History Channel Documentary | Tiananmen Square declassified
The Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, commonly known as the June Fourth Incident (六四事件) or '89 Democracy Movement (八九民运) in Chinese, were student-led popular demonstrations in Beijing which took place in the spring of 1989 and received broad support from city residents, exposing deep splits within China's political leadership. The protests were forcibly suppressed by hardline leaders who ordered the military to enforce martial law in the country's capital. The crackdown that initiated on June 3–4 became known as the Tiananmen Square Massacre or the June 4 Massacre as troops with assault rifles and tanks inflicted casualties on unarmed civilians trying to block the military's advance towards Tiananmen Square in the heart of Beijing, which students and other demonstrators had occupied for seven weeks. The number of civilian deaths has been estimated at anywhere between hundreds and thousands. The Chinese government condemned the protests as a counter-revolutionary riot, and has largely prohibited discussion and remembrance of the events.
A massive demonstration for democratic reform, begun on Tiananmen Square by Chinese students in April, 1989, was brutally repressed on June 3 and 4, 1989. It was initiated to demand the posthumous rehabilitation of former Communist Party Chairman Hu Yaobang.
The government was tolerant until after his funeral; then Deng Xiaopingdenounced the protests. The demonstrators were joined by workers, intellectuals, and civil servants, until over a million people filled the square. General Secretary Zhao Ziyang expressed sympathy, but lost out to Deng, who supported the use of military suppression.
Martial law was declared on May 20. The protesters demanded that the leadership resign, but the government answered on the nights of June 3 and 4 with troops and tanks, killing thousands to quell a "counter-revolutionary rebellion." Zhao was dismissed and a number of the student leaders were arrested.