The Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 culminating in the Tiananmen Square Massacre (referred to in Chinese as the June Fourth Incident, to avoid confusion with two other Tiananmen Square protests) were a series of demonstrations in and near Tiananmen Square in Beijing in the People's Republic of China (PRC) beginning on April 14. Led mainly by students and intellectuals, the protests occurred in a year that saw the collapse of a number of communist governments around the world.
The protests were sparked by the death of pro-market and pro-democracy official, Hu Yaobang, whom protesters wanted to mourn. By the eve of Hu's funeral, it had reached 100,000 people on the Tiananmen square. While the protests lacked a unified cause or leadership, participants were generally against the government's authoritarianism and voiced calls for economic change and democratic reform within the structure of the government. The demonstrations centered on Tiananmen Square in Beijing, but large-scale protests also occurred in cities throughout China, including Shanghai, which stayed peaceful throughout the protests.
The movement lasted seven weeks from Hu's death on 15 April until tanks cleared Tiananmen Square on 4 June. In Beijing, the resulting military response to the protesters by the PRC government left many civilians dead or severely injured. The official Chinese government figure is 241 dead, including soldiers, and 7,000 wounded.But Chinese student associations and the Chinese Red Cross reported 2000 to 3000 deaths.
Following the violence, the government conducted widespread arrests to suppress protesters and their supporters, cracked down on other protests around China, banned the foreign press from the country and strictly controlled coverage of the events in the PRC press. Members of the Party who had publicly sympathized with the protesters were purged, with several high-ranking members placed under house arrest, such as General Secretary Zhao Ziyang. The violent suppression of the Tiananmen Square protest caused widespread international condemnation of the PRC government. text courtesy.wikipedia.com
My brother Sherry (Sheridan Watson Bell, III) was the press spokesman at the American Embassy in Beijing in 1989. He missed the crackdown at Tiananmen, however, because he was back in the States for his 25th Princeton Reunion. In some ways he was glad to have missed it. On the other hand, it was the big story of the decade!
"Tank man" blocks a column of tanks heading east on Beijing's Chang'an Boulevard (Avenue of Eternal Peace) near Tiananmen Square during the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. This photo was taken from the sixth floor of the Beijing Hotel, about half a mile away, through a 400mm lens.
This photo was taken on June 5, 1989, by Jeff Widener (The Associated Press).