The Tiananmen Square protests, known in China as the June Fourth Incident were student-led demonstrations held in Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China, lasting from 15 April to 4 June 1989. On the night of 3 June, after weeks of attempts to resolve the conflict peacefully, including negotiations from both sides, the Chinese government declared martial law, and deployed troops to occupy the square in what is often referred to as the Tiananmen Square massacre. The events are sometimes called the '89 Democracy Movement, the Tiananmen Square Incident, or the Tiananmen uprising.
|1989 Tiananmen Square protests and massacre|
|Part of the Cold War, the Revolutions of 1989 and the Chinese democracy movement|
From top to bottom, left to right: People protesting near the Monument to the People's Heroes; Chinese tanks after the massacre outside of the United States Embassy; a burned vehicle in Zhongguancun Street in Beijing; Pu Zhiqiang, a student protester at Tiananmen; and a banner in support of the June Fourth Student Movement in Shanghai Fashion Store (formerly the Xianshi Company Building)
|Date||15 April – 4 June 1989|
(1 month, 2 weeks and 6 days)
Beijing, China and 400 cities nationwide
|Goals||End of corruption within the Chinese Communist Party, as well as democratic reforms, freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of association, social equality, democratic input on economic reforms|
|Methods||Hunger strike, sit-in, civil disobedience, occupation, rioting|
|Death(s)||See Death toll|
The protests were precipitated by the death of pro-reform Chinese Communist Party (CCP) general secretary Hu Yaobang in April 1989 amid the backdrop of rapid economic development and social change in post-Mao China, reflecting anxieties among the people and political elite about the country's future. The reforms of the 1980s had led to a nascent market economy that benefited some people but seriously disadvantaged others, and the one-party political system also faced a challenge to its legitimacy. Common grievances at the time included inflation, corruption, limited preparedness of graduates for the new economy, and restrictions on political participation. Although they were highly disorganized and their goals varied, the students called for greater accountability, constitutional due process, democracy, freedom of the press, and freedom of speech. Workers' protests were generally focused on inflation and the erosion of welfare. These groups united around anti-corruption demands, adjusting economic policies, and protecting social security. At the height of the protests, about one million people assembled in the square.
As the protests developed, the authorities responded with both conciliatory and hardline tactics, exposing deep divisions within the party leadership. By May, a student-led hunger strike galvanized support around the country for the demonstrators, and the protests spread to some 400 cities. On 20 May, the State Council declared martial law, and as many as 300,000 troops were mobilized to Beijing.
After several weeks of standoffs and violent confrontations between the army and demonstrators left many on both sides severely injured, a meeting held among the CCP's top leadership on 1 June concluded with a decision to clear the square. The troops advanced into central parts of Beijing on the city's major thoroughfares in the early morning hours of 4 June and engaged in bloody clashes with demonstrators attempting to block them, in which many people – demonstrators, bystanders, and soldiers – were killed. Estimates of the death toll vary from several hundred to several thousand, with thousands more wounded.
The United States as well as many other foreign countries criticized the Chinese government for its handling of the protests. Western countries imposed arms embargoes on China, and various Western media outlets labeled the crackdown a "massacre". In the aftermath of the protests, the Chinese government made widespread arrests of protesters and suppressed other protests around China. The government also invested heavily into creating more effective police riot control units. More broadly, the suppression ended the political reforms begun in 1986 and halted the policies of liberalization of the 1980s, which were only partly resumed after Deng Xiaoping's Southern Tour in 1992. Considered a watershed event, reaction to the protests set limits on political expression in China that have lasted up to the present day. The events remain one of the most sensitive and most widely censored topics in China.