50 Days In History – Tiananmen Square – April-June 1989 – Past Daily Weekend Reference Room

At first, everyone blamed Gorbachev.

At first, everyone blamed Gorbachev.

Click on the link here for Audio Player – Tiananmen Square – Timeline – May-June 1989 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection

Twenty-five years ago, all eyes were on Beijing and the unfolding events that, at first seemed wildly optimistic and then turned very bad.

Beginning in April, coinciding with the funeral of Communist Party General Secretary Hu Yaobang, a much respected Chinese leader who was deposed because of his liberal stance and pushes for reform for China. After losing a struggle with hardliners, Hu was removed from office and died shortly after. His death triggered the protests which snowballed into a student-led hunger strike, which attracted hundreds of thousands of protestors to the central gathering point, Tiananmen Square in the heart of Beijing. At first the strikers were met with sympathy by Communist leaders, but as the protest gathered momentum, it became a power struggle between hardliners and reformers and eventually a vow was issued to clear the protestors from the square and put an end to the demonstrations. Visiting Soviet Premier Gorbachev praised the protestors for their actions and it seemed to fuel the students efforts to continue and widen the protest.

Later known as the June 4th Incident, or the June 4th Massacre, Chinese troops were eventually deployed and finally descended on the square on June 4th, and the ensuing bloodbath and extreme censorship of the events led to a universal condemnation of the action and shock over such an abrupt about-face.

Here is an excerpted chronology of the events, beginning on May 20th, when the crackdown orders were issued and the final assault on the Square and the aftermath.

History, that we didn’t know at the time how it would turn out. Fingers crossed, but we were wrong.

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