June 4 marks the 29th anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-Democracy protests that ended in bloodshed, and China has done its best to scrub the event from collective memory.
Ahead of Monday’s anniversary, China has gone to great lengths to censor discussion about the tragedy in 1989, when Chinese troops killed unarmed pro-democracy protesters in the center of Beijing. (The exact death toll is in dispute, but some estimate that more than 1,000 protesters were killed.)
In an apparent effort to keep people from recalling the violence, the Chinese government has employed thousands of censors who scour the web, removing any references to the massacre. China has also taken the drastic measure of blocking access to Google in the country.
China has come under increasing fire from the international community to own up to the massacre. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday that Chinese leaders needed to “make a full public accounting” of the event, as “the ghosts of June 4th have not yet been laid to rest.”
“We join others in the international community in urging the Chinese government to make a full public accounting of those killed, detained or missing; to release those who have been jailed for striving to keep the memory of Tiananmen Square alive; and to end the continued harassment of demonstration participants and their families,” Pompeo said.
On top of internet censorship, China has taken measures to quell protestors themselves. For example, Chinese authorities arrested a well-known artist named Guo Jian after he created a diorama of Tiananmen Square covered in ground meat.
While Jian’s diorama may have been disturbing, photographs from the actual protest are utterly heartbreaking. We’ve gathered some of more iconic images in recognition of the 29th anniversary.
Mark Abadi, Adam Taylor, and Erin Fuchs contributed to this report.
The protests began in April of 1989, after the death of ousted General Secretary Hu Yaobang.
Many saw Hu as a reformer. He had the support of students, who wanted the Chinese government to continue his pro-market and pro-democracy policies.
Following Hu’s official state funeral, some 100,000 students gathered in the Beijing’s central square.
An anti-protest editorial in People’s Daily on April 26 enraged the students further.
By May 13, a hunger strike had begun and the crowd had grown to 300,000 people.
Martial Law was declared on May 20.
The People’s Liberation Army (China’s military) marched on Beijing, only to withdraw a few days later. Protesters would lecture the soldiers, asking them to join their cause.
The student protest became split around this time, with no clear leader.
But the students and their supporters were clearly occupying Beijing’s central square.
They even unloaded a 30-foot styrofoam statue, modeled on the Statue of Liberty, in the square.
Protesters mocked government “bribes” for pro-government marches.
Troops began clearing the square at the start of June.
Most were unarmed but some had rocks and other weapons.
Officially, 241 people died.
Other numbers, ranging into the thousands, have circulated, with none confirmed. Many of the deaths happened outside the square, with soldiers firing directly at unarmed protesters.
Many more were injured.
- REUTERS/Shunsuke Akatsuka
The iconic footage of a man standing up to a PLA tank occurred the next day.
Tens of thousands of people were arrested after the protests, and an unknown number were likely executed.
Officially China still tries to ignore the legacy of the event, with searches on the popular Chinese microblogging site Weibo banned today.
Other Chinese people remember the massacre as it was filtered through the country’s state-run TV stations.
(Source: New York Times)
The novelist Murong Xuecun recently wrote that China’s president President Xi Jinping may be more paranoid than those who came before him.
(Source: New York Times)
Despite the paranoia on mainland China, there are still relatively robust protests in Hong Kong. “We will never forget the Tiananmen massacre, because until now there’s been no justice,” one woman reportedly said while marching through Hong Kong.
- Tiananmen Square Protests
(Source: ABC Radio)
Now check out all the words vaguely related to Tiananmen Square.