June 4: Thirty-third anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre

The Tiananmen Square protests and subsequent crackdown and killings were a watershed moment in China. The country, where all power is wielded by a single party (and by top party leaders), has brutally crushed the pro-democracy voices and aspirations of its own citizens. The response to pro-democracy protests, the crackdown defined how (if at all) ordinary Chinese political expression would be. The effects of what happened on June 4, 1989 are still palpable today.

June 4 this year is the 33rd anniversary of the incident.

Being a communist country, the capitalist market economy was anathema to the Chinese political class. But the reforms of the 1980s had led to the formation of a nascent market economy. Citizens were angry about corruption, inflation and other issues.

The protests began after the death of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) General Secretary Hu Yaobang in April 1989. At the height of the protests, around 1 million people had gathered in Tiananmen Square.

The Chinese state reacted brutally. Martial law was declared on May 20. Nearly 300,000 soldiers were mobilized as well as tanks in Beijing.

On June 4, troops killed scores of demonstrators who sought to protest the advancing military. Many passers-by were killed.

View photos | Tribute to Tanker on 33rd Anniversary of Tiananmen Square Massacre

Estimates of the death toll ranged from a few hundred to a few thousand. The government made numerous arrests and ensured that the crackdown got little or no coverage in the national press. The CCP has even demoted officials it claims were sympathetic to the protesters.

The event remains a taboo topic of discussion in mainland China and will not be officially commemorated by the ruling Communist Party or the government.

(With agency contributions)

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Post expires at 9:36pm on Monday June 13th, 2022