Tiananmen Square Protests of 1989

The Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, also known as the June Fourth Incident in Chinese, were popular demonstrations crushed by China's army on 4 June 1989, when China's leaders ordered the army to force the protesters out of Tiananmen Square in Beijing. On their way to the Square, soldiers killed protesters in unknown numbers, and the crackdown became known as the Tiananmen Square Massacre or the June 4 Massacre. However, secret cables from the United States embassy in Beijing obtained by WikiLeaks, "partly confirm the Chinese government's account of the early hours of June 4, 1989, which has always insisted that soldiers did not massacre demonstrators inside Tiananmen Square. Instead, the cables show that Chinese soldiers opened fire on protesters outside the centre of Beijing, as they fought their way towards the square from the west of the city." In the aftermath of the seven-week protests, the Chinese government strengthened its police and internal security forces, and put leadership unity and political consensus ahead of modernization. Economic and political reforms were delayed or halted.

In the late 1970s, the Chinese leadership of Deng Xiaoping abandoned Maoist-style planned collectivist economics, and embraced market-oriented reforms. Due to the rapid pace of change, by the late 1980s, grievances over inflation, limited career prospects for students, and corruption of the party elite were growing rapidly. Communist governments were also losing legitimacy around the world, particularly in Eastern Europe. In April 1989, triggered by the death of deposed Communist Party General Secretary Hu Yaobang, a liberal reformer, mass gatherings and protests took place in and around Tiananmen Square. At its height, some half a million protesters assembled there. The demonstrations, consisting of local working residents as well as students, called for government accountability, freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and the restoration of workers' control over industry. Peaceful protests also occurred in other cities, such as Shanghai and Wuhan, while looting and rioting broke out in Xi'an and Changsha.

The movement lasted for about seven weeks. The government initially attempted to appease the protesters through concessions, but a student-led hunger strike galvanized support for the demonstrators around the country. Ultimately, Deng Xiaoping and other party elders resolved to use force to suppress the movement. Party authorities declared martial law on 20 May. Military convoys entered Beijing on the evening of 3–4 June. Under strict orders to clear the Square by dawn, the People's Liberation Army pushed through makeshift blockades set up by demonstrators in western Beijing on their way to Tiananmen Square. The PLA used live fire to clear their path of protesters. The exact number of civilian deaths is not known, and the majority of estimates range from several hundred to thousands.

Internationally, the Chinese government was widely condemned for the use of force against the protesters. Western governments imposed economic sanctions and arms embargoes. Following 4 June, the government conducted widespread arrests of protesters and their supporters, cracked down on other protests around China, expelled foreign journalists and strictly controlled coverage of the events in the domestic press. Officials deemed sympathetic to the protests were demoted or purged. General Secretary Zhao Ziyang, who was considered too sympathetic to the movement, was ousted in a party leadership reshuffle. The aftermath of the protests strengthened the power of orthodox Communist hardliners, and delayed further market reforms until Deng Xiaoping's 1992 southern tour. To this day, the government of the People's Republic of China continues to suppress public mention or discussion about the protests.

Read more about Tiananmen Square Protests Of 1989:  Name, Protests Escalate, International Reaction

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