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Tiananmen Square


Last Updated: Thursday, 27. May 2004 22:26 -0400

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Tiananmen Square is a large public square in Beijing, China. Tiananmen means “Gates of Heavenly Peace” and the square holds the monument of the heroes, the museum of history and revolution, the Great Hall of the People, and the Mao Zedong Memorial Hall. This would seem to be an ideal place for students to hold an uprising for a democracy. The square was not the first time they did an uprising though. In late 1985 and early 1986, students in Shanghai and Beijing protested carting signs with slogans “Law, Not Authoritarianism" and "Long Live Democracy."

The students’ strategy to protest was to pretend to protest something the Chinese Government would allow, such as anti-Japanese demonstrations or support for political leaders, but when the students gather, they actually start protesting against the Chinese Government.

The Tiananmen Square protest was over the death of Hu Yaobang, former Communist Party General Secretary who sympathized with the protesters who resigned in 1987. His death on April 15, 1989 fueled the fire in Tiananmen Square. At first the students were there to mourn but soon thousands turned it into a political protest. The situation continued to worsen and on May 20 Martial Law was declared. On June 2, the first acts of violence on both sides occurred. The police fired Tear Gas on the crown while the students threw rocks.

The next day 10 to 15 thousand fully equipped troops headed toward the city center carrying fully automatic weapons. An eyewitness account of a Chinese-American reports that a beating to death of a PLA soldier on one of the first APCs into the city sparked the shooting against the protesters. The protesters fought back by tipping military vehicles and setting them on fire with Molotov cocktails. Violence ensued.

In the chaos, the PLA 27th army was blamed for the massacre on June 3rd and was also accused of shooting their own soldiers who got in the way. Many witnesses reported that some of the military were fighting each other in some area during the next couple of days. Also on June 7 there were reports of PLA soldiers shooting in the direction of the American embassy raising tension.

The U.S. did not approve of the actions taken by the Chinese and placed sanctions on them 2 days before. Also, the U.S. embassy did take in leaders of the Chinese uprising and stopped military meetings between the two countries leaders.

Some would say the end of the killing in the square was on June 6, 1989. The aftermath of the entire ordeal left many dead and wounded. No one is sure how many casualties there were on the protesters side but some reports go up to 3,000. The Chinese Red Cross estimated 2,600 military and civilian deaths with 7,000 wounded. The Tiananmen Square incident ended large student protests in China and forced them underground. The U.S. tried desperately after to keep relations with the Chinese open.

In the end, with China seeing communism governments falling all around them, they felt threatened and used force to preserver their power.