Political and Social Movements

Tiananmen Square

What happened at China’s Tiananmen Square?

In 1989 Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, the largest public square in the world, became the site of a student protest and massacre. Three years before the demonstration, freedom of speech and other democratic beliefs began being espoused on university campuses. In increasing numbers China’s youth were demanding political reform. They found a sympathizer in the general secretary (the highest ranking officer) of the Communist Party, Hu Yaobang (1915–1989), who, despite criticism from conservatives in government, adhered to his liberal views, particularly concerning freedom of expression. In January 1987 Hu was removed from his post; he died in April 1989, at which time students organized marches in his honor and demonstrated in favor of democratic reforms. On June 4, 1989, Chinese troops fired on the protesters in Tiananmen Square, killing more than 200 and later arresting anyone thought to be involved in China’s pro-democracy movement. The actions raised fury around the world. International observers continued to monitor the tenuous situation in China, where evidence surfaced that the government was continuing its pattern of human rights violations.


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