"Tiananmen Square protests" redirects here. For other uses, see Tiananmen Square protests (disambiguation).
|Tiananmen Square protests of 1989|
|Part of Chinese democracy movement in 1989, Revolutions of 1989 and the Cold War|
Tiananmen Square in 1988
|Date||April 15 – June 4, 1989|
(1 month, 2 weeks and 6 days)
|Location||400 cities nationwide|
Tiananmen Square39°54′12″N116°23′30″E / 39.90333°N 116.39167°E / 39.90333; 116.39167Coordinates: 39°54′12″N116°23′30″E / 39.90333°N 116.39167°E / 39.90333; 116.39167
|Goals||A Communist Party without corruption, with democratic reforms, freedom of the press and freedom of speech|
|Methods||Hunger strike, sit-in, occupation of public square|
|Parties to the civil conflict|
218 civilians; 10 PLA soldiers; 13 Peoples' Armed Police (official government figures)180–10,454 civilians; ~50 soldiers and policemen (estimates and retracted Chinese Red Cross statement)
The Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, commonly known in mainland China as the June Fourth Incident (六四事件), were student-led demonstrations in Beijing, the capital of the People's Republic of China, in 1989. More broadly, it refers to the popular national movement inspired by the Beijing protests during that period, sometimes called the '89 Democracy Movement (八九民运). The protests were forcibly suppressed after the government declared martial law. In what became known in the West as the Tiananmen Square Massacre, troops with automatic rifles and tanks killed at least several hundred demonstrators trying to block the military's advance towards Tiananmen Square. The number of civilian deaths has been estimated variously from 180 to 10,454.
Set against a backdrop of rapid economic development and social changes in post-Mao China, the protests reflected anxieties about the country's future in the popular consciousness and among the political elite. The reforms of the 1980s had led to a nascent market economy which benefitted some people but seriously disaffected others; the one-party political system also faced a challenge of legitimacy. Common grievances at the time included inflation, limited preparedness of graduates for the new economy, and restrictions on political participation. The students called for democracy, greater accountability, freedom of the press, and freedom of speech, though they were loosely organized and their goals varied. At the height of the protests, about a million people assembled in the Square.
As the protests developed, the authorities veered back and forth between conciliatory and hardline tactics, exposing deep divisions within the party leadership. By May, a student-led hunger strike galvanized support for the demonstrators around the country and the protests spread to some 400 cities. Ultimately, China's paramount leader Deng Xiaoping and other Communist Party elders believed the protests to be a political threat, and resolved to use force.Communist Party authorities declared martial law on May 20, and mobilized as many as 300,000 troops to Beijing.
The Chinese government was condemned internationally for the use of force against the protestors. Western countries imposed economic sanctions and arms embargoes. China's government initially condemned the protests as a counter-revolutionary riot, and criticized other nations. It made widespread arrests of protesters and their supporters, suppressed other protests around China, expelled foreign journalists, strictly controlled coverage of the events in the domestic press, strengthened the police and internal security forces, and demoted or purged officials it deemed sympathetic to the protests. More broadly, the suppression temporarily halted the policies of liberalization in the 1980s. Considered a watershed event, the protests also set the limits on political expression in China well into the 21st century. Its memory is widely associated with questioning the legitimacy of Communist Party rule, and remains one of the most sensitive and most widely censored political topics in mainland China.
In the Chinese language, the incident is most commonly known as the June Fourth Incident. Events named by date in Chinese are conventionally named by the number of the month and the date, followed by the type of event. Thus, the common Chinese name for the crackdown on the 1989 massacre, is "六四事件" (June Fourth Incident), literally "Six" "Four" "Incident" ("六" means "six", "四" means "four", "事件" means "incident"). The nomenclature of the former is consistent with the customary names of the other two great protests that occurred in Tiananmen Square: the May Fourth Movement of 1919, and the April Fifth Movement of 1976. "June Fourth" refers to the day on which the People's Liberation Army cleared Tiananmen Square of protesters, although actual operations began on the evening of June 3. Names such as June Fourth Movement (Chinese: 六四运动; pinyin: Liù-Sì Yùndòng) and '89 Democracy Movement (Chinese: 八九民运; pinyin: Bā-Jiǔ Mínyùn) are used to describe the event in its entirety.
Outside mainland China, and among circles critical of the crackdown within mainland China, it is commonly referred to in Chinese as June Fourth Massacre (Chinese: 六四屠杀; pinyin: Liù-Sì Túshā) and June Fourth Crackdown (Chinese: 六四镇压; pinyin: Liù-Sì Zhènyā). To bypass internet censorship in China, which uniformly considers all the above-mentioned names too 'Sensitive' for search engines and public forums, alternative names have sprung up to describe the events on the Internet, such as May 35th, VIIV (Roman numerals for 6 and 4) and "Eight Squared" (i.e., 82 = 64).
The government of the People's Republic of China have used numerous names for the event since 1989, gradually reducing the intensity of terminology applied. As the events were unfolding, it was labelled a "counterrevolutionary riot", which was later changed to simply "riot", followed by "political storm", and finally the leadership settled on the more neutralized phrase "political turmoil between the Spring and Summer of 1989", which it uses to this day.
In English, the terms Tiananmen Square Massacre, Tiananmen Square Protests or Tiananmen Square Crackdown are often used to describe the series of events. However, much of the violence did not actually happen in Tiananmen, but outside the square in the city of Beijing near the Muxidi area. The term also gives a misleading impression that demonstrations only happened in Beijing, when in fact they occurred in many cities throughout China. (Examples include Chengdu from the account of Louisa Lim's The People's Republic of Amnesia).
The Cultural Revolution ended with chairman Mao Zedong's death in 1976. The movement, spearheaded by Mao, caused severe damage to the country's economic and social fabric. The country was mired in poverty as economic production slowed or came to a halt. Political ideology was paramount in the lives of ordinary people as well as the inner workings of the Communist Party itself. At the Third Plenum of the 11th Central Committee in December 1978, Deng Xiaoping emerged as China's de facto leader. Deng launched a comprehensive program to reform the Chinese economy. Within several years, the country's direction entirely changed. The focus on ideological purity was replaced by a full-on drive to achieve material prosperity.
To run his reform agenda, Deng promoted his allies to top government and party posts. Hu Yaobang was appointed the General Secretary of the Communist Party in February 1980, and Zhao Ziyang was named as Premier of the People's Republic of China in September.
Challenges with reform
The reforms aimed to decrease the role of the state in the economy and gradually introduced private forms of production in agriculture and industry. By 1981, roughly 73% of rural farms had de-collectivized and 80% of state owned enterprises were permitted to retain profits. Within a few years, production increased by leaps and bounds, and poverty was reduced substantially.
While the reforms were generally well received by the public, concerns grew over a series of social problems that the changes brought about, including corruption and nepotism by elite party bureaucrats. The state-mandated pricing system, in place since the 1950s, had long kept prices stable at low levels. The initial reforms created a two-tier system where some prices were fixed while others were allowed to fluctuate. In a market with chronic shortages, this allowed people with powerful connections to buy goods at low prices and sell at market prices. In addition, the money supply had expanded too fast. At least a third of factories were unprofitable. The government tightened the money supply in 1988, leaving much of the economy without loans.
Following the 1988 Beidaihe meeting, the party leadership under Deng agreed to a transition to a market-based pricing system. News of the relaxation of price controls triggered waves of cash withdrawals, buying and hoarding all over China. The government panicked and rescinded the price reforms in less than two weeks, but its impact was pronounced for much longer. Inflation soared. Official indices report that the Consumer Price Index increased 30% in Beijing between 1987 and 1988, leading to panic among salaried workers that they could no longer afford staple goods. Moreover, in the new market economy, unprofitable state-owned enterprises were pressured to cut costs. This threatened a vast proportion of the population which relied on the "iron rice bowl", i.e. a host of social benefits such as job security, medical care and subsidized housing.
Social disenfranchisement and legitimacy crisis
Reformist leaders envisioned in 1978 that intellectuals would play a leading role in guiding the country through reforms, but this did not happen as planned. Despite the opening of new universities and increased enrollment, the state-directed education system did not produce enough graduates to meet increased market demand in the areas of agriculture, light industry, services, and foreign investment. The job market was especially limited for students specializing in social sciences and the humanities. Moreover, private companies no longer needed to accept students assigned to them by the state, and many high-paying jobs were offered on the basis of nepotism and favoritism. Gaining a good state-assigned placement meant navigating a highly inefficient bureaucracy that gave power to officials who had little expertise in their area of jurisdiction. Facing a dismal job market and limited chances of going abroad, intellectuals and students had a greater vested interest in political issues. Small study groups, such as the "Democracy Salon" and the "Lawn Salon" (Caodi Shalong), began appearing on Beijing university campuses. These organizations motivated the students to get involved politically.
At the same time, the party's nominally socialist ideology faced a legitimacy crisis as it gradually adopted capitalist practices. Private enterprise gave rise to profiteers who took advantage of lax regulations, and who often flaunted their wealth in front of those who were less well off. Popular discontent was brewing over unfair wealth distribution. Greed, not skill, appeared to be the most crucial factor of success. There was widespread public disillusionment over the country's future. People wanted change, yet the power to define 'the correct path' continued to rest solely in the hands of the unelected government.
The comprehensive and wide-ranging reforms created political differences over the pace of marketization and the control over the ideology that came with it, opening a deep chasm within the central leadership. The reformers ("the right", led by Hu Yaobang) favoured political liberalization and a plurality of ideas as a channel to voice popular discontent, and pressed for further reforms. The conservatives ("the left", led by Chen Yun) said that the reforms had gone too far, and advocated a return to greater state control to ensure social stability and to better align with the party's socialist ideology. Both sides needed the backing of paramount leader Deng Xiaoping to carry out important policy decisions.
1986 student demonstrations
Main article: 1986 Chinese Student Demonstrations
In mid-1986, astrophysics professor Fang Lizhi, who had returned from a position at Princeton University, began a personal tour around universities in China, speaking about liberty, human rights, and separation of powers. Fang was part of a wider undercurrent within the elite intellectual community that thought China's poverty and underdevelopment and the disaster of the Cultural Revolution were a direct result of the authoritarian political system and the rigid planned economy. The view that political reform was the only answer to China's on-going problems gained widespread appeal among students, as Fang's recorded speeches became widely circulated all over the country. In response, Deng Xiaoping warned that Fang was blindly worshipping Western lifestyles, capitalism, and multi-party systems, while undermining China's socialist ideology, traditional values, and the party's leadership.
Inspired by Fang and other 'people-power' movements around the world, in December 1986, student demonstrators staged protests against the slow pace of reform. The issues were wide-ranging, and included demands for economic liberalization, democracy, and rule of law. While the protests were initially contained in Hefei, where Fang lived, they quickly spread to Shanghai, Beijing and other major cities. This alarmed the central leadership, who accused the students of instigating Cultural Revolution-style turmoil.
General secretary Hu Yaobang was blamed for taking a soft attitude and mishandling the protests, thus undermining social stability. He was denounced thoroughly by conservatives. Hu was forced to resign as general secretary on January 16, 1987. Then the party began the "Anti-bourgeois liberalization Campaign", taking aim at Hu, political liberalization and Western-inspired ideas in general. The Campaign stopped student protests and tightened the political environment, but Hu remained popular among progressives in the party, intellectuals, and students.
Death of Hu Yaobang
When Hu Yaobang suddenly died of a heart attack on April 15, 1989, students reacted strongly, most of them believing that his death was related to his forced resignation. Hu's death provided the initial impetus for students to gather in large numbers. In university campuses, many posters appeared eulogizing Hu, calling for a revival of Hu's legacy. Within days, most posters were writing about broader political issues, such as freedom of the press, democracy, and corruption. Small spontaneous gatherings to mourn Hu began on April 15 around Monument to the People's Heroes at Tiananmen Square. On the same day, many students at Peking University (PKU) and Tsinghua University erected shrines, and joined the gathering in Tiananmen Square in a piecemeal fashion. Organized student gatherings also began on a small scale in Xi'an and Shanghai on April 16. On April 17, students at the China University of Political Science and Law (CUPL) made a large wreath to commemorate Hu Yaobang. Its laying-party was on April 17 and a larger-than-expected crowd assembled. At 5 pm, 500 CUPL students reached the eastern gate of the Great Hall of the People, near Tiananmen Square, to mourn Hu. The gathering featured speakers from various backgrounds giving public orations commemorating Hu and discussing social problems. However, it was soon deemed obstructive to the operation of the Great Hall, so police tried to persuade the students to disperse.
Starting on the night of April 17, three thousand PKU students marched from the campus towards Tiananmen Square, and soon nearly a thousand students from Tsinghua joined. Upon arrival, they soon joined forces with those already gathered at the Square. As its size grew, the gathering gradually evolved into a protest, as students began to draft a list of pleas and suggestions (Seven Demands) for the government:
- Affirm Hu Yaobang's views on democracy and freedom as correct;
- Admit that the campaigns against spiritual pollution and bourgeois liberalization had been wrong;
- Publish information on the income of state leaders and their family members;
- Allow privately run newspapers and stop press censorship;
- Increase funding for education and raise intellectuals' pay;
- End restrictions on demonstrations in Beijing
- Provide objective coverage of students in official media.
On the morning of April 18, students remained in the Square. Some gathered around the Monument to the People's Heroes singing patriotic songs and listening to impromptu speeches by student organizers, others gathered at the Great Hall. Meanwhile, a few thousand students gathered at Xinhua Gate, the entrance to Zhongnanhai, the seat of the party leadership, where they demanded dialogue with the leadership. Police restrained the students from entering the compound. Students then staged a sit-in.
On April 20, most students had been persuaded to leave Xinhua Gate. To disperse about 200 students that remained, police used batons; minor clashes were reported. Many students felt abused by the police, and rumours about police brutality spread quickly. This incident angered students on campus, where those who were not politically active decided to join the protests. Also on this date, a group of workers calling themselves the "Beijing Workers' Autonomous Federation" issued two handbills challenging the central leadership.
Hu's state funeral took place on April 22. On the evening of April 21, some 100,000 students marched on Tiananmen Square, ignoring orders from Beijing municipal authorities that the Square was to be closed off for the funeral. The funeral, which took place inside the Great Hall and attended by the leadership, was broadcast live to the students. General secretary Zhao Ziyang delivered the eulogy. The funeral seemed rushed, and only lasted 40 minutes, as emotions ran high in the Square. Students wept.
Security cordoned off the east entrance to the Great Hall, but several students pressed forward. Three of these students knelt on the steps of the Great Hall to present a petition and demanded to see Premier Li Peng. However, no leaders emerged from the Great Hall, leaving the students disappointed and angry; some called for a class boycott.
From April 21 to 23, students began organizing under the banners of formal organizations. On April 23, the "Beijing Students' Autonomous Federation" (also known as "the Union") was formed. It elected CUPL student Zhou Yongjun as chair; Wang Dan and Wu'erkaixi also emerged as leaders. From this vantage point, the Union called for a general class boycott at all Beijing universities. Such an independent organization operating outside of party jurisdiction alarmed the leadership.
On April 22, near dusk, serious rioting broke out in Changsha and Xi'an. In Xi'an, arson from rioters destroyed cars and houses, and looting occurred in shops near the city's Xihua Gate. In Changsha, 38 stores were ransacked by looters. Over 350 people were arrested in both cities. In Wuhan, university students organized protests against the provincial government. As the situation became more volatile nationally, Zhao Ziyang called numerous meetings of the Politburo Standing Committee (PSC). Zhao stressed three points: discourage students from further protests and ask them to go back to class, use all measures necessary to combat rioting, and open forms of dialogue with students at different levels of government. Premier Li Peng called upon Zhao to condemn protestors and recognize the need to take more serious action. Zhao dismissed Li's views. Despite calls for him to remain in Beijing, Zhao left for a scheduled state visit to North Korea on April 23.
Turning point: April 26 Editorial
Main article: April 26 Editorial
Zhao's departure to North Korea left Li Peng as the acting executive authority in Beijing. On April 24, Li Peng and the PSC met with Beijing Party Secretary Li Ximing and mayor Chen Xitong to gauge the situation at the Square. The municipal officials wanted a quick resolution to the crisis, and framed the protests as a conspiracy to overthrow China's political system and major party leaders, including Deng Xiaoping. In Zhao's absence, the PSC agreed that firm action against protesters must be taken. On the morning of April 25, President Yang Shangkun and Premier Li Peng met with Deng at the latter's residence. Deng endorsed a hardline stance and said an appropriate 'warning' must be disseminated via mass media to curb further demonstrations. The meeting firmly established the first official evaluation of the protests from the leadership, and highlighted Deng's having 'final say' on important issues. Li Peng subsequently ordered Deng's views to be drafted as a communique and issued to all high-level Communist Party officials in an effort to mobilize the party apparatus against protesters.
On April 26, the party's official newspaper People's Daily issued a front-page editorial titled "It is necessary to take a clear-cut stand against disturbances." The language in the editorial effectively branded the student movement to be an anti-party, anti-government revolt. The article enraged students, who interpreted it as a direct indictment on the protests and its cause. The editorial backfired. Instead of scaring students into submission, it squarely antagonized the students against the government. The polarizing nature of the editorial made it a major sticking point for the remainder of the protests. The editorial evoked memories of the Cultural Revolution, using similar rhetoric as that used during the 1976 Tiananmen Incident—an event that was initially branded an anti-government conspiracy but was later rehabilitated as "patriotic" under Deng's leadership.
April 27 demonstration
Main article: April 27 Demonstration
Organized by the Union, on April 27 some 50,000–100,000 students from all Beijing universities marched through the streets of the capital to Tiananmen Square, breaking through lines set up by police, and receiving widespread public support along the way, particularly from factory workers. The student leaders, eager to show the patriotic nature of the movement, also toned down anti-Communist slogans, choosing to present a message of "anti-corruption, anti-cronyism" but "pro-party". In a twist of irony, student factions who genuinely called for the overthrow of the Communist Party gained traction as the result of an April 26 editorial.
The stunning success of the March forced the government into making concessions and meeting with student representatives. On April 29, State Council spokesman Yuan Mu (袁木) met with appointed representatives of government-sanctioned student associations. While the talks discussed a wide range of issues, including the editorial, the Xinhua Gate incident, and freedom of the press, they achieved few substantive results. Independent student leaders such as Wuer Kaixi refused to attend.
The government's tone grew increasingly conciliatory as Zhao Ziyang returned from Pyongyang on April 30 and resumed his executive authority. In Zhao's view, the hardliner approach was not working, and concession was the only alternative. Zhao asked that the press be opened to report the movement positively, and delivered two sympathetic speeches on 3–4 May. In the speeches, Zhao said that the student's concerns about corruption were legitimate, and that the student movement was patriotic in nature. The speeches essentially negated the message presented by April 26 Editorial. While some 100,000 students marched on the streets of Beijing on 4 May to commemorate the May Fourth Movement and repeat demands from earlier marches, many students were satisfied with the government's concessions. On 4 May, all Beijing universities except PKU and BNU announced the end of the class boycott. Subsequently, the majority of students began to lose interest in the movement.
Preparing for dialogue
Main article: Student and Government Dialogue during the 1989 Student Movement
The leadership was divided on how to respond to the movement as early as mid-April. After Zhao Ziyang's return from North Korea, factional tensions, between the progressive camp and the conservative camp, intensified. Those who supported continued dialogue and a soft approach with students rallied behind Zhao Ziyang, while hardliner conservatives who opposed the movement rallied behind Premier Li Peng. Zhao and Li clashed at a PSC meeting on 1 May. Li maintained that the need for stability overrides all else, while Zhao said that the party should show support for increased democracy and transparency. Zhao pushed the case for further dialogue.
In preparation for dialogue, the Autonomous Student Union elected representatives to a formal Dialogue Delegation. However, the Union leaders were reluctant to let the Delegation unilaterally take control of the movement. Facing internal discord and declining engagement from the student body at large, a group of charismatic leaders, including Wang Dan and Wu'erkaixi, called for more radical measures to regain momentum. They believed that the government's 'dialogue' was merely a way to trick the students into submission. They began mobilizing students for a hunger strike on 11 May.
Hunger strikes begin
Main article: The Students' Hunger Strike of the 1989 Tiananmen Protests
Students began the hunger strike on 13 May, two days before the highly publicized state visit by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. Knowing that the welcoming ceremony for Gorbachev was scheduled to be held on the Square, student leaders wanted to use the hunger strike there to force the government into meeting their demands. Moreover, the hunger strike gained widespread sympathy from the population at large and earned the student movement the moral high ground that it sought.
General Secretary Zhao Ziyang (left) who declared dialogue with students and Premier Li Peng (right) who declared martial law and backed military action.
Based on Foner’s description, the crisis of communism started on Tiananmen Square protests in 1989. During the event about one million Chinese students, workers, and teachers joined together to demonstrated in Tiananmen Square, and demanded democracy in China. Unfortunately, the Chinese government sent troop to stop the protest and kill thousand people. In the fall of the year, the pro-democracy demonstration had spread to Eastern Europe. On November East Germany’s people crossed the Berlin wall. This means communism was collapsed in Eastern Europe.
In 1990, Gorbachev tried to start economic reform and an open policy in the Soviet Union. However, the conservatism group seized power to overturn Gorbachev government. Later, Russian president Boris Yeltsin mobilized crowds, restored Gorbachev to office and declared Russian was independent from the Soviet Union. And then the Soviet Union collapsed and fifteen independent countries created in its place in 1991.