The Events in May-June 1989 at Tiananmen Square, Beijing were unprecedented. Students openly defying the communist authorities and calling on soldiers of the People's Liberation Army to join them.
Singing the Internationale as their own anthem of defiance, demanding the right to recall entrenched government leaders, speaking in passionate tones of rebellion, the rebels of Tiananmen faced a pitiless government unable to hear or respond. Many paid with their lives under the treads of the government’s tanks — as the occupation of the square was broken up by force in the depth of the night. Many were killed, the numbers are unknown. Many were imprisoned, the numbers are unknown. Many had careers ruined, the numbers are unknown. And millions felt their voices and hopes silenced — temporarily
Since 1978, Deng Xiaoping had led a series of economic and political reforms which had led to the gradual implementation of a market economy and some political liberalization that relaxed the system set up by Mao Zedong.
Some students and intellectuals believed that the reforms had not gone far enough and that China needed to reform its political system. They were also concerned about the social controls that the Communist Party of China still had. This group had also seen the political liberalization that had been undertaken in the name of glasnost by Mikhail Gorbachev, so they had been hoping for comparable reform. Many workers who took part in the protests also wanted democratic reform, but opposed the new economic policies. That is, there were both protesters supporting and against economic liberalisation; however, almost all protesters supported political liberalization, to varying degrees.
The Tiananmen Square protests were in large measure sparked by the death of former Secretary General Hu Yaobang, whose resignation from the position of Secretary General of the CPC was announced on 16 January 1987. His forthright calls for "rapid reform" and his almost open contempt of "Maoist excesses" had made him a suitable scapegoat in the eyes of Deng Xiaoping and others, after the pro-democracy student protests of 1986–1987. Included in his resignation was also a "humiliating self-criticism", which he was forced to issue by the Central Committee of the Communist Party. Hu Yaobang's sudden death, due to heart attack, on 15 April 1989 provided a perfect opportunity for the students to gather once again,
EVENTS AFTER TIANANMEN: WHAT AND WHY
-- Among overseas Chinese students, the Tiananmen Square protests triggered the formation of Internet news services such as the China News Digest. In the aftermath of Tiananmen, organizations such as the China Alliance for Democracy and the Independent Federation of Chinese Students and Scholars were formed, although these organizations would have limited political impact beyond the mid-1990s.
May 30, 1989. A student from an art institute plasters the neck of a replica of New York's Statue of Liberty dubbed the Goddess of Democracy in front of the Great Hall of the People (right) and the monument to the People's Heroes
Then came the armored personnel carriers. The students set them on fire.
Chinese students escort a soldier to safety as he was being beaten up by enraged crowds
A girl student being taken to hospital
He stood firmly as everyone else had fled, fearing for their lives.
His name was Wang Dan. And incredible but true; he is still alive today. And he still wants to bring democracy to China.
People run helter-skelter as the troops start firing
Zhao Ziyang. The only moderate in the Chinese Communist party then was in favour of talks with the students. He was over-ruled and disgraced. And Deng sent in the tanks.
(Source: Washington Post)
Now, in "Prisoner of the State," a book timed to appear precisely 20 years since his purge, Zhao speaks from beyond the grave. He flouts the unspoken rule against public blame of others of the group. He skewers Li Peng, Li Xiannian, Yao Yilin, Deng Liqun, Hu Qiaomu and Wang Zhen repeatedly and by name. He complains that the meeting at which martial law was decided was in violation of the Party Charter because he, the general secretary, should have chaired any such meeting but was not even notified of it.
It is clearer here than elsewhere that Zhao was already in serious political trouble in 1988, before the democracy movement began; and that Zhao had bickered with Hu Yaobang over economic policy as early as 1982, even though the two reformist leaders needed each other. Deng Xiaoping appears more strikingly than elsewhere as a Godfather figure: Other leaders jockey for access to him, dare not contradict him and use his words to attack one another. Yet even Deng seeks to avoid responsibility for difficult decisions. The group has dictatorial power, yet is rife with insecurity.
In 1989, Zhao urged his fellow leaders to enter into reasoned dialogue with the student protesters, who, he insisted, were "absolutely not against the basic foundations of our system" but were "merely asking us to correct some of our flaws." Could it be that Zhao really believed this? Or was he using it, as the students themselves were, as protective cover? Of course the students knew that it would be dangerous -- indeed foolhardy -- to declare open opposition to the ruling system. But to conclude that they were interested only in flaws is a bit silly. When certain things could not be stated plainly in public, the students sometimes resorted to double entendre -- singing, for example, lines from the Chinese national anthem: "Rise up, oh people who would not be slaves. . . . China's most perilous hour is nigh." Even more mischievous was the singing of selected lines from the 1950s song "Without the Communist Party there would be no New China" -- where the singers intentionally left the meaning of "New China" ambiguous.
What it actually has, he observed near the end of his life, is continuing rule by "a tightly-knit interest group . . . in which the political elite, the economic elite, and the intellectual elite are fused. This power elite blocks China's further reform and steers the nation's policies toward service of itself." He saw that China's "abundant and cheap" labor had produced an economic boom. The society's rulers claim they have lifted millions from poverty, but in truth the millions have lifted themselves, through hard work and long hours, and in the process they have catapulted the elite to unprecedented levels of opulence and economic power.