35 Photos of the Courageous Protestors and the Brutal Government Oppression at Tiananmen Square
35 Photos of the Courageous Protestors and the Brutal Government Oppression at Tiananmen Square

35 Photos of the Courageous Protestors and the Brutal Government Oppression at Tiananmen Square

Jacob Miller - August 1, 2017

The Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, commonly known as the June Fourth Incident, were student-led demonstrations in Beijing. The protests were the culmination of a popular national pro-democracy movement. The protests were forcibly suppressed after the government declared martial law. The protests ended in a massacre.

China, in the late 1980s, was in the midst of rapid economic development stemming from radical economic reforms. The first reform, in 1978, involved the de-collectivization of agriculture, the opening up of the country to foreign investment, and permission for entrepreneurs to start businesses (although most industries remained state-owned). The second stage of reforms, in the late 1980s, involved the privatization and contracting out the State-owned industry and lifting price controls, protectionist policies, and regulations. State monopolies in banking and petroleum remained. These reforms benefited a small demographic and disaffected many. Common grievances included inflation, limited preparedness of graduates for the new economy, and restrictions on political participation. The legitimacy of China’s one-party system was beginning to be challenged.

Several years of disillusionment climaxed when General Secretary Hu Yaobang, whose western-inspired ideas and political liberalization caused him to be denounced by conservatives and he was forced into resignation. He became seen as a champion of the students’ political movement. When Yaobang died of a heart attack on April 15, 1989, the students reacted strongly. Students began to gather at Tiananmen Square to mourn the death of their beloved politician.

On April 21, the evening before Hu Yaobang’s state funeral, 100,000 students marched on Tiananmen Square. The students called for democracy, greater accountability, freedom of the press, and freedom of speech. Demonstrations continued over the next few weeks.

On May 13, two days prior to the highly publicized state visit by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, the students began their hunger strike. Gorbachev’s reception ceremony was planned to be held in the square and the student leaders thought the hunger strike would force the Chinese government into meeting their demands. By this time, there were 300,000 people gathered in the square.

Despite pleas from the government and minor concessions and relaxing the state-run media, students remained in the square during the Gorbachev visit. His welcoming ceremony was held at the airport.

On May 17-18, around a million Beijing residents demonstrated solidarity with the Tiananmen Square movement. The Chinese Red Cross sent a large number of personnel to provide medical services to the hunger strikers. Journalists from all over the world stayed behind after Gorbachev left to cover the protests. Western governments urged Beijing to exercise restraint.

On May 20, martial law was declared, and the government dispatched 250,000 troops to the capital. The army was met with resistance, and could not enter the square and was forced to retreat outside of Beijing, May 24. They were preparing for their final assault.

On June 3, state-run television warned residents to stay indoors but crowds of people took the streets to block the incoming army. At 10:00 pm the army opened fire on protesters blocking the streets. The soldiers used tanks to ram through the buses blocking the streets. The citizens and residents responded to the murders by attacking the soldiers with sticks, rocks, and Molotov cocktails, setting fire to military vehicles.

Troops with assault rifles and tanks killed at least 700 demonstrators trying to block the military’s advance towards Tiananmen Square. There has never been an official death count made. Estimates of the murders of pro-democracy protesters range up into the thousands.

It is currently illegal in all of China, except Hong Kong, to commemorate the June 4 massacre.

35 Photos of the Courageous Protestors and the Brutal Government Oppression at Tiananmen Square
Chinese police try in vain to contain a huge crowd of student marchers during a pro-reform demonstration in Beijing, China, May 4, 1989. AP Photo:S. Mikami
35 Photos of the Courageous Protestors and the Brutal Government Oppression at Tiananmen Square
May 13, 1989, student demonstrations at Tiananmen Square escalate into a hunger strike with thousands taking part and call for democratic reform. CNN
35 Photos of the Courageous Protestors and the Brutal Government Oppression at Tiananmen Square
May 16, 1989, then Chinese President Deng Xiaoping (center) takes then Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and his wife Raisa by the hand at the Great Hall of the People. Gorbachev’s visit coincided with the student hunger strikes, forcing the official reception to be moved from Tiananmen Square to the airport, embarrassing the Chinese leadership. CNN
35 Photos of the Courageous Protestors and the Brutal Government Oppression at Tiananmen Square
May 17, 1989. Five days into the hunger strike and it begins to take its toll on students. Paramedics evacuate those in need of medical attention. CNN
35 Photos of the Courageous Protestors and the Brutal Government Oppression at Tiananmen Square
A truck is almost buried in people as it makes its way through the crowd of thousands gathered in Tiananmen Square for a pro-democracy rally, Wednesday, May 17, 1989, Beijing, China. AP Photo: Sadayuki Mikami
35 Photos of the Courageous Protestors and the Brutal Government Oppression at Tiananmen Square
During the protests, students commandeered public buses to carry people and supplies and to spread their message. Credit David Chen
35 Photos of the Courageous Protestors and the Brutal Government Oppression at Tiananmen Square
Marchers in Tiananmen Square denounced the government’s condemnation of the student demonstrators. The banner says, “The charges against the students are baseless.” Credit David Chen
35 Photos of the Courageous Protestors and the Brutal Government Oppression at Tiananmen Square
Protesters aboard a truck near Tiananmen Square in Beijing, May 1989. One appears to be in a police uniform. It was not unusual then for police officers to join the demonstrators. Credit David Chen
35 Photos of the Courageous Protestors and the Brutal Government Oppression at Tiananmen Square
David Chen, then a student at Dalian Maritime College, striking a pose beside heroic revolutionary statues near the entrance to the mausoleum of Mao Zedong in Tiananmen Square. The banner voices support for the students on a hunger strike. David Chen
35 Photos of the Courageous Protestors and the Brutal Government Oppression at Tiananmen Square
May 18, 1989, Chinese workers parade on motorcycles in support of student hunger strikes. CNN
35 Photos of the Courageous Protestors and the Brutal Government Oppression at Tiananmen Square
Unidentified Beijing University students, who have been on a six-day hunger strike for democracy, take an early morning break in Tiananmen Square, Thursday, May 18, 1989, Beijing, China. The students have been joined by thousands of workers, soldiers, and doctors in their demand for political reform. AP Photo/Kathy Wilhelm
35 Photos of the Courageous Protestors and the Brutal Government Oppression at Tiananmen Square
May 18, 1989, the sixth day of hunger strikes. Communist Party General Secretary Zhao Ziyang arrives at Tiananmen Square to address the students. He begins his famous speech by saying “Students, we came too late. We are sorry.” CNN
35 Photos of the Courageous Protestors and the Brutal Government Oppression at Tiananmen Square
Unidentified Beijing University students catch a nap on cases of soft drinks in Tiananmen Square, Friday, May 19, 1989, Beijing, China. They are in their sixth day of a hunger strike for political reform. (AP Photo: Kathy Wilhelm)
35 Photos of the Courageous Protestors and the Brutal Government Oppression at Tiananmen Square
The protests grew to include residents of Beijing, including blue-collar workers. The banner in front of the Gate of Heavenly Peace, or Tiananmen, says “Beijing Workers’ Autonomous Federation,” the main group of worker protesters. Credit David Chen
35 Photos of the Courageous Protestors and the Brutal Government Oppression at Tiananmen Square
Beijing University students rally in Tiananmen Square where they have camped for a week to push for political reforms, Saturday, May 20, 1989, Beijing, China. The government declared martial law on Saturday in an effort to end the occupation. AP Photo/Sadayuki Mikami
35 Photos of the Courageous Protestors and the Brutal Government Oppression at Tiananmen Square
May 20, 1989, teachers from Beijing Normal University arrive at Tiananmen Square to support their students. Martial law has been declared. CNN
35 Photos of the Courageous Protestors and the Brutal Government Oppression at Tiananmen Square
A Chinese military helicopter passes over Tiananmen Square and demonstrating students following the declaration of martial law, Saturday, May 20, 1989, Beijing, China. Students have occupied the square for a week seeking political reform. AP Photo/Sadayuki Mikami
35 Photos of the Courageous Protestors and the Brutal Government Oppression at Tiananmen Square
The Chinese government declared martial law in urban Beijing on May 20, and later military helicopters dropped leaflets over Tiananmen Square warning protesters to leave. Credit David Chen
35 Photos of the Courageous Protestors and the Brutal Government Oppression at Tiananmen Square
A Beijing University student reads the list of goals in their occupation of Tiananmen Square to Peoples Liberation Army troops, Saturday, May 20, 1989, Beijing, China. The troops, en route to the square, were turned back by the crowds. (AP Photo/Mark Avery)

35 Photos of the Courageous Protestors and the Brutal Government Oppression at Tiananmen Square
Protestors climb up on a tank. pbh2
35 Photos of the Courageous Protestors and the Brutal Government Oppression at Tiananmen Square
A foreign television crew filming protesters near Tiananmen Square. The world’s news media converged on the square, especially with the visit of the Soviet leader, Mikhail S. Gorbachev, to Beijing in mid-May. Credit David Chen
35 Photos of the Courageous Protestors and the Brutal Government Oppression at Tiananmen Square
Beijing University students wave fists and flags as five Chinese military helicopters fly over Tiananmen Square at dawn Sunday, May 21, 1989. (AP Photo:stf)
35 Photos of the Courageous Protestors and the Brutal Government Oppression at Tiananmen Square
Beijing University students listen as a strike spokesman details plans for a rally in Tiananmen Square, which they have occupied for the last two weeks, Sunday, May 28, 1989, Beijing, China. AP Photo: Jeff Widener
35 Photos of the Courageous Protestors and the Brutal Government Oppression at Tiananmen Square
May 30, students from the Central Academy of Fine Arts create a 10-meter-tall statue, the Goddess of Democracy, boosting the morale of protesters. Erected in just four days, the statue was unveiled in front of the Monument to the People’s Heroes. CNN
35 Photos of the Courageous Protestors and the Brutal Government Oppression at Tiananmen Square
A statue modeled after the Statue of Liberty is ready for unveiling in Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China, May 30, 1989. The 30-foot styrofoam statue was erected by striking university students. In the background is the Great hall. AP photo
35 Photos of the Courageous Protestors and the Brutal Government Oppression at Tiananmen Square
The Goddess of Democracy in Tiananmen Square. Shelley Zang
35 Photos of the Courageous Protestors and the Brutal Government Oppression at Tiananmen Square
June 2, 1989, shows hundreds of thousands of Chinese gathering around a 10-metre replica of the Statue of Liberty (C), called the Goddess of Democracy, in Tiananmen Square demanding democracy despite martial law in Beijing. Families of those killed in the crushing of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests on June 2, 2010, demanded China end its silence and open a dialogue on the bloodshed. In an annual open letter, 128 members of the Tiananmen Mothers castigated the Communist Party government for ignoring its calls for openness on the crackdown that occurred June 3-4, 1989 and vowed never to give up their fight. Photo by CATHERINE HENRIETTE/AFP/Getty Images
35 Photos of the Courageous Protestors and the Brutal Government Oppression at Tiananmen Square
A masked protester from Beijing University leads chants making fun of the government’s offer of money and a loaf of bread to people willing to march in a pro-government rally, Friday, June 2, 1989, Beijing, China. AP Photo: Mark Avery
35 Photos of the Courageous Protestors and the Brutal Government Oppression at Tiananmen Square
A student pro-democracy protester flashes victory signs to the crowd as People’s Liberation Army troops withdraw on the west side of the Great Hall of the People near Tiananmen Square on Saturday, June 3, 1989, in Beijing. AP Photo: Mark Avery
35 Photos of the Courageous Protestors and the Brutal Government Oppression at Tiananmen Square
On the night of June 3 and into the early hours of June 4, armed troops and tanks move in on students and other civilians in the area around Tiananmen Square, opening fire on the crowds. CNN
35 Photos of the Courageous Protestors and the Brutal Government Oppression at Tiananmen Square
June 4, students set fire to tanks. An official death toll has not been released but witnesses and human rights groups say hundreds were killed in the clash. CNN
35 Photos of the Courageous Protestors and the Brutal Government Oppression at Tiananmen Square
On June 5, the tanks tried to go around the man, but he stepped back into their path, climbing atop one briefly. The tanks held their fire. Eventually, the man was taken away. Time
35 Photos of the Courageous Protestors and the Brutal Government Oppression at Tiananmen Square
In the following weeks, activists who were involved in the pro-democracy demonstrators were arrested. CNN
35 Photos of the Courageous Protestors and the Brutal Government Oppression at Tiananmen Square
Citizens of Beijing look at a photograph of a victim of the massacre. The media was completely controlled by the government, so the only way people could learn what had happened was from lamppost to lamppost. National Geographic
35 Photos of the Courageous Protestors and the Brutal Government Oppression at Tiananmen Square
Today, Hong Kong is the only Chinese territory where commemorations of the June 4 massacre is allowed. Pictured, pro-democracy legislator Lee Cheuk-yan (left) unwraps a replica of the Goddess of Democracy at Hong Kong’s June 4 Museum. AFP PHOTO / Philippe LopezPHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images

 

Sources For Further Reading:

South China Morning Post – Tiananmen Square Crackdown: What The ‘June Fourth Incident’ In 1989 Was About

The Guardian – Tiananmen: The Flame Burns On

Politico – Student Protests Erupt At Tiananmen Square, April 21, 1989

The Hans India – Chinese Economic Reform

Japan Research Institute – The “Three Reforms” in China: Progress and Outlook

China Daily – China’s Political Party System: Cooperation and Consultation

The Economist – Xi Warns Against Western “Bullies”, To Argue For One-Party Rule

Open Edition Journal – Democracy Under One-Party Rule?

Encyclopedia Britannica – Hu Yaobang

South China Morning Post – From Mao To Tiananmen, Hu Yaobang Is An Icon Of China’s Reform

WION News – How Tiananmen Square Massacre Impacted Communist Regimes Around The World

The Washington Post – 1,000 Students Begin Hunger Strike In Beijing’s Main Square

The Washington Post – Gorbachev Arrives In Beijing

The New York Times – Chinese Premier Issues A Warning To The Protesters

The Independent – Tiananmen Square Massacre: Who Was The Tank Man And How Is He Being Remembered Today?

The Independent – At Least 10,000 People Died In Tiananmen Square Massacre

National Geographic Channel – How A Peaceful Protest At Tiananmen Square Turned Into A Massacre

QZ – Students In Hong Kong Used Fax Machines To Fight Chinese Censorship Of Tiananmen Square

The Wall Street Journal – China’s Effort to Erase the June 4 Protests From History

SUP China – Kuora: How many Chinese know about the ‘June Fourth Incident’?

History Collection – 12 of the World’s Most Violent Student Riots

Advertisement