Three decades since Tiananmen Square assault
June 3-5, 2019 -- On the night of June 3, 1989, the Chinese Army rolled into Beijing’s Tiananmen Square to brutally crush the largest political protest in communist China’s history, killing thousands of citizens.
In the spring of 1989, more than one million Chinese students and workers occupied Tiananmen Square and began six weeks of protests, calling for greater freedom and democracy and an end to what they called dictatorship and government corruption.
An editorial in the state-run People’s Daily newspaper on May 18 closely mirrors views expressed by paramount leader Deng Xiaoping -- that the protests are an anti-government revolt -- further fueling public anger.
Zhao Ziyang, the official head of the Communist Party, says the protests will gradually subside, and in the early hours of May 19, Zhao visits the protesters in Tiananmen Square and makes a final, unsuccessful appeal for a compromise.
Zhao, who wanted China to introduce far-reaching political reforms, reportedly admitted to the crowd: “We have come too late.” It was to be one of his last public acts. The party erased him from Chinese history for what officials deemed his “serious mistakes” that day.
The following day, May 20, Deng and Premier Li Peng declared martial law and the People’s Liberation Army moved towards the city centre.
On June 2, Communist Party elders approved a decision to put down the “counter-revolutionary riot” by force and the next day the infamous military assault on the Tiananmen Square protests began.
No one will ever know the true extent of the massacre, but a cable from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing on June 22, 1989, cites a figure from the Chinese Red Cross of 2,600 military and civilian deaths with 7,000 wounded to be “not an unreasonable estimate.” Official figures put the toll at 200-300 people killed and 7,000 injured.