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.

On April 15, 1989, Hu Yaobang dies from a heart attack, providing the catalyst for the beginnings of the protest.

On April 15, 1989, Hu Yaobang dies from a heart attack, providing the catalyst for the beginnings of the protest.

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.

Martial Law in Tiananmen Square

Tank Man in Tiananmen Square

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.

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6 responses

  1. I remember watching this unfold on cable news while up late and early with my new born little baby boy. It filled me with hope as I saw the students assemble and protest for reform. Then it filled me with fear as I saw the tanks roll in and students stand to block them. In the end it saddened and angered me the loss of bright young minds as the government clamped down rather than listen. May these young people always be remembered as heroes.

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  2. Birgit says:

    I remember this so well especially that brave man in front of the tanks and I was so scared for these people. I knew from my parents and history that this would not end well because one is dealing with a Communist government. They do not take kindly to these demonstrations.

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  3. jazzfeathers says:

    I was very young, but I remember those days. It feels like it lasted so, so long.

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  4. It saddens me that despite so many people taking action on this one day, China is still so very far away from democracy. As is Hong Kong (where I live).

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