On June 3 and 4, 1989, the Communist People's Liberation Army in China brutally crushed supporters of democracy who marched on Tiananmen Square in Beijing. Hundreds of students and others were killed, with 10,000 people injured and hundreds more jailed.
When Hu Yaobang, a hero to Chinese liberals and a former general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, died in April 1989, students began peaceful memorial demonstrations in Shanghai, Beijing, and other Chinese cities. ("Tiananmen Square Protest") This tribute evolved into a movement for democracy, as protesters demanded the removal of China's leader, Deng Xiaoping, and other Communist officials.
On April 20, 1989, the Chinese government ordered the protesters to stop demonstrating, an order which the protesters ignored. On May 4, 1989, 100,000 students and workers marched in Beijing demanding democratic reforms. On May 20, 1989, the government declared martial law. Demonstrations continued, however, while the government tried to decide between two leaders: Premier Li Peng and Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Zhao Ziyang.
Li Peng's harder-line approach won out, as he had Deng Xiaoping's support as well. After Li Peng's appointment, the government ordered troops to Tiananmen Square, where violence ensued. The government conducted widespread arrests, summary trials, and executions; banned the foreign press; and strictly controlled the Chinese press. Although the government had quelled similar protests since the mid-1980s, the extremely violent suppression of the Tiananmen Square protest caused widespread international condemnation of the Chinese government. ("Tiananmen Square Protest")
Now, each year on June 3 and 4, families of the slain protesters gather in Beijing to mourn, although the government has forbidden them to gather together in public. Some relatives, based on the number of bodies they saw in hospitals and morgues, believe thousands died on June 3 and 4, 1989. The government denies that number but has never released an official death toll. (MacKinnon)
How has the Tiananmen Square incident impacted China and the world? As Crowell and Hsieh report, today, government corruption is worse than ever, while reform and a slowing economy have put huge numbers out of work. The 1989 student uprising was a crisis for China not only in the human rights arena, but also in the political realm. The protesters who marched on Tiananmen Square were tired of the Chinese Communist Party's lies, bullying, and corruption.
Since 1989, Communist rulers in China have tried, in their own way, to confront these issues. Nationalism has been greatly increased, also causing a rise in racism. Government corruption is widespread but not as evident to onlookers as before 1989. From the Tiananmen Square massacre, Chinese Communist leaders learned the importance of anticipating unrest in order to head it off and preserve the nation's all-important stability. The strategy sometimes means strong-arm tactics, including a crackdown against political dissidents. (Crowell and Hseih)
Bao Tong, a high-ranking Communist Party official until 1989, has accused Deng Xiaoping, who died in 1997, of directing troops to fire on the protestors. Bao has called on China's current leaders, President Jiang Zemin and Premier Zhu Rongji, to apologize publicly for the greatest mistake of Deng's career.
"Only when they acknowledge his mistakes and correct his mistakes can they stand taller than Deng Xiaoping," Bao said. "Otherwise they have no right to call themselves Deng Xiaoping's successors." (MacKinnon)
Jiang Zemin, however, has publicly insisted the crackdown was justified.
"The political disturbance that occurred at the turn of spring and summer...