Lead Up to and Night of the Tiananmen Square Massacre

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Was the Chinese government justified in the Tiananmen Square Massacre?

On the fourth of June 1989, thousands of students died in a massacre that has come to be known as the June Fourth Incident in China. It was a horrifying occurrence built up after five weeks of protesting, demonstrating and speaking out against the Chinese government and its regime, carried out mainly by university students, but also ordinary workers and older intellectuals. The core of the protesting was done in Tiananmen Square, Beijing: the nation’s symbolic and geographical central space. It has long been a gathering place for protestors in China. The protests did not take long to spread around the country. At least four hundred cities protested, reflecting the broad dissatisfaction of China’s working population with the social results of the reform decade. Ten years previous to the Tiananmen Square protests, Mao Zedong died and the period of Maoism ended. Mao was the leader of China, who, according to Deng Xiaoping, was “seven parts right and three parts wrong”. Mao introduced several policies that sent China’s economy down the drain, and Deng Xiaoping was the man who finally replaced him. He became the Paramount Leader (a term used to describe the political leader of China) of China and the Chairman of the Central Military Commission. Deng was the most powerful man in the country. He put in place several reforms that helped heal China’s economy after the disaster of the Cultural Revolution, a decade long period of political and social persecution. But his economic reforms led to extremely high inflation levels and government corruption. There were still restrictions on public expression and citizens remained without voices in parliament. To the general populace, it appeared that rich were just getting richer and the powerful were only becoming more and more powerful. The protests began with the death a man named Hu Yaobang. Hu became something of a martyr to the protesters of 1989. Born into a peasant family in 1915, Hu became a member of the Chinese Communist Party in 1933, when he was just eighteen, eventually becoming the General secretary of the communist party in 1981. Hu was a reformist; he encouraged political reform more than any other leader of his generation. Many Chinese citizens viewed him as incorruptible. After assisting student protests demanding democratic styled freedoms in 1987, Hu was forced to resign for “mistakes on major issues of political policy”. A man of the name Zhao Ziyang replaced him. Hu, however, still remained on the Politburo, the policy making-committee of the communist party until he died on the 15th of April 1989. Hu’s death sent the students of Beijing in an uproar. Students marched to mourn his passing and the marches quickly became less about Hu, and more about speaking out against the government. As one student put it, “We want democracy. Hu Yaobang's death is not the reason for this demonstration. It is the excuse.” In the days after his death, Beijing University students put up posters praising and mourning Hu, and indirectly criticizing the government. The first major demonstration was on the seventeenth of April, as thousands of Beijing students marched to Tiananmen Square crying chants of protest such as “Long live Hu Yaobang! Long live democracy!” The crowd was large, at one point reaching over four thousand people. Most of the students remained in the Square overnight, and the next day held a sit-in at the entrance to the Great Hall of people. More protesters join the students. They had several demands; repudiation of past official campaigns against liberalism, press freedom, more money for education, abolition of regulations against demonstrations, they wanted leaders to reveal their incomes and wanted a complete reassessment of Hu and the validity of his beliefs of democracy and freedom. The government ignored the students’ demands. Similar protests were also held in Shanghai, with groups of up to...
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