On April 15, 1989, 100,000 students gathered at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China to honor the death of Hu Yaobang, a former leader of the Communist Party and a supporter of democratic reforms.
The students voiced their discontent with China’s authoritative government. The government didn’t agree to meet with reform leaders and over the next few weeks students from more than 40 universities began to fill Tiananmen Square. Soon they were joined by others and the number of people grew to more than a million. On May 20, the government formally declared martial law in Beijing and troops and tanks were brought in to disperse the crowd. The students and citizens blocked the army’s advance.
On June 3, 1989, with negotiations to end the protests stalled and calls for democratic reforms escalating, the troops received orders from the Chinese government to seize control of Tiananmen Square and the streets of Beijing. Hundreds were killed and thousands arrested. This went on for weeks afterwards. The incident outraged the international community and the economic sanctions imposed by the United States and other countries sent China’s economy into decline. By 1990, when China released several hundred prisoners, international trade resumed.