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    China Chronology

    Tiananmen Square Massacre

    1989

    Beginning with the Cultural Revolution, youth under the age of 18 had not been allowed to attend an official church, read the Bible, or be baptized in China. The combination of a lack of spiritual values, discontent with the tenets and ideas of the Communist Party, and increasing openness to Western ideas, finally drove youth and workers alike to the streets of Beijing to demonstrate for democracy.

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    Following the death of Former Party General Secretary Hu Yaobang in April of 1989, people gathered in Tiananmen Square to commemorate Hu and voice their discontents. Then, on April 27 students from more than 40 universities marched to Tiananmen in protest of an April 26 editorial which accused a small group of plotters of stirring up unrest in order to overthrow the Communist Party and the socialist system.

    On May 13, 1989, several students began a hunger strike at Tiananmen Square in the afternoon and formal talks with the government began a day later but they quickly broke down. Among the demands of the students and workers were more democracy, less corruption, and accurate press coverage. Days later, after no conclusion was reached, the government prepared to declare martial law. When this news was leaked to the students, they called off the hunger strike and declared a mass sit-in. On May 20, the government declared martial law in Beijing, but the army's advance towards the city was blocked by large numbers of students and citizens. During this time, there was continual disagreement between the group leaders of the demonstration.

    On June 3, 1989, troops received orders to reclaim Tiananmen Square at all costs. Much of what happened that night is unknown. What is known is that soldiers opened fire that night on people trying to block the army's advance as well as those who were simply shouting at the troops. Around 1:00 a.m. on June 4, the troops surrounded the square, waiting for further orders. After negotiating with the army, the hunger strikers agreed to leave the square. By dawn, several thousand students, teachers and supporters left the square at gunpoint.

    Due to a lack of witnesses, the exact number of people killed in this so-called "Tiananmen Square Massacre" is not known. Some say that it was as few as 500 and as many as 3000. In fact, there was no massacre in Tiananmen Square on the night of June 3. What did happen was the needless killing of numerous people on the way to the square, combined with the active imaginations of the numerous reporters on the scene.

    Sources:

    Schell, Orville Mandate of Heaven: The Legacy of Tianamen Square and the Next Generation of China's Leaders Touchstone Books September 1995 

    Tianamen Square:  Visited: March 31, 2000 

    Views on Tianamen Square and graphic pictures: Vistited: March 31, 2000 

    Gate of Heavenly Peace  Vistited: March 31, 2000 

    The Arts Today: Remembering Tianamen Visited: March 31, 2000


    Edited by: Becca Gutman, Von Steuben High School, Chicago, IL
    Researched by: Mary Jardine, Von Steuben High School, Chicago, IL
    Written by: Ashley Pletz, Von Steuben High School, Chicago, IL
    1 April 2000 

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