economy was working badly. The country was poor, and city dwellers got the worst of it.

Ironically, this all happened under the rule of Deng Xiaoping. He was Mao Zedong's successor in 1978 and launched the economic reforms. These reforms helped life for farmers and people who lived in the countryside, but was bad for city dwellers. Intellectuals, students, and industrial workers, feared unemployment rising and social problems. They felt disenfranchised. This means people felt they could do nothing about these problems.

When reformer Hu Yaobang suddenly died of a heart attack on (15 April 1989), students reacted strongly. Hu's death provided the reason for students to gather in large numbers.[3] In university campuses, many posters appeared eulogizing Hu, calling for a revival of Hu's legacy. Within days, most posters were writing about broader political issues, such as freedom of the press, democracy, and corruption.[4]

It is said this was one of the largest specific-purposed, overcrowded demonstrations there has been in all of modern history.

Memorials[change | change source]

A man holds a candle at a memorial in Hong Kong.

After 1989, memorials have traditionally been held every year to honor the June 4, 1989 student-led pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square.

In 2019, there were months of anti-government protests in Hong Kong, which is a partly independent Chinese territory. The 2019 protests led Beijing to approve a national security law in Hong Kong in 2020. Under the law, anyone believed to be involved in terrorism or the weakening of state power could be tried and face life in prison.

In 2020, China banned the annual ceremony for the first time in 30 years. Police said the ban was needed for public health reasons related to COVID-19, but critics say the ban is part of ongoing measures to stop political dissent. More than 12 activists first attended the June 4 ceremony despite the ban and thousands came later. The crowds broke through barriers set up around Victoria Park to light candles and sing songs. Police later arrested over 20 activists, including leaders of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, the group that organizes the yearly ceremony.[5]

References[change | change source]

  1. "Tiananmen Square Protests Of 1989 students Government Chinese". Economicexpert.com. Archived from the original on 2014-07-14. Retrieved 2009-11-09.
  2. Nathan, Andrew J. (January–February 2001). "The Tiananmen Papers". Foreign Affairs. Archived from the original on 2004-07-06.CS1 maint: date format (link)
  3. Pan, Philip P. 2008. Out of Mao's shadow: the struggle for the soul of a new China. Simon & Schuster. p. 274. ISBN 978-1-4165-3705-2
  4. Zhao D. p. 147
  5. Novak, Dan (15 September 2015). "Nine Hong Kong Activists Sentenced for Taking Part in Banned Ceremony". Voice of America. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.