On 4 June 1989, there was a massive protest that led to what was known as the “June 4th Massacre” that happened at Tiananmen Square, the heart of Beijing. There are valuable political values and lessons to be derived from the Tian An Men protests and massacre that are still relevant today. As the 25th anniversary of the political event, we give you a brief account of the 8 facts that you need to know about Tiananmen.
Background (a very brief account):
After the death of Mao Zedong and the end of the Mao-era of Cultural Revolution, Deng XiaoPing emerged as the leader of China in 1978. With a different approach, the political reform focused to achieve material prosperity in the country. Poverty fell, agriculture are privatized – however, inflation soared and this created fear of future and aggravation of many social problems.
Following the death of Hu Yaobang, who supported political liberalization, many students who supported his ideology begun the protest which escalated.
1) The protests lasted from 15 April 1989 to 4 June 1989, a total of 1 month, 2 weeks and 6 days
2) The government suppressed many domestic media of news or reports on this incident. As a result, many details are speculated or inaccurate.
3) Deaths include university professors, technical people, officials, high school students and grade school students. The youngest was only 9 years old.
4) Death toll as released by the government to be 241. Estimated numbers were higher, at 2600. Numbers could not be confirmed with the lack of information.
5) “We entreat you in peace, for democracy and freedom of the motherland, for strength and prosperity of the Chinese nation, please comply with the will of the people and refrain from using force against peaceful student demonstrators,” was the plea that the students made to the troops of the martial law.
7) A man stood in the middle of the wide avenue, directly in the path of a column of approaching Type 59 tanks on June 5, 1989. He wore a white shirt and black pants, and held two shopping bags, one in each hand. This photograph taken was featured on Time 100: The Most Important People of the Century.
8) Twenty-five years after the bloody military crackdown on the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests, China is seeking to quell all discussion of the massacre by locking up, charging or harassing artists, scholars, lawyers, bloggers and relatives of victims.
Writer: Leong Chee Sheng