An abbreviated history of the Tiananmen Square protests in China, the violent and bloody response by the Chinese Communist Party, and the lessons learned from it.
Lessons from Tiananmen Square
How it started, and how it ended.
When Chinese reformer Hu Yaobang died suddenly of a heart attack on April 15, 1989, students responded angrily, with the majority of them assuming that his death was related to his forced resignation. On the day of this reformer’s sudden death, small, spontaneous gatherings to mourn Hu began around Tiananmen Square’s Monument to the People’s Heroes.
The death of Hu gave the motivation for students to congregate in large numbers. Posters sprouted on university campuses eulogizing him and demanding for Hu’s legacy to be honored. Within a few days, the majority of posters addressed bigger political themes such as corruption, democracy, and press freedom, and the protests continued.
On April 26, 1989, the People’s Daily published an editorial aimed at scaring students into submission, but it had the opposite effect, enraging them and rallying thousands more to demonstrate in Tiananmen Square. It was a strategic error of the first order committed by the Chinese Communist regime’s highest echelons.
Imagine for a moment that for 51 days of demonstrations beginning on April 15, 1989, thousands of students gathered nonviolently to protest and demand reforms. Protests had taken place before in China in 1986, but had not been sustained. This time, in part due to the regime’s demonizing of the student demonstrators, the protests grew and did not dissolve.
At the height of the student movement in China, over one million people marched in the streets of Beijing. This movement ended with the government’s crackdown and the Beijing massacre of June 4th.
Nonviolent resisters should learn as much as they can about this important movement. Finally, the struggle for a free China continues to the present day and needs our solidarity.
It is also important to challenge the official narrative that nothing happened, or worse that it was a “vaccination.” Thousands were killed, and it was not just students, but also workers in solidarity with student protesters.
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