What is the Tiananmen Square Incident? Looking back on the nearly two months when China burned in the flames of democracy and gave birth to the symbol of nonviolence, the “tankman”.
It all started with the death of a leader who was known to be pro-Japanese. What happened in the period of 2 months?
June 4, 2020, will mark 31 years since the Tiananmen Square massacre, in which the People’s Liberation Army used force to crush students and citizens who had gathered in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square to demand democracy (the June 4th Tiananmen Square Incident).
The full extent of the incident has yet to be uncovered, and it is not possible to speak about it publicly in China. We look back on this incident to find out what it was all about.
The so-called “June 4th Tiananmen Square massacre” is also known as “The Second Tiananmen Square massacre”. The first one was in 1976, when people gathered at Tiananmen Square to mourn the death of Prime Minister Zhou Enlai Citizens developed criticism of the “Gang of Four”, a group of Mao’s close associates who were gaining extreme political power.
The trigger of the second Tiananmen Square gathering was by the death of former General Secretary Hu Yaobang, a liberal and well-known pro-Japanese leader, who died of a heart attack on April 15, 1989. When students gathered in Tiananmen Square to mourn Hu, their demands ranged from restoring Hu’s honor to the democratization of China. The call for a change in the government.
The leaders of China at that time were General Secretary Zhao Ziyang and conservative Prime Minister Li Peng, and behind them were Deng Xiaoping, who was selected by Zhao to lead the country. The Communist Party initially gave tacit approval to the movement, but on April 25, Deng Xiaoping called the student movement a “deliberate conspiracy”. It was quickly identified as a “rebellion”. In the In response, the next day the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party, published an editorial criticizing the “upheaval”.
In response, the students’ opposition grew stronger. The students had their eyes on Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev’s visit to China, scheduled for May 15. The media, not only of China, but also of the world, would be watching China.
General Secretary Gorbachev came to China on schedule. Then Zhao Ziyang, who was relatively tolerant of the movement, told him that “the key issues would still be steered by Comrade Deng Xiaoping and that he still holds real power in the shadows. The next day, the students issued the May 17 Declaration, directly accusing Deng of being a “dictator,” among other things. The rift between the two sides then deepens as the Communist Party government imposes martial law.
At this point in time, it is estimated that about one million people had gathered in Tiananmen Square, including intellectuals and the media.
After General Secretary Gorbachev returned to the Soviet, Zhao Ziyang went to the students at Tiananmen Square and told them that they had come too late. He left with the words, “I’m sorry”. Zhao was never seen in public again until his death in 2005.
Then, in the early morning June 4, the People’s Liberation Army stepped in to crush the situation by force. The martial law troops fired on civilians and students and otherwise used force to put down the situation. After the incident, the authorities claimed that 319 people had been killed.
But that figure has been noted as an underreported figure. Some estimates put the number in the thousands, but according to the BBC, a diplomatic document released by Britain in 2017 states The British ambassador to China at the time, Alan Donald, reported the death toll as “at least 10,000”.
In the course of this tragedy, a man who later will be called a hero rose up. He was a man who stood in front of a tank unit, unarmed. The man went around in front of the tanks trying to bypass it and blocked its path. He then tried to persuade the soldier inside to climb up to the tank.
In the end, the man was taken away from the tank team, accompanied by what appeared to be comrades who had rushed to the scene, but his nonviolent resistance to the armed suppression of the situation is still talked about today and he is referred to as the “tank man”.
The Nobel Peace Prize-winning author Liu Xiaobo, who later drafted Charter 08, which called for the democratization of China, was one of the student leaders who participated in the movement.
After the Tiananmen Square massacre, China fell into international isolation. This was because it was heavily criticized by Western countries, and also Japan. Countries temporarily suspended economic exchanges and imposed economic sanctions on China.
Japan extended a helping hand, and as a result, China was able to return to the international community. But the reform and opening-up policy advocated by Deng Xiaoping was about to run into a major obstacle in the wake of the Tiananmen Square incident. .
In China, the Tiananmen Square massacre is still considered a taboo subject. If you search for “Tiananmen Square Incident” on Baidu, the largest search engine, what comes up is only the first Tiananmen Square Incident The “the June 4th Tiananmen Square massacre” where armed suppression has been used is totally erased.