The Tiananmen protests took place between April 15, 1989 and June 4, 1989 in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, the capital of the People's Republic of China. They ended with a wave of repression, sometimes engulfed under the expression of a massacre in Tiananmen Square. They took the form of a movement of Chinese students, intellectuals and workers, who denounced corruption and called for political and democratic reforms. The protests spread to most major cities, such as Shanghai, and culminated in Beijing in a series of large demonstrations and hunger strikes in Tiananmen Square. After several attempts at negotiation, the Chinese government introduced martial law on 20 May 1989 and brought in the army on 4 June 1989.
The repression of the movement resulted in a large number of civilian casualties (from a few hundred to a few thousand according to the sources), and numerous arrests in the months that followed. Several pro-movement political leaders were dismissed and placed under house arrest, including the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, Zhao Ziyang. Subsequently, a lasting halt to political reforms in the People's Republic of China was brought to a halt. The government expelled foreign journalists and strictly controlled the Chinese press's coverage of the event. Abroad, the crackdown led to widespread condemnation from the Chinese government.
In China, this movement is known as the "June 4th Movement" or simply 6-4. This designation is modeled on that of two other events: the one on May 4, 1919 (called the "May 4th Movement") and the one on April 5, 1976 (the "April 5 movement"). However, the official term used by the Government of the People's Republic of China is "political unrest in the spring and summer of 1989." In the rest of the world, it is called the Tiananmen Square massacre, the "June Fourth Incident," the "June 4th massacre" or the "Beijing massacre."
As the phrase "June 4" is taboo and censored, Chinese Internet users have invented another one, "May 35," to circumvent Chinese Internet censorship.
The number of dead and injured remains uncertain due to the wide divergences between the different estimates. Beijingers and journalists report that troops burned many bodies to destroy evidence of the massacres. Some of the initial estimates are based on chinese Red Cross reports of 2,600. However, the agency denies ever providing such a figure. According to a PBS Frontline report, this figure was quickly discarded under pressure from the government, which put the figure at 241 dead, including soldiers, and 7,000 wounded.
The lasting impact of the repression has put an end to liberalization policies of the 1980s. Considered a decisive event, the protests have set the limits on political expression in China to this day. And the reaction has been cited as the catalyst for questioning the legitimacy of the Communist Party regime and remains one of the most sensitive and widely censored issues in China.
Ten Facts About Tiananmen Square
Tiananmen Square is one of the most famous Chinese sites in the world. Located in Beijing, the capital of China, its history is rich and infamous.
Here are ten things to know about Tiananmen Square:
- Tian'anmen in Chinese literally means "Place of the Gate of Heavenly Peace." It owes its name to the fact that it is placed in front of the southern gate of the Forbidden City called the "Gate of Heavenly Peace."
- Tiananmen Square is the 3rd largest place in the world after The Merdeka Square in Jakarta, Indonesia and the Palmas Sunflower Square in Brazil.
- It covers an area of more than 40 hectares (440,000 m2) and stretches 880m from north to south and 500m from east to west.
- Tiananmen Square was designed and built in 1651, towards the end of the Ming Dynasty.
- It grew four times its original size in the 1950s. The major expansion, completed in August 1959, followed Mao Zedong's vision to make the world's largest and most spectacular space, designed to accommodate more than 500,000 people.
- The year after Mao's death in 1976, a mausoleum was built on the main north-south axis of the square. As part of this project, the square has been increased in size to become fully rectangular and to accommodate up to 600,000 people.
- The French and British troops who invaded Beijing in 1860 camped near the gate of the Celestial Pais and thought to set fire to the gate and the entire Forbidden City. They finally decided to spare the palace and burn instead the Old Summer Palace.
- On October 1, 1949, President Mao Zedong proclaimed the establishment of the People's Republic of China.
- On 4 June 1989, a demonstration in Tiananmen Square to demand less corruption and more democracy was violently suppressed. The soldiers fired on the crowd, killing more than 3,000 people.
- Every morning, the Chinese flag-raising ceremony in Tiananmen Square attracts many nationalists and tourists. It is done at the very first glimmers of the sun. The time is set by the Beijing Astronomical Observatory.