Brittanica Encyclopedia

"Tiananmen Square incident". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2016. Web. 29 Feb. 2016

History Channel

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,[1] 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.[2][3] 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.[4] The Chinese government condemned the protests as a counter-revolutionary riot, and has largely prohibited discussion and remembrance of the events.

Student Demonstrations


Student Demonstrations in Tiananmen Square

June 3-4, 1989

A Chinese Man Stands Alone to Block a Line of Tanks Heading East on Bejing's Cangan Blvd in Tiananmen Square on June 5, 1989

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.


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Tiananmen Square

Fast Facts

Here's a look at what you need to know about the events in Beijing's Tiananmen Square on June 3-4, 1989.

Tiananmen Square is located in the center of Beijing, the capital of China. 

Tiananmen means "gate of heavenly peace." 

In 1989, after several weeks of demonstrations, Chinese troops entered Tiananmen Square on June 4 and fired on civilians.

Estimates of the death toll range from several hundred to thousands. 

It has been estimated that as many as 10,000 people were arrested during and after the protests.

Several dozen people have been executed for their parts in the demonstrations. 

April 15, 1989 - 
Hu Yaobang, a former Communist Party leader, dies. Hu had worked to move China toward a more open political system and had become a symbol of democratic reform. 

April 18, 1989 - Thousands of mourning students march through the capital to Tiananmen Square, calling for a more democratic government. In the weeks that follow, thousands of people join the students in the square to protest against China's Communist rulers. 

May 13, 1989 - More than 100 students begin a hunger strike in Tiananmen Square. The number increases to several thousand over the next few days.

May 19, 1989 - A rally at Tiananmen Square draws an estimated 1.2 million people. General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, Zhao Ziyang, appears at the rally and pleads for an end to the demonstrations. 

May 19, 1989 - Premier Li Peng imposes martial law.

June 1, 1989 - China halts live American news telecasts in Beijing, including CNN. Also reporters are prohibited from photographing or videotaping any of the demonstrations or Chinese troops. 

June 2, 1989 - A reported 100,000 people attend a concert in Tiananmen Square by singer Hou Dejian, in support of the demonstrators.

June 4, 1989 - At about 1 a.m. Chinese troops reach Tiananmen Square. Throughout the day, Chinese troops fire on civilians and students, ending the demonstrations. An official death toll has never been released.

June 5, 1989 - An unidentified man stands alone in the street, blocking a column of Chinese tanks. He remains there for several minutes before being pulled away by onlookers. 

June 5, 1999 - Approximately 70,000 people in Hong Kong take part in a memorial vigil. 

February 2006 - Former journalist Yu Dongyue is released from prison after serving 17 years. He was arrested during the Tiananmen Square protests for throwing paint at a portrait of Mao Zedong. 

June 4, 2009 - Tens of thousands of people commemorate the 20th anniversary of Tiananmen Square at a gathering in Hong Kong. In Beijing, journalists are barred from the square while the government blocks foreign news sites and Twitter. 

April 2011 - The National Museum of China in Tiananmen Square is newly renovated and open to the public. The building contains no exhibits mentioning the events of June 1989.