Tiananmen Square Incident

Tiananamen Square Incident

Death of Hu Yaobang

April 15, 1989

Beijing University students gather around the Heroes' monument in Tiananmen Square to mourn the death of Hu Yaobang, who had stepped down from his position as General Secretary, because of issues regarding his more liberal approach to politics.

University Students March

April 18, 1989 - April 28, 1989

A Beijing University Student stated: “Hu Yaobang’s death is not the reason for this demonstration. It is the excuse.”
Thousands of students march through the capital to mourn the death of Hu Yaobang, but also to call for a more democratic government.
Once the students begin to clash with the guards blocking the entrance of the Zhongnanhai compound (houses many government officials), they are advised that their protests would no longer be allowed.
By April 22, the number of students rallying rose to 70,000. Their sheer numbers were enough to overcome the government's attempts to block their rallies. The students were able to force their way into the Zhongnanhai compound, and after their rioting, where they had burned 20 houses and injured 130 officers, no one was reported dead, and only 18 protestors were arrested.
By April 27, their numbers rise to 150,000, and instead of violence, they all link their arms together and sing revolutionary songs in the square. In an interview, a student admitted: "I don't know exactly what democracy is, but we need more of it."

First Party Leadership Meeting

April 25, 1989

Prime Minister Li Peng and other officials go to Chairman of the CPC Military Commission Deng Xioaping’s home to report on student demonstrations.
During this meeting Chairman Deng Xiaoping stated that: “This is no ordinary student movement. The students have been raising a ruckus for ten days now, and we’ve been tolerant and restrained… they want to confuse the people and throw the country into chaos. This is a well-planned plot whose real aim is to reject Chinese Communist Party and the socialist system at the most fundamental level.”

The "People's Daily" April 26 Editorial

April 26, 1989

The People's Daily publishes an editorial accusing protestors of plotting to create turmoil aimed at overthrowing the communist regime.
The author wrote about how the government should aim to "make perfect our socialist democracy and our legal system under the party leadership" -- an argument staunchly against the protestors.

Students begin their protests again

May 4, 1989 - June 4, 1989

The students gain popularity and support while their "gongzilian" party organization gains "legal" recognition (not truly legal, but the students and workers themselves recognized it as legal).
Headlines such as: "Resolute Student Protestors Now the Pride of Beijing," and "Hunger Strikers, Heart of China Protest" published in New York Times during this period.

While the hunger strikers spent most of their striking time sleeping due to weakness, their steadfastness demonstrated their dedication to their cause.
Martial Law declared on May 20, and when troops were called into the capital, tens of thousands of Beijing citizens left their homes to block the troops from reaching the student demonstrators. It was then discovered that Zhao Ziyang had been stripped of all his powers as General Secretary.
A few days after the martial law was declared, a young worker shouted: "We must resort to a strike to rouse the Government. The power really lies in the people. China must no longer be controlled and manipulated by one man."
May 27: Chinese students call for an end to their occupation of Tiananmen Square, but stated that they would continue to stage demonstrations in favor of democracy and the resignation of Prime Minister Li Peng.
The students continue to demonstrate until they are put down forcibly by the military.

Students begin hunger strike

May 13, 1989

The students who decide to go on a hunger strike to prove their loyalty to their cause are supported by citizens of Beijing who bring them food and water to keep them from losing their health.

"Trends in Tiananmen Square" fax

May 13, 1989

Sent from State Security Ministry to Party Central and State Council duty offices:
"Today, more than one thousand students began a hunger strike in the Square. About twenty thousand students and citizens looked on during the day, and this number grew to one hundred thousand in the evening... The striking students were regularly supplied with drinking water, soda, sugar and medicine. By 10PM more than a dozen of them had fainted or stopped their fast, but it hasn't worked. The Square is so crowded -- all kinds of people milling about with their slogans and banners -- that the student representatives themselves say they have no real control of things."

Student occupation of Tiananmen Square

May 15, 1989

Students occupy Beijing’s central square to hold their own welcoming ceremony for Gorbachev.
100,000 workers and students gather again to grieve their demands for more democracy and less corruption.

Elders decide on Martial Law and Li Peng meets with students

May 18, 1989

In this meeting, Bo Yibo, the Vice Chairman of the Central Advisory Commission, states: “It was no accident that the student movement turned into turmoil”
Additionally, Li Peng met with students, and stated that no one had claimed that the majority of the students had created turmoil, but that it had been created nonetheless. In response, a student leader stated that the only way to get the students out of the square would be to classify their actions as patriotic and televise student leader speeches and interviews.

Zhao Ziyang begs for the end of the hunger strike

May 19, 1989

In an attempt to quell the protestors, and knowing his time as General Secretary of the Communist Party of China was coming to an end, Secretary Zhao Ziyang stated: "We demonstrated and lay across railroad tracks when we were young, too, and took no thought for the future. But I have to ask you to think carefully about the future. Many issues will be resolved eventually. I beg you to end the hunger strike."

Blockades set up by protestors

May 21, 1989

According to a cable sent from the US embassy in Beijing, the army was met with a system of blockades which allowed the students to control central Beijing. Buses were turned sideways to form roadblocks
An anonymous caller reached the US consulate in Shenyang and threatened to lead a general workers’ strike unless the students were treated with more respect.

Elders meet and decide to clear Tiananmen square

June 2, 1989

In this meeting, Prime Minister Li Peng stated: “The reactionary elements believe the government will eventually crack down if they refuse to withdraw from the square. Their plot is to provoke conflict and create bloodshed incidents, clamoring that ‘blood will awaken the people and cause the government to split and collapse."
Additionally, Qiao Shi (2nd Secretary of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection) stated: “The facts show that we can’t expect the students on the square to withdraw voluntarily. Clearing the square is our only option, and it’s quite necessary.”

Chinese Military perspective on beginning of Incident

June 3, 1989

Order to clear the square: 4PM emergency meeting held with military officials.
During this meeting, President Yang Shangkun stated that: “The situation has become extremely volatile – beyond what anybody’s goodwill can handle”
And: “Solve the problem before dawn tomorrow. He means our martial law troops should completely finish their task of clearing the Square before sunup… Be reasonable with the students and make sure they see the logic in what we’re doing; the troops should resort to ‘all means necessary’ only if everything else fails. In other words, before we clear the Square, we should use TV and radio to advise the students and citizens to avoid the streets at all costs, and we should ask the ones who are in the Square to leave of their own accord. In short, we’ve got to do an excellent job on propaganda work; it has to be clear to everyone that we stand with the people, and we must do everything we possibly can to avoid bloodshed.”

In the Martial Law Command Bulletin, it is stated that: “Their retreat was hindered by the roadblocks they had set up, and for this reason some in the crowd were trampled and badly injured”

Chinese Military perspective on the day of the Incident

June 4, 1989

State Security Ministry Important Intelligence 2AM: troops stopped by students who were throwing bricks. Anti-riot brigade instructed to move in, were stopped and regular troops were sent in → shots fired, but not hitting the students; some soldiers hit by rocks, and began shooting at anyone who yelled “Facists!” or tried to fight back → 100 or more citizens/students were shot, mostly just wounded

Infantry able to clear street of roadblocks set up by protestors → armored cars and army trucks drove onto Muxidi Bridge and there was no cease in the firing from the troops → students pushed electric buses into the street and set fire to them after troops had passed to block further troops

1:30 AM: Fuxingmenwai Boulevard and Muxidi Bridge surrounding area were “deserted and shrouded in deathly silence”

4AM deadline for clearing the square → all lights went out in the square, “We will now begin clearing the square, and we accept your appeal to evacuate” broadcast over the protestors

Beijing government and martial law command broadcast a “notice concerning the immediate restoration of order in Tiananmen square” which established strict enforcement of the martial law
Students began to light a bonfire → martial law troops advanced toward monument and through the crowd → moved students to a corner of the square, many left but about 200 remained
Officers in the square fired their weapons in the air and shouted “If no one attacks me, I attack no one” → 5:40 AM square cleared

No citizens were shot or run over in the square itself

US perspective on the day of the Incident

June 4, 1989

Tens of thousands of Chinese troops take the center of the capital. Students and workers killed, hundreds more wounded.

Casualty reports unclear: Beijing hospitals reported receiving 68 corpses, four other hospitals refused to disclose their numbers → students say at least 500 people killed.

Post Tiananmen Incident reports from US

June 12, 1989

China news programs try to transform Tiananmen incident into a heroic operation against a “counterrevolutionary plot." Their new programs portray articles/witness’ accounts as rumors.

Xiao Bin, who had initially spoken out about the incident in an interview with ABC was later detained for telling someone that 20,000 people had been killed “I apologize for bringing great harm to the party and the country”
Chinese programs showed wounded

A british journalist states: "It is also possible that many people might prefer the official version of things because, in this instance, the truth is so unpalatable. People might just have a hard time believing that their own government could have done such a thing.''