HISTORY – Tiananmen Square 1989: Before the Tanks & Bloodshed

Around 1.5 million Hong Kongers gathered in late May, 1989 to show solidarity with protesters in Tiananmen Square…

Statue Square, Hong Kong, May 1989

Statue Square, Hong Kong, May, 1989

…Meanwhile, in Beijing, thousands of students, workers and hunger strikers were demonstrating against corruption, inflation and the lack of civil liberties under one-party rule. The photos below show the days and weeks in the run-up to the notorious crackdown on June 4th.

May 1st, 1989

May 1st, 1989 – AFP/Getty Images/Catherine Henriette

Former Communist Party chief Hu Yaobang died on April 15th aged 73. People gathered in Tiananmen Square in mourning and in protest over China’s slow pace of reform. Thousands joined demonstrations nationwide with some students calling for more freedom and democracy.

Tiananmen 1989

The march to Tiananmen, May 4, 1989 – AP Photo/Mikami

1989 Tianamen Square

May 17th, 1989 – AFP/Getty Images/Catherine Henriette

Despite warnings from the government, thousands continued to gather in Beijing in late April. On April 26th, the People’s Daily accused protesters of rejecting the Communist Party, fuelling anger and leading huge pro-democracy demonstrations on May 4th across several cities.

Tiananmen square massacre

Hunger strikers, May 18, 1989 – Catherine Henriette/AFP/Getty Images

AP Photo/Sadayuki Mikami

May 17, 1989 – AP Photo/Sadayuki Mikami

Hundreds of students began an indefinite hunger strike on May 13th ahead of a visit by USSR leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

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May 18, 1989 – AP Photo/Sadayuki Mikami

Tienanmen massacre

May 19th, 1989 – AP Photo/Sadayuki Mikami

Zhao Ziyang visited the square on May 19th appealing for compromise. He was accompanied by Li Peng, his hard-live rival, and Wen Jiabao. His actions led to him being ‘purged’ and put under house arrest for 15 years.

Tiananmen Square crackdown

May 20th, 1989 – Catherine Henriette/AFP/Getty Images

1989 China

Leaflets warn protesters to leave, May 20th, 1989 – Reuters/Shunsuke Akatsuka

On May 20th, martial law was declared in several districts as the hunger strike became a ‘sit-in’. Troops closed in on Tiananmen Square. Huge numbers of civilians blocks their entry as soliders were ordered not to fire upon civilians.

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Beijing University Students, May 28th, 1989 – AP Photo/Jeff Widener

The Goddess of Democracy

The Goddess of Democracy under constructions, May 30th, 1989 – AFP/Getty Images/Catherine Henriette

May 30th, 1989 China

May 30th, 1989 – AP Photo/Jeff Widener

The unrest continued into June as China’s leaders formed a plan to end the protests by force.

Tiananmen 1989

June 2nd, 1989 – AFP/Getty Images/Catherine Henriette

Copies of the Beijing Daily are burnt

Copies of the Beijing Daily are burnt, June 2nd, 1989 – AP Photo/Jeff Widener

A student tells soldiers to go home, June 3rd, 1989 – AFP/Getty Images/Catherine Henriette


May, 1989 – Wikicommons

Tiananmen 1989

Stuart Franklin

Hong Kong’s Candlelit vigil 2014 will be held next Wednesday in Victoria Park.

Hong Kong's Candlelit vigil 2014

More historical entries on the index

More historical entries on the index

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