by Paige Russell, Amelia Sadler, and Owen Kellenberger


  • Student protesters were angry that "...the powerful were only getting more powerful" (Chiu). They wanted a democratic nation, not a communist one, and were prepared to fight for what they believed in.
  • Over 100,000 people, mainly students, gathered in the streets in Tiananmen Square to protest the government, and advocate democratic reform. It started out a peaceful protest.
  • The Chinese government sent troops to break up protest in fear that the students would constitute a threat to the government and the Chinese communism. The Communist Chinese government also didn't want to look weak by letting the protesters take over the square (Szczepanski).
  • The first time the troops came to break-up the protests they were unarmed. Later, they decided that the protest had gotten too far out of hand though, and started to bring in weapons. The government then brought in troops armed with guns and tanks. The army then shot and terrorized the protesters in hopes that they would disperse.
  • The troops randomly shot into crowds. They ran over people with tanks, killing about 3,000 people, although the exact number will never be known and is often disputed.
  • After the massacre, many of the protesters received short jail sentences, and some were executed. It was also hard for many student protesters to get jobs after the protest due to black-listing (Szczepanski).
  • Around the world, many countries reacted to the protest. People all over the world were shocked and disgusted by what they saw and heard about on T.V. The UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was especially mad by this event and said that she was "shocked and appalled by the shootings."
  • Today the Chinese government tries not to deal with the deadly massacre. The incident is blocked from many Chinese websites, and the government has tried to erase the whole event completely (Szczepanski).

Throughout the 1980's China suffered serious economic unrest incited by high inflation, lack of ready cash and a growing movement for democratic reform. In May 1989 an estimated 100,00 pro-democratic students and workers peacefully protested, by marching on to Tiananmen Square and refusing to move until their demands for democratic reform were met (Szczepanski). The protests began May 4, and on May 20 martial law was declared by the Chinese government which felt embarrassed for allowing such protests to continue unhindered (Torr, James). As days and even weeks went by, more and more civilians joined in the effort. The Chinese government described the protest as "social chaos," and decided that the square must be cleared at all costs (Torr, James). The Chinese military was ordered into to Tiananmen Square, where they shot blindly into crowds of innocent people. An estimated 200 people were killed and 3,000 more injured (How Many).

However, this is only the story at face value. The actual massacre of June 3 and 4 was not a direct result from the martial law enacted May 20, but was rather the effect of governmental fear. The first attempt to clear the city of protests actually began in late May when troops and tanks were ordered to clear the square (The Tank Man). Protesters from every corner of the city converged on the troops from both directions, effectively preventing their entrance or escape from the streets (The Tank Man). The movement is known as flood tactics, which allowed individuals to approach Chinese military troops and beg them to leave (The Tank Man). Many individuals would bring their small children to speak with the frozen troops, telling them to explain to the troops how unnecessary their presence was in the city (The Tank Man). To win their hearts they even endeavored to feed and supply the troops water. The tactics worked, for after four days the troops withdrew from the city and and the protesters rejoiced. At the same time the movement was moving less in the direction of "student led" and was expanding to incorporate more of the average chinese workers. The combination of this shift in democratic focus as well as the humiliation of having their tanks deterred by civilians caused the Chinese government to take drastic measures for fear of the collapse of communism (The Tank Man).

On June 3rd the Chinese government ordered the military to have Tiananmen Square cleared by 6 a.m. the following day, June 4 (The Tank Man). The citizens of Beijing barricaded the roads in the hope that they would win again, the hearts and minds of the soldiers and deter them from further entrance. However, the Chinese government was too humiliated to allow for further embarrassment, and ordered the military to clear the square despite any attempts otherwise. The ensuing incident was horrific. Soldiers began firing at random in the square, killing the very people they were intended to protect (The Tank Man). People who lived in the apartments surrounding the square were shot dead on their balconies (The Tank Man). A detail often left undiscussed because of its minute nature, is the type of ammunition the soldiers used while firing at innocent civilians. The bullets were those designed for combat, intended to shred the internal organs of its target to prevent doctors from healing the casualty (The Tank Man). The metal surrounding the bullet would spiral off, slicing through muscle and tissue, rendering it irreparable (The Tank Man). Beyond this, the Chinese government implemented further tactics to shock and terrify its civilians. At 4:15 every light in the square went out, and the protesters and soldiers were plunged into complete darkness for ten minutes, after which spotlights were turned on (The Tank Man). The entire event was drastically hyperbolic, intended by the government to shock and horrify its nation into the preservation of its communist regime, and to quell any future thought of uprising.

What followed the military cleansing of Tienanmen Square, reflects the sinister actions of Chinese officials behind the incident as well as the goals of the communist government. When the Chinese Red Cross reported the death toll on June 4th to be at 2,600, they were almost immediately contacted by the Chinese government and the report ordered down to 261 dead, 7,000 injured (The Tank Man). A common myth surrounding the Tiananmen Square protests is that the Chinese military massacred the group of protesting students. In reality they were forced to leave, but not one was fired upon by the Chinese soldiers. The true massacre happened the next day when the students' parents, rescuers, doctors and nurses converged on the square and attempted to re-enter the place. The soldiers surrounding the square warned them that if they continued to try and break through the barricade, they would be shot (The Tank Man). Hearing this, they fled the square. As they ran, the Chinese soldiers opened fire and shot in the back hundreds of surrendering and innocent civilians (The Tank Man). Later, as another attempt to terrify its nation into submission, the Chinese government held televised executions of participants of the Tiananmen Square protests, portraying them as the agents of foreign governments, criminals, and wrongdoers (The Tank Man). Tiananmen Square was in every sense, the attempts of an unstable and uncertain government to regain power and control through means of horror and surprise. But what is truly impressive of the event is the effects it had on China as a developing nation, and what a key component it has been to the economic development of the nation.

Today, China has overtaken the U.S in national consumption and is now the 2nd largest producer of automobiles (The Tank Man). Since 1989 it has seen a 9% increase in its economy every year and a drastic increase in foreign investment (The Tank Man). China has become the production line of the global market. All is a result of the deal the Chinese people made after the 1989 protests at Tiananmen Square. After the incident in June, the Chinese government established an unspoken agreement with its people that never again would political reform be advocated, but instead they would strive for an overhaul of their economic relations and economy (The Tank Man). Some call it a "deal with the devil," sacrificing one thing for the luxury of another (The Tank Man). As a result of the agreement, beginning in late 1989 China began removing restrictions on foreign investment, making it easier for foreign revenue to enter Chinese markets (The Tank Man). Special economic zones were created where trade was far less restricted and business flourished (The Tank Man). In 1989 the iconic skyline of Hong Kong did not exist. Since 1989 a new middle class has emerged in China, comprised of over 200 million individuals (The Tank Man). Peasants are now able to own (or rather lease) the land they work and are allowed to sell their products on the open market (The Tank Man). Despite no longer being able to challenge the party rule, the Chinese people became more and more satisfied with the greatest economic development the modern world has ever seen.

Yet, some argue that freedom in China has in fact been in decline since 1989. Wei Shi is the Chinese-American founder of the human rights and free speech advocating website (Shi, Wei). Despite being unable to participate in the student-led campaign against the government, Shi was working in Beijing in May and June of 1989 and listened each night to fellow students as they recalled the day's experience (Shi, Wei). According to Shi most Chinese citizens, and in particular the younger generation of Chinese youth, are completey unaware that the event ever occurred (Shi, Wei). Government censorship of the web has kept many things hidden from the Chinese public, the incident at Tiananmen Square included. Of course those determined enough to discover the true story find ways around the blocks. Typing English phrases into Google China makes it more difficult for automatic filters to work, sometimes allowing the real story to appear as a result (Shi, Wei). Another method used by the Chinese public when posting on discussion forums is to write so that when read from left to right, the normal way to read Chinese, the posting says nothing but when read from top to bottom is a discussion of the 1989 massacre (Shi, Wei). On the 20th anniversary of the incident in June of 2009, the Chinese government blacked out foreign news coverage and expanding its internet censorship (China Tightens). Between June 3rd and 4th of 2009 websites including Twitter, Microsoft's search engine Bing, Youtube, and Flickr were blocked in China (China Tightens). Such censorship exemplifies the state of democracy, or lack-there-of, in China even twenty years later. It is a continued suppression of the incident that quelled democratic twenty years ago, continued by the same school of thought. The Chinese government is silencing those who wish to speak against the government just as strongly today as they did in 1989. On the 20th anniversary some Chinese bloggers referred to the day as May 35th, rather than June 4th so as not to attract the attention of government watchdogs (China Tightens). Additionally some reported whole pages missing from international newspapers on June 3rd and 4th (China Tightens). Shi believes that before 1989 the Chinese people enjoyed freedom of speech more than they do today, one of the major reasons the students' campaign was able to gain footing in the first place. Certainly during the incident, security was extremely tight. One reporter remembers hiding film containing images of the military's actions in Tiananmen Square under the lid of a toilet just before Chinese officials came bursting into his hotel room (The Tank Man). Says Shi, "ater 1989 they tightened up. Of course people in the cities are richer now. But if you look at the situation of farmers; the environmental problems we're faced with; the water shortage that's becoming critical; the corruption...well, I wouldn't say that China's any better now than it was in 1989" (Shi, Wei).

Source Annotation

"BBC ON THIS DAY | 4 | 1989: Massacre in Tiananmen Square." BBC News. Web. 11 May 2011.

Summary: The BBC website provides information, pictures, and video footage of the Tiananmen Square Protest and Massacre. It also tells how other people felt about the massacre around the world, and provides people's reactions to the event.
Assess: The information is pretty thorough, and you can usually trust BBC news to be trustworthy. They quote important people, and some witnesses to the event. They even provide video footage of the Tiananmen Square Protest, so it looks accurate.
Reflect: I might use this source for the general description of the protest and massacre. I might also use it to show how people reacted to the massacre worldwide. I will also use it to show what exactly happened during the massacre.

Szczepanski, Kallie. "Tiananmen Square Massacre - 1989." Asian History - History of Asia. Web. 11 May 2011. <>.

Summary: This website provides information on the background of the Chinese government, and why the students were protesting. It also tells about the famous "Tank Man" and the bravery shown during the protest. It also gives information on the protest and tells about the aftermath.
Asses: The information seems fairly thorough on this website, and there is a lot of information that makes it look like a good source to use. The website provides a lot of information on the causes of the protest, and the protest itself. It looks accurate.
Reflect: I might use this source to show what caused the the protest to happen, and what caused the government to order the massacre on the protesters. I will also use it to find information about the famous "Tank Man" and the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square Massacre.

Twist, Clint. Take Ten Years: 1980s. Keyport: Steck-Vaughn, 1994. Print.

Summary: This source provides background information on the topic of the Tiananmen Square Protests and Massacre. It provides a summary of the protests, and has information on the general idea of the topic.
Asses: The information looks accurate, but there is not a lot of information about this topic found in the book. This was the only book I could find information on the Tiananmen Square Protests though, and it looks pretty trustworthy.
Reflect: I might use this source for the Overview of the Tiananmen Square Protests and Massacre. I will use this source to get the general idea of the topic, and summarize what happened.

"China Tightens Information Controls for Tiananmen Anniversary." The Age - Business, World & Breaking News | Melbourne, Australia. 4 June 2009. Web. 11 May 2011. <>.

Summary: The information in this article is an exploration of the censorship conducted by the Chinese government in June of 2009 during the event's 20th anniversary. It describes the multiple ways Chinese officials hid or withdrew information about the Tiananmen protests, including the blocking of popular websites such as MSN, Hotmail, Bing and Youtube. It explains how taboo it is to even reference the event and that as a result most Chinese children are unaware of its existence.
Assess: The website is a legitimate news source, and rather revealing as to the more detailed aspects of the issue and its modern effects. It has a rather accusing tone when it discusses the actions of the Chinese government, meaning that the information is most likely inclined to get readers to feel sympathy for the Chinese public whose history is being censored. It also includes a video clip of a news report on the issue that coincides with the article's topic, bolstering the legitimacy of its information.
Reflect: I would most certainly use this information to explain how even today, the issue is a touchy subject amongst the Chinese government. It is a great modern example of the almost omniscient power of particular governments, and the lengths they will go to achieve their political goals. This will give others an idea of the societal impacts that the event had on the individual Chinese citizen.

McCartney, Jane. "Identity of Tank Man of Tiananmen Square Remains a Mystery - Times Online."The Times | UK News, World News and Opinion. 30 May 2009. Web. 11 May 2011. <>.

Summary: This article discusses the unknown identity of the young man who stopped a line of tanks exiting Tiananmen square, who is known everywhere but in China as the "Tank Man". It explains how his face was never captured on camera and what has become of him was never discovered. The article also gives a short explanation of the event which was captured on cameras at the time. At the bottom of the article there is an even shorter summary of the Tiananmen protests themselves.
Assess: I trust the information on this source as it is a well respected news outlet. The Times is a well informed magazine that reports on worldwide events. The tone of the writing is certainly that of support for the democratic promotion that was the underlying cause of the "Tank Man"'s confrontation, and is subtly glorifying the man.
Reflect: This site could be very useful in helping me to explain the individual instances of democratic promotion in China at the time, and how the "Tank Man" has since become a universal sign of democracy. It could also be used to reveal how that despite his fame as a symbol of governmental rebellion, nothing about him is known beyond what was captured on camera the day he stood before a line of tanks. I think the article lends itself well to the discussion of how despite a lack of thorough knowledge one sight can become a universal symbol, and how strong such symbols can be.

Shi, Wei. "What Do the Chinese Know about Tiananmen Square? | The Observers." The Observers | De France 24. 6 May 2008. Web. 11 May 2011. <>.

Summary: I find this to be a very illuminating article written by Wei Shi, a Chinese human rights and free speech advocate. The article is his relfection on the censorship of the Chinese government and the "tightening up" of their monitoring of information on the internet. He reflects on the secret ways of getting around certain blocks about information about the incident, pointing out the flaws in the Chinese government's attempts to erase the event from history. He describes how the 1989 incident actually increased censorship and control in China, saying that "society was more free then, than it is now."
Assess: The website is an international news source with multiple other categories of news articles as well as a up to date articles written by staff-writers. Also, the article itself is written from the point of view of a man who lived during the protests and shared in the experience. He is an actual activist for human rights and free speech, so he is well qualified to be discussing the modern effects of China's oppressive government.
Reflect:This is an article that could be used to explore the parallels between the incident and the modern day. It could help explain the differences in the government's attempts at censorship both then and now and whether or not Wei Shi is correct in his belief that the country is deprived more of freedom today than it was in 1989. I think it could lead to a very interesting discussion about the political motivation and the endurance of the party's desire to continually keep the incident out of the public's knowledge.

"How Many Really Died? Tiananmen Square Fatalities - TIME." Breaking News, Analysis, Politics, Blogs, News Photos, Video, Tech Reviews - Web. 13 May 2011. <,9171,970278,00.html>.

Summary: This is a very well written article, as those of Time Magazine tend to be. This article is all about the statistics, of what really happened at Tiananmen Square, how many people died, and how many people were injured. This article informs the reader on solid non-bias facts, and gives direct quotes from eye witnesses.
Assess: This website is a well know and long standing news provider. I have no doubt that this source is completely credible, and I think Time Magizine is pretty well known for being unbiased and informative.
Reflect: The statistics in this article were really quite shocking. To see that an estimated 200 people were killed and 3,000 more injured is awful. This was a well written article, and I found it pretty interesting.

Reflections and Conclusions

What strikes me as the most unbelievable aspect of this incident, is not the massacre of innocents, though that is terrifying, but rather is how the incident has changed the political landscape of China. I can't imagine living in a country where information has been purposefully omitted in newspapers, or websites blocked to prevent people from witnessing things the government doesn't want them to witness. Even today, video cameras and photographic cameras are routinely confiscated and or banned from Tiananmen Square. There is an entire generation of young Chinese who are completely unaware that such a historic turning point ever existed. I wonder what the global economy would look like today if it weren't for the suppression of democracy that ultimately led to a flourish of capitalism and economic growth in China. As the research shows it was the unspoken agreement between the government and the Chinese people that this total government control would forever endure, unquestioned and unchallenged, and in return the economy would become uninhibited in almost every facet, that ultimately led to the great economic rise of China in the 90s and 2000s. Still, the rural parts of China are still terribly poor and education and healthcare are a constant concern for these people. The video "The Tank Man" talked about how there is a China A and a China B. The China A is the great economic Goliath that you see in cities like Hong Kong and Beijing. China B is the rural poverty that is rampant in the majority of the population who still work as farmers and tradesmen. What would China look like without the socio-political agreement of 1989? I also wonder if China will always be so strict a regime. Perhaps there will come a point in the nation's future when people are no longer content to go along with the government. Surely a point will be reached where the economic growth will not suffer from political opposition among the every day citizens. No longer would the agreement stand, and the citizens could end up with the best of both worlds, having both the ability to challenge the government as well as a sweet economy. In a way I can understand where the extreme violence came from. The Chinese government was in serious fear of a collapse of communism and they knew that in order to regain their position of power and stabilize their country, they had to shock and horrify their citizens back into place. From a political standpoint it was actually rather risky. It seems the results could have gone either way and the government just happened to flip the right side of the coin. What if the entire nation rebelled after witnessing the deaths of fellow citizens in Beijing? The government may have even been overthrown had the people's anger been great enough
it just happened to work out for the government that the people did not rebel on such a large scale and the government was able to instill a rule that no one should ever attempt to challenge the Chinese government again.

I have gotten a lot from researching about the Tiananmen Square Protests. Before this project I didn't even know that this issue existed in China. I learned that the Chinese government is more divided than I thought, and has a lot of issues. I learned that the Chinese government is very controlling, and does not let the people express free speech for the most part. I learned that the Chinese government kept this event a secret from many people, and most people under 25 have never even heard about the Tiananmen Square Protest (Szczepanski). I learned that a few thousand people were killed in this massacre, and that the government doesn't want people knowing this. They don't want the people of their country to know about this dark time in history, and about the massacre of innocent people by their own Chinese army. Many people in China still probably want a democratic nation, but many are afraid to speak out because of this massacre. The government wanted to scare the citizens of China, so that they would not rise up and try to form a democratic nation. I also wonder if the people of China rose up to fight the government would they win? I wonder if China will remain a communist government forever, or eventually become a democratic one? I think that the government was afraid of an uprising, so they decided to fight back. I think that this was a bad move, and many countries do not respect the Chinese government, and believe that they are corrupted. Many countries around the world were angered by this, and it may have affected the relations they had with other countries. Also many Chinese people lost respect for the government after these events, but were too afraid to fight back because of this massacre of thousands of innocent people. If the government was really worried about their safety, and thought that they were a threat, then they should have peacefully broken up the riot. In my opinion, the students were not a threat to the government, and should've been allowed to speak out against the government. I think this because it's not like the protesters were being violent. They were just practicing the right to free speech, a right that China has been known to restrict. By researching this topic it has also put in perspective the fact that many nations don't have the right to speak out against something that they feel strongly about. This is a right that I believe that everyone should have. In my opinion, the Chinese government should not have reacted to the protests in the way that they did. They should have let the protesters practice the right to free speech, and let them express their opinions.


Google search results for "Tiananmen Square" in U.S
Google search results for "Tiananmen Square" in U.S
Google search results for "Tiananmen Square" in China
Google search results for "Tiananmen Square" in China

BBC Report on the Tiananmen square massacre. Satellite image of Tiananmen square

Victim of Massacre
Victim of Massacre

Victim of Chinese Government Troops in Tiananmen square

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Victims being rushed to the hospital via rickshaw.

The Brave "Tank Man" tries to stop tanks from entering Beijing

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Tiananmen Square Protest Before the Massacre
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Protesters Clash with Troops

Works Cited

"BBC ON THIS DAY | 4 | 1989: Massacre in Tiananmen Square." BBC News. Web. 11 May 2011.
"China Tightens Information Controls for Tiananmen Anniversary." The Age - Business, World & Breaking News | Melbourne, Australia. 4 June 2009. Web. 11 May 2011.
Chiu, Lisa. "The Root of the Tiananmen Square Protests." Chinese Culture. Web. 11 May 2011.
"How Many Really Died? Tiananmen Square Fatalities - TIME." Breaking News, Analysis, Politics, Blogs, News Photos, Video, Tech Reviews - Web. 13 May 2011.
McCartney, Jane. "Identity of Tank Man of Tiananmen Square Remains a Mystery - Times Online."The Times | UK News, World News and Opinion. 30 May 2009. Web. 11 May 2011.
Shi, Wei. "What Do the Chinese Know about Tiananmen Square? | The Observers." The Observers | De France 24. 6 May 2008. Web. 11 May 2011.
Szczepanski, Kallie. "Tiananmen Square Massacre - 1989." Asian History - History of Asia. Web. 11 May 2011.
The Tank Man. Dir. Antony Thomas. PBS. 2006. DVD.
Torr, James. Ed. China: Opposing Viewpoints. Greenhaven Press. San Diego. 2001. Print.
Twist, Clint. Take Ten Years: 1980s. Keyport: Steck-Vaughn, 1994. Print.