Tian'anmen massacre

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Commemoration ceremony in Hong Kong in 2009

The Tian'anmen massacre is the violent suppression of a protest movement in which Tian'anmen Square ( Chinese 天安門廣場 / 天安门广场, Pinyin Tiān'ānmén Guǎngchǎng ; German "Place at the Gate of Heavenly Peace") in Beijing was replaced by a originally occupied by the student democracy movement. In the Chinese-speaking area , the term “Incident of June 4th” ( Chinese 六四 事件, Pinyin liùsì shìjiàn ), or “4. June “( Chinese 六四, Pinyin liùsì), used.

On June 3 and 4, 1989, the Chinese military violently suppressed popular protests in central Beijing. No people died on the square itself; in other parts of the city, according to Amnesty International, between several hundred and several thousand people lost their lives. Press reports based on sources in the Chinese Red Cross named 2,600 dead on the part of the insurgents and the military and around 7,000 injured throughout Beijing during the week.

The Chinese movement was inspired by reform efforts in the Soviet Union as well as in Poland and Hungary . Due to the occupation of the square, the government had not previously been able to receive Soviet President Gorbachev on the square; the students saw Gorbachev as a beacon of hope. The international press, which was present in large numbers because of Gorbachev's state visit, made the Chinese democracy movement and its demands known worldwide. While a largely peaceful reform succeeded in the Soviet Union and in Eastern Europe, this attempt failed in China. Inspired by the Arab protests , public protests were only called again in February 2011 under the name " Jasmine Revolution " ( Chinese 茉莉花 革命, Pinyin mòlihuā gémìng ).

The Tiananmen massacre marked a turning point in the history of the People's Republic of China . After the massacre, the “ Reforms and Opening-up ” program was discontinued and the political reforms initiated since 1986 by Deng Xiaoping (led by Zhao Ziyang ) have been abandoned. China has faced considerable criticism and sanctions from Western countries . In 1992 Deng's southern tour resumed economic “reform and opening up”.


The post- cultural revolutionary 1980s were marked by a significant loosening of the rigid rule of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and had raised hopes of further political changes among democracy activists. The framework was the renewed rise of Deng Xiaoping and the reforms he made possible towards economic easing. The main model of the movement was the Wall of Democracy from 1978. Wei Jingsheng's and Fang Lizhi's writings were very well received by students and calls for further opening up of society and democracy as a "fifth modernization" - alluding to the four modernizations - were raised worn the road. The political reforms were taken in 1986 by Deng Xiaoping again and Zhao Ziyang passed. In December 1986, there were demonstrations in Hefei (5th and 12th) and then in Shanghai (20th) with up to 70,000 people protesting against the CCP's unilateral occupation of the people 's congresses . Until January 1987 there were repeated protests in the university towns. The official reaction consisted of bans on demonstrations, blackouts and persecution of the leaders of the democracy movement. Hu Yaobang , who was the CCP general secretary at the time , was forced to resign in early 1987 because he was gentle and sympathetic to the student protests.

At the same time, economic liberalization showed its effects. The standard of living rose, as did the freedom to follow one's own inclinations. On the other hand, the previously extremely egalitarian society was divided into winners and losers of the reforms. Job guarantees were abolished, resulting in a wave of layoffs. For those who lost out on reform, increases in the price of staple foods of 20% to 26% (end of 1988) had a direct existential effect. The previous policy of the Iron Rice Bowl was up for grabs. In contrast, it was evident that many managers and party leaders increasingly enriched themselves through corruption and abuse of office. In this context, allegations of nepotism were also raised, since, contrary to the principles of the Communist Party, a large part of the leadership generations in the People's Republic of China were made up of children and family members of the leadership.

Economic liberalization was countered by the state's continued repressive stance on social human rights and the CCP's unbroken monopoly over politics.

The development


Hu Yaobang's death on April 15, 1989 was taken as an occasion for a public demonstration of mourning for a respected party member that the government was unable to stop. As in 1976 in the Tian'anmen incident following the death of Zhou Enlai , criticism of the prevailing political line could also be expressed. After the demonstrations in the winter of 1986/87, Hu Yaobang was made the party-internal scapegoat for these events, removed from his party offices and forced to self- criticize. On April 17th, thousands of Beijing students marched to Tian'anmen Square and held a rally at the Monument to the People's Heroes , at which Hu mourned and thus only implicitly and then explicitly resumed the demands of 1986/87. This regime-critical mood of mourning soon spread to other cities such as Shanghai, where similar events were organized.

Wang Dan, in Hong Kong in 2009 at the 20th anniversary commemoration
Chai Ling, 2009 in Hong Kong
Wu'er Kaixi (as speaker on the podium), 2010 in Oslo

Growth and organization of the movement

On April 18, sit-ins and rallies were held in Tian'anmen Square, in front of the party headquarters and the residences of the state and party leadership in Zhongnanhai . Every day there were demonstrations by tens of thousands of students, with the first high point on April 22nd, the day of the official memorial service for Hu Yaobang. The closing of Tian'anmen Square, which was ordered for the morning hours, was foreseen by the students and the demonstrators occupied it from midnight onwards. The official mourning event had to take place against the backdrop of a powerful student demonstration. During this time the student body organized itself into an independent provisional student union and on April 23, elected Wu'er Kaixi (吾爾開希 / 吾尔开希, student in educational organization), Wang Dan (王丹, history student ) and Chai Ling (柴玲, psychology student ) to leaders. The next day, the students decided to mass boycott the lectures to make their voices heard, and called for Prime Minister Li Peng to resign . These demands sparked harsh condemnations of the student movement by Deng Xiaoping's leadership, published in the People's Daily on April 26th . Attempts by the police to get the situation under control were intensified.

The demands of the protest movement were “diverse, sometimes untargeted and often naive.” They were unanimous in the fight against corruption and inflation, and in the course of time the demand for freedom of expression and freedom of the press gained support as well as for the right to found independent organizations be able. Broad sections of the population quickly joined the student initiators.

By May 4th, the historic anniversary of the 1919 People's Movement , which was also historically significant for the CCP , the almost daily demonstrations grew to gatherings of over 100,000 people. Although the demonstrations broke through police barriers several times (April 27), there were no major violent incidents during this phase.

Hunger strike and occupation of the square

On May 12, the Beijing student body decided, mainly at the instigation of Chai Ling, to go on a hunger strike if the government did not enter into an open dialogue with them. On May 13th, the students moved to Tian'anmen Square again, and the first 400 of them went on a public hunger strike there. This began the permanent occupation of the square. A piece of cloth with the inscription “Hunger Strike” ( Chinese 绝食, Pinyin juéshí ) was hoisted on one of the flagpoles and the position of the students was openly presented to the foreign correspondents at a press conference . These were particularly numerous in Beijing because of the upcoming state visit by Mikhail Gorbachev on May 15 . The summit, which had been planned with great pomp, was now overshadowed by the student protests, and finally the state guest had to enter the Great Hall of the People through a side entrance . Meanwhile, the demonstrators celebrated the Soviet reformer on their posters on the square.

A provisional tent city with a medical station, supply station, files and its own media infrastructure (for example a screen printing plant ) was quickly built around the central memorial for the people's heroes . The self-organized structures reached their limits with the growing number of protesters. On May 17th, there were an estimated one million people on the square, making the drinking water supply and the disposal of faeces significant problems. The gathering was still like a great celebration for freedom. Chinese rock musicians such as Cui Jian , Hou Dejian (侯德健) and He Yong (何勇), who were previously classified as underground culture, performed on the square.

On May 18th, a televised debate took place between Li Peng and other party leaders and student leaders such as Wang Dan and Wu'er Kaixi. The students were weakened by the hunger strike and were artificially fed during the conversation. Since the talks had previously been rejected by the government with reference to the lack of eye-level, Wu'er Kaixi signaled the prime minister by neglecting the usual courtesy of eye-level. On behalf of the student movement, he called for the condemnation of the student movement to be repealed in the April 26 editorial, recognition of the autonomous student union and negotiations to begin.

Independent unions and supporters in the sciences

Workers from various factories in Beijing had joined the students since the beginning of May. In the course of the month, Beijing residents also arrived without any organizational involvement. Workers occupied factories and took part in the daily meetings of the protest coordinators. They described themselves as “completely normal citizens” - lǎobǎixìng (老百姓), roughly comparable to “Otto normal consumers”. On May 20 they first used the name Beijing Workers Autonomous Federation (BWAF), and on May 25 the workers' representatives held elections and established a formal organization, which on May 28 chartered itself as an independent and democratic union . They saw their role as enforcing the rights of their members and containing the power of the CCP. They set up a tent city on the northwestern edge of Tian'anmen Square, away from the student camp. Hundreds of workers gathered there from the end of May, some of whom came from afar. The director was Han Dongfang , an electrician from the state railway company . Similar work organizations emerged in other cities, such as the Shanghai Workers Autonomous Federation , which appeared for the first time on May 17th .

The unrest reached into the largest and most important companies. Capitol Iron and Steel , a steelworks with various associated metalworking companies, was one of the largest employers in Beijing. 200,000 employees produced 3 million tons of steel per year. On May 26, the state press rejected rumors of strikes and the declaration of a state of emergency on the factory premises, which is understood as confirmation of unrest.

Some of China's new entrepreneurs also sided with the students. Wan Runnan , the founder of an electronics company, supported the students with communication technology as well as printing and copying machines. Above all, the entrepreneurs protested against the corruption of the state administration. Economists from the Beijing Social and Economic Sciences Research Institute (SERI) also joined the protests. The SERI was a think tank that was founded in 1987 by members of several universities, some of which were already active on the wall of democracy in 1978. It published the Economics Weekly newspaper, which continuously covered social, political and economic problems and supported the reform movement.

In order to spread the protests, it was crucial that almost all Chinese media reported extensively and prominently on the activities and rejected instructions from the party to ignore the protests.

Directional struggle within the Communist Party

Zhao Ziyang in East Berlin, 1987

Even before the student demonstrations that began in April, party leader Zhao Ziyang had come under fire within the party. Functionaries around Communist Party Patriarch Deng Xiaoping complained that Zhao was going too far with his economic reforms, and referred to the massive price increases caused by the price releases. He also allows too many Western thoughts to penetrate China. So they started a campaign against "bourgeois liberalization".

Zhao considered the student protests to be largely harmless at the beginning, as they were only directed against “mistakes” by the party and were constructive. He wrote in his memoir, "I thought that if the student demonstrations could be resolved with dialogue and détente according to the principles of democracy and law, with dialogue and détente, it would strengthen China's reform, including political reform."

Prime Minister Li Peng and Party Patriarch Deng Xiaoping saw things differently and called for decisive action. Deng in particular saw the protests as a threat to the stability of China and pointed out that workers across Beijing had now joined the protests. As early as April 26, he wrote in the leading article of the Renmin Ribao that the protests were a “planned conspiracy to overthrow the government”. In particular, the establishment of independent trade unions allowed parallels to emerge with the developments in Poland in 1980/81 around Solidarność . After the student protests dragged on and Zhao was massively accused of failing his soft manner in resolving the dispute, Zhao asked Deng Xiaoping for a meeting in mid-May. When Zhao entered Deng's private house on May 18, however, he found that Deng was the only place where the entire Politburo and a few other party leaders were present. Against Zhao's will, Deng's suggestion was made to declare military law. It is doubtful whether the proclamation of military law was constitutional. He is quoted as saying, "Two hundred deaths can bring China twenty years of peace." Subsequently, on a television special , Prime Minister Li Peng declared the government's determination to "put an end to the riot, defend the CCP's leadership, and quickly." to protect the socialist system ”. A state of emergency has been declared for Beijing on May 20th . In fact, troops from the People's Liberation Army were already standing around Beijing to enforce the state of emergency. The next day, Zhao was ostracized and disempowered by Deng.

Replica of the goddess of democracy in Vancouver, Canada

End of the demonstrations

On May 19th, Zhao Ziyang , general secretary of the CCP and popular with the students as a representative of the Liberal Group, went to the square to ask the students to stop the hunger strike and vacate the square, but the students refused. It was Zhao's last public appearance. Zhao was removed from office and placed under house arrest.

Alarmed by Li Peng's address and the reports of the Flying Tigers , a self-organized detection unit made up of rockers and small business owners who owned motorcycles, the people of Beijing took to the streets on the evening of May 19 to prevent the army from advancing from the suburbs . Barricades and the assembled crowds stopped units of the army, which were initially unarmed. Army trucks were paralyzed by puncturing tires and ripping out distributor caps. In the coming days, further attempts by troops to enter Tian'anmen Square were blocked.

On May 20, direct satellite links to the foreign press were cut and their task was declared over with the departure of Gorbachev.

At this point, the leadership of the student body was divided as to whether they wanted to be satisfied with these humiliations of the state leadership - also in view of the increasingly real danger of state violence - or whether they should hold out on the square until their demands were fully recognized. The increasing desire of many students to return to a normal life and the increasingly unsustainable hygienic conditions on the square also spoke in favor of an eviction . On the other hand, there was the perseverance of students arriving later and the fear of being exposed to state repression without the public of the square . At an important point in time, these divisions crippled the student body's ability to make decisions and were to have fatal consequences. Overall, the mood among the protesters became radicalized.

On May 30, an event planned by the group of those willing to withdraw took place as a final rally, at which a statue of the goddess of democracy modeled on the Statue of Liberty opposite the Mao portrait above the entrance to the Forbidden City - the Gate of Heavenly Peace - was erected . The ten-meter-high statue made of polystyrene and plaster of paris was built by students at the Central Art Academy. The majority of the students stayed on the field.


From the night of June 2nd to 3rd, the army and police made renewed attempts to occupy the square. The advancing units again got stuck in the gathering crowds. The streets were controlled by "ordinary Beijing citizens". Automatic weapons, helmets and uniforms were found in intercepted trucks. However, none of these weapons were used by the demonstrators and the confrontation of Beijing citizens with the army remained peaceful. On the other hand, the government issued increasingly sharper warnings via loudspeakers and the radio. Given the threats from the government, those wishing to withdraw withdrew from the square because they did not want to be evicted by force.

On the evening of June 3, soldiers in full armor and armored personnel carriers moved towards the city center from several directions. At around 9:00 p.m., these units encountered a barricade on the third ring road near the Gongzhufen subway station, from which stones were pelted at them. The military fired live ammunition at the crowd, killing or injuring several people. Two armed soldiers who jumped off the trucks were then lynched by the angry crowd.

Mostly in the west of the city, the advancing columns encountered determined resistance and burning barricades, and as the confrontation increased, the use of firearms against the crowd became more and more ruthless. Uninvolved people were now shot at as well as people who tried to rescue the injured. The increasing violence against the civilian population led to a general escalation in which several soldiers were either killed with bare hands or were killed by Molotov cocktails and other improvised weapons.

Around midnight, the first soldiers arrived at Tian'anmen Square, which was now only occupied by about 5,000 students. At 1:00 a.m., armored transport vehicles rolled onto the square from the north. The first were attacked by insurgents with Molotov cocktails, and the BWAF tent city also caught fire. The tanks and trucks withdrew a little; until 3:00 a.m. the army kept the square surrounded and prepared to evacuate. Meanwhile, among the demonstrators, Hou Dejian, a popular singer and composer in China, had assumed a leading position and had entered into negotiations with the troop commander, Ji Xingguo, in order to obtain a free withdrawal. This was granted to them. Hou Dejian announced to the demonstrators that they should leave the square via the south-east corner by 7:00 a.m. Anyone who was still on the square after that would be rolled down and shot by the military. It took until 5:00 a.m. to convince the evicting hunger strikers to leave the square. There was no significant shooting into the crowd in Tian'anmen Square itself.

The violence in the city continued on June 5, although resistance was essentially broken. Firearms were used in several confrontations between the military and the crowd. There were also attacks on soldiers. On that day, a young man, later referred to as Tank Man , stood in the way of a column of tanks with two shopping bags in the hands, which stopped them briefly. The scene was photographed by Charlie Cole , among others , who received the World Press Photo Award for it in 1989 .

Casualty numbers

The estimated numbers of victims vary widely. In an official report by the People's Liberation Army , more than 200 soldiers and civilians were killed, including 36 students, and more than 3,000 people were injured. Several figures go back to the Chinese Red Cross : United Press International reported the number of deaths with several thousand on June 5, citing a source at the Red Cross, the Japanese press agency Kyodo News had already reported the day before that an unnamed spokesman for the Red Cross stated the number of dead civilians as 2,600.

Around a year later, Amnesty International (AI) compiled various reports in a document in which between several hundred and several thousand deaths were reported. The AI ​​authors conclude that the atmosphere of terror after the crackdown by the military made it impossible to collect exact numbers. The official figures of just 200 civilians dead appear to be grossly undervalued.

Repression and Consequences in China

The crackdown on the protests was followed by a wave of repression on the part of the state leadership. For the government, the students had never been the real problem. As early as April 16, Deng Xiaoping wrote in the party newspaper Renmin Ribao : "Emotionally excited young students" were misled by "foreign elements" with "further motives". The party saw the need to showcase a coordinated counterrevolution, organized and led by backers with ties to the West. The Beijing Workers Autonomous Federation and the other union movements have been identified as particularly threatening. The memories of the experience in Poland with the independent Solidarność trade union in the early 1980s continued to have an effect. Scientists from the Beijing Social and Economic Sciences Research Institute were also classified as supposed organizers behind the protests, so-called “black hands” according to the Serbian secret society . On June 13, a list of the 21 most wanted activists of the student movement was published. Furthermore, workers who had taken part in the protests, as well as critical intellectuals, were arrested and sentenced to long prison terms or the death penalty in poorly constitutional trials .

49 executions were reported publicly in connection with the Tian'anmen massacre. These mainly concerned workers and intellectuals, but not students. Some of the best-known leaders of the democracy movement and a total of around 400 people were smuggled into the then British crown colony with the help of supporters in Hong Kong and the cross-border underworld. Western diplomats offered them asylum, with France playing the leading role. With the tacit support of the British administration, they got into planes going west with false IDs. Others served years of imprisonment and were then able to leave the country. Other students who were permanently registered as participants by the Chinese authorities during the protests were subsequently denied the opportunity to find skilled work.

Within the political leadership, KP General Secretary Zhao Ziyang (1919–2005) was held responsible for what had happened by the hardliners, removed from his offices and placed under house arrest for the rest of his life.

The Chinese democracy and student movement in the People's Republic of China was not to recover from this bloody crackdown on the opposition for decades. In addition to the deterrent effect of the events of June 3 and 4, 1989, the strong economic growth with good career opportunities for university graduates also resulted in a change in priorities, as student satisfaction increased overall.

International reactions and reception history

Destroyed bike and tank track - symbol of the Chinese resistance in Wroclaw

The crackdown on the protests damaged the global reputation of the Chinese government. In response to the mood of the world public, the EU and the USA imposed an arms embargo on the People's Republic of China, which is still in force (as of October 2021). Nevertheless, international business contacts normalized within one to two years.

In Hong Kong continues each year a memorial service held (2006: 44,000 participants; 2016: Tens of thousands), but is not reported in the media of the People's Republic of China. It was banned by the authorities for the first time in 2020, but tens of thousands attended vigils. Also on the campus of the University of Hong Kong (HKU) is a concrete memorial called Pillar of Shame , which was created by students in response to the events and moved around Hong Kong in a procession. The June 4th Museum in Hong Kong's Mongkok district , which showed documents and photos about the massacre and the democracy movement in China and its persecution, was closed by the authorities a few days before the anniversary in 2021.

The governments of the Eastern Bloc in the early stages of system transformation (see Revolutions in 1989 ) reacted differently, which was interpreted as a measure of their support for the reform process initiated by Mikhail Gorbachev . The tough Chinese crackdown on the protests by the GDR leadership found support. She commented on New Germany on June 5, 1989: "Counterrevolutionary uprising in China was put down by the People's Liberation Army". The Politburo of the SED dealt with this in its meeting on June 6th and drafted a resolution for the People's Chamber in which the GDR announced its support for the suppression of the "counterrevolutionary unrest"; the statement was made on June 8th by the SED MP Ernst Timm with applause. During a visit by the Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Qichen to East Berlin , the Foreign Minister of the GDR, Oskar Fischer , praised the close relations between the GDR and the People's Republic of China ; GDR politicians like Hans Modrow , Günter Schabowski and Egon Krenz visited China to document their support. Krenz expressed himself in June 1989 by saying that “something had been done to restore order”. As the events of political change in the GDR came to a head, fear arose that the government of the GDR might opt for a “Chinese solution” . Many opposition groups in the GDR, especially church-based opposition groups, saw this reaction as a warning against the possible use of force against them. According to civil rights activists like Carlo Jordan , this attitude of the GDR leadership was a trigger for the massive wave of refugees from the GDR to the West in late summer 1989, because a large part of the population saw this reaction as a decoupling of their state from the reform process in East Central Europe. In its session on June 7, 1990, the now freely elected GDR People's Chamber, at the request of all parliamentary groups, regretted the support of the Chinese government a year earlier and commemorated the victims.

The 2016 massacre was also commemorated in Taiwan. On June 4, 2016, Tsai Ing-wen , the new president of the island republic of Taiwan, called on Beijing to carry out democratic reforms for more "political rights" for citizens.

Today's attitude of the Chinese leadership

The Chinese leadership continues to take the position that in 1989 "resolute action ensured the country's stability". This view was last expressed in June 2019 by Wei Fenghe during the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.

The state tries to prevent a critical debate about the events as well as any memory of them within China. Content about the Tian'anmen massacre on the Internet is also the subject of censorship and Internet control in China . Chinese civil rights activists like Li Hai , who are now interested in the fate of the victims and their survivors, continue to be persecuted by the state. The 2010 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo presented his view in 2006 as follows: “Since Tiananmen, Chinese politicians have been in a state of paranoia; they see a fundamental danger even in the most peaceful, harmless political group. "

In view of the 20th anniversary of the massacre, the Chinese government massively expanded Internet censorship to include Web 2.0 services such as Facebook and Twitter .

The Chinese NGO Weiquanwang published on June 5, 2016, 27 years later that on the occasion of a private commemoration ceremony, six human rights activists, including the poet Liang Taiping, have been detained by the state since Thursday (June 2) on charges of causing a disturbance and one other activist in Beijing "disappeared". An AFP photographer reported stricter security and stricter passport controls on site. "In Hong Kong (on June 4, 2016) tens of thousands of people commemorated the victims of Tiananmen Square." The Beijing leadership is silent.

On the 30th anniversary, the Chinese government tried to counter the commemoration of the bloody suppression of the democracy movement around the world. In the People's Republic, numerous activists and relatives of the victims were arrested beforehand, placed under house arrest or taken to other locations in the country. Human Rights Watch reported that controls on senior members of the Mothers of Tiananmen victim network had been tightened since late May 2019. The state censorship of social media reached a previously unknown level of depth and precision in 2019: Any content that has anything to do with the Tian'anmen massacre is immediately blocked for users in China. The US short message service Twitter temporarily closed several user accounts of Chinese democracy activists. Twitter Inc. apologized immediately after it became known, stating that it was a bug in a filter routine and not an instruction from the Chinese government. In 2021, the search engine Bing continued to echo the search results.

China's defense minister justified the bloody crackdown on the Tiananmen Square protests as the right decision. In a rare comment by a Chinese politician on what happened back then in Tian'anmen Square in Beijing, Wei Fenghe said at a security conference in Singapore on June 2, 2019 that the protests were political unrest that the government was fighting have to. "That is why China is stable." He could not understand why China is still being accused of "not handling the incident correctly".


The massacre is one of the most important events for the democracy movement in China. The way the Chinese leadership dealt with the memory of the protests is seen as a gauge of freedom of expression and the scope of state repression in China . Especially when remembering the anniversaries, the current situation and how to deal with the non-existent democracy in China is discussed. On the occasion of the 30th anniversary, activists who had fled pointed out that many Chinese of the "Generation Tian'anmen" had become rich in the course of China's economic rise. They did not want to mess with the leadership of the country and would no longer support dissidents materially.

Victims' interests represented by "Tian'anmen mothers"

In September 1989, some relatives of victims of the massacre formed an advocacy group that they called " Tian'anmen Mothers ." The group has since asked the Chinese government to change its official position on the events and tries to provide the Chinese public with independent information on the "June 4th Massacre". The initial demands included an end to the persecution and the right of relatives to be allowed to publicly mourn their victims. Since 1995, the group no longer only called for a public investigation, but also for compensation for the bereaved and for those responsible to be punished. Since 1999, the focus of the demands has been on a dialogue with the government, but this has so far been rejected. The Tian'anmen mothers now include relatives from over 150 families of victims. The group's founder and leader, Ding Zilin , is now one of the most prominent human rights activists in China and has been repeatedly placed under house arrest by the government. In May 2011, the group reported that the authorities had offered secret compensation payments to individual families for the first time, but they had been rejected on the grounds of a necessary official procedure.

Reports of a massacre in the square

The description of a massacre of the students in Tian'anmen Square comes from reports from a few Western journalists. It has been reproduced many times in the media so that it has been incorporated into the collective memory . The CBS TV team were the last US journalists on the field. Your correspondent Roth finished a transfer from the seat to the headquarters with a camera panning into the dark sky and the off-screen sentences: “Soldiers have seen [the cameraman] and me and are dragging us away angrily. And a moment later it begins: huge bursts of fire from automatic weapons, violent rifle fire for a minute and a half that lasts as long as a nightmare. And we don't see anything anymore. ”The same rifle shots reported from the multi-award-winning BBC reporter John Simpson from one of the upper floors of the Beijing Hotel. “We were filming when the lights were turned off in [the square] at 4:00 am. Forty minutes later they were switched on again and the troops and tanks advanced towards the monument , first shooting in the air and then, again, directly at the students, so that the steps of the monument and the heroic reliefs on its sides were shattered with bullets . “However, the hotel is around 800 m from the square and the monument and half of the square cannot be seen from the hotel. The rifle shots weren't aimed at the students. They hit the loudspeakers that the protest movement had used to address the crowd in the square over the past few weeks.

A Spanish television crew from Radiotelevisión Española , a filmmaker from Hong Kong and an observer from Asia Watch , Robin Munro, were in the square all night among the last of the students. They left unmolested with them to the south just before 5 a.m. early in the morning. Years later, CBS correspondent Roth made it clear: There was no massacre on Tian'anmen Square itself, but there is no question that many people were killed by the army that night, around Tian'anmen Square and on the way - mostly in the western part of Beijing.


  • Tiananmen subtitle: 20 years after the massacre - the victims tell ( Thomas Weidenbach and Shi Ming , 52 minutes, 2009), awarded the Adolf Grimme Prize 2010 for Thomas Weidenbach and Shi Ming in the information and culture category and the Robert- Geisendörfer Prize 2010 of the Evangelical Church in Germany
  • Lost Film Treasures: 1989. The Tiananmen Square Massacre , arte
  • The Gate of Heavenly Peace (Richard Gordon and Carma Hinton, 189 minutes, 1995, English, mandarin )
  • The Tank Man (Antony Thomas, 84 minutes, 2004, English)
  • Operation Yellow Bird. The secret services and the Tian'anmen uprising (Sophie Lepault, 60 minutes, France, 2016, original French; German adaptation by Spiegel Online, broadcast on ZDFinfo ).
  • China's great taboo - 25 years after the Tiananmen massacre (Christine Adelhardt, 29 minutes, ARD Beijing, Weltspiegel, June 7, 2015)
  • 1989, Tiananmen Square (Ian MacMillan and Audrey Maurion, France and USA, 2019, arte). Two-parter, people versus party (57 minutes) and party versus people (56 minutes).


  • The group Marillion worked on the events on Tian'anmen Square in their album "Seasons End" in 1989. The song "King of Sunset Town" says, among other things, "And everyone assembled here / Remembers how it used to be / Before the 27th came / This place will never be the same" as an allusion to the fact that the 27th Army was the one that cleared the place.
  • Roger Waters released the song "Watching TV" on his concept album Amused to Death in 1992 , in which the influence of the mass media was dealt with. The song says, among other things, "She's everybody's sister / She's symbolic of our failure / She's the one in fifty million / Who can help us to be free / Because she died on TV / And I grieve for my sister"
  • The Cure singer Robert Smith dedicated the last song "Faith" to the victims of the massacre on the evening of June 4th, 1989 at the Palaeur in Rome . The Tian'anmen version ended with a clear reference by Smith to those responsible for the massacre.
  • The first lines of the song “Hypnotize” by the band System of a Down also contain an allusion to the protests ( “Why don't you ask the kids at Tian'anmen square; was fashion the reason why they were there; they disguise it hypnotize it television made you buy it ” ).
  • The song "Tien An Men Dream Again" can be found on the album Flyin 'The Flannel by the American alternative rock band FIREHOSE .
  • On the night of August 13-14, 1989, several Italian bands played a solidarity concert for the Chinese demonstrators on the square in front of the Santa Maria Annunziata church in Florence , including the rock band Litfiba and the punk band CCCP Fedeli alla linea . Both bands later also released songs related to the events: Litfiba the song "Il vento" on the Pirata album , CCCP the track "Tien An Men" (a reworking of an older track entitled "Hong Kong") on the LP Live In Punkow .


  • Oliver Corff : Tiananmen 1989. On the current situation in the People's Republic of China (= OAG aktuell . No. 45). German Society for Natural History and Ethnology of East Asia , Tokyo 1990.
  • Anja Feege: International reactions to June 4, 1989 in the PR China between solidarity, silence and sanctions . Institute for Asian Studies, Hamburg 1992, ISBN 3-88910-102-X .
  • George Black, Robin Munro: Black Hands of Beijing - Lives of defiance in China's democracy movement. John Wiley and Sons, 1993, ISBN 0-471-57977-7 .
  • Andrew J. Nathan, Perry Link: The Tiananmen File. The secret documents of the Chinese leadership on the massacre at Tiananmen Square (original title: The Tiananmen papers , translated by Ulrike Bischoff), Propylaeen, Berlin 2001, ISBN 978-3-549-07134-2 .
  • Peter Schier, Ruth Cremerius, Doris Fischer: Student protest and repression in China, April - June 1989. Chronology, documents, analysis . 3rd, revised and expanded edition, Institute for Asian Studies, Hamburg 1993 (first edition 1990), ISBN 3-88910-122-4 .
  • Jonathan Spence: China's Path to Modernity . Hanser, Munich Vienna 1995, ISBN 978-3-446-16284-6 .
  • Orville Schell: The Mandate of Heaven. China: The future of a world power (original title: Mandate of Heaven , translated by Udo Rennert and Andrea von Struve). Rowohlt, Berlin 1995, ISBN 978-3-87134-251-6 .
  • Louisa Lim: The People's Republic of Amnesia: Tiananmen Revisited. Oxford University Press, New York 2014, ISBN 978-0-19-934770-4 .
  • Liao Yiwu: The bullets and the opium. Life and death in Tiananmen Square. Translated from the Chinese by Hans Peter Hoffmann. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2014. First edition Fischer 2012. ISBN 978-3-596-19500-8

Web links

Commons : Tian'anmen Massacre  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Jay Mathews: The Myth of Tiananmen - And the Price of a Passive Press. Columbia Journalism Review, October 1998, accessed January 28, 2013 (September / October 1998).
  2. Gregory Clark: Birth of a Massacre Myth. The Japan Times, July 21, 2008, accessed January 28, 2013 .
  3. a b The massacre of June 1989 and its aftermath. (PDF; 169 kB) Chapter 4. Amnesty International, September 17, 1990, accessed on January 28, 2013 .
  4. a b c United States Embassy in Beijing, US Ambassador to China, Lilley: What Happened on the Night of June 3/4? Cable to the Department of State - 1989-06-22. Retrieved January 28, 2013 : “The battles raged around the square rather than on it. Witnesses present at the Martyrs Monument report an eerie lack of action on the square proper during the shooting in the streets. " This dispatch is easier to read at WikiLeaks http://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/89BEIJING18828_a.html  :" DID NOT OBSERVE ANY MASS FIRING OF WEAPONS INTO THE CROWDS, ALTHOUGH SPORADIC GUNFIRE WAS HEARD ”
  5. Yuhua Wang: How has Tiananmen changed China? ( en ) In: Washington Post .
  6. a b Wu Wei: Why China's Political Reforms Failed ( en-US ) In: The Diplomat . 4th June 2015.
  7. a b Wei Wu:邓小平 为什么 重提 政治 体制改革? ( zh ) In: The New York Times . March 18, 2014.
  8. Federal Agency for Civic Education: Commemoration of the Tiananmen Massacre | bpb. Retrieved August 8, 2020 .
  9. ^ Robert D. McFadden: The West Condemns the Crackdown (en-US) . In: The New York Times , June 5, 1989. Retrieved May 27, 2020. 
  10. Andrei Yakovlev: Analysis: 25th Anniversary of the "South Tour" Deng Xiao Pings - On the History of Chinese Reforms | bpb. Retrieved July 10, 2020 .
  11. Deng Xiaoping's Southern Tour . In: Berkshire Publishing Group LLC . 2009.
  12. ^ A b R. Keith Schoppa: The Columbia guide to modern Chinese history . New York, Columbia University Press, 2000, ISBN 0-231-11276-9 , pp. 127 f.
  13. ^ Edward A. Gargan: Leader of Party in China Is Ousted for His 'Mistakes' . In: The New York Times . January 17, 1987, ISSN  0362-4331 ( nytimes.com [accessed August 8, 2020]).
  14. Marco Metzler: Interview on the Chinese real estate market. nzz.ch, October 29, 2010, accessed October 8, 2014
  15. a b c d e f g h Graham Hutchings: Modern China - a guide to a century of change . Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 2001, ISBN 0-674-00658-5 , pp. 422-427.
  16. Bloomberg: Heirs of Mao's Comrades Rise as New Capitalist Nobility , December 26, 2012
  17. Naomi Klein: The Shock Strategy: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism . Fischer (S.), Frankfurt 2007
  18. Unless otherwise stated, this section is based on the book by George Black, The Nation and Robin Munro, who as an eyewitness for Asia Watch observed the protests and their crackdown. George Black, Robin Munro: Black Hands of Beijing - Lives of defiance in China's democracy movement. John Wiley and Sons, 1993, ISBN 0-471-57977-7 , chapter The Polish Disease , pp. 221-233.
  19. ^ Black, Munro: p. 224.
  20. a b Black, Munro: p. 276 ff.
  21. Black, Munro: Chapter The Polish Disease , pp. 221-233.
  22. ^ Embassy dispatch from Beijing to London , May 20, 1989
  23. ^ Indictment from the afterlife. The memoirs of Zhao Ziyang. Spiegel online, May 19, 2009
  24. Xie Xiaoqing, professor at the Central China Normal College in Wuhan, and employee of the Democratic Forces at the Beijing Social and Economic Sciences Research Institute (SERI) wrote a year later: The mood in Tian'anmen Square from May 3, “was the same exactly the dictatorship of the Jacobins. Those who applauded the loudest were the most radical. ”- quoted from Black, Munro: p. 208.
  25. ^ Peter G. Eighth: Tiananmen 89: Unresolved Past . news.ch , Jun 2, 2014. As a long-time Far East correspondent for Swiss television and radio, eighth was an eyewitness to the events in Beijing
  26. Black, Munro: p. 241 f.
  27. Elizabeth Pisani: Chinese Whispers . February 5, 2009 (PDF; 211 kB; a Reuters eyewitness reports)
  28. Graham Earnshaw The Tiananmen Story, An Eyewitness account. ( Memento of March 7, 2011 in the Internet Archive )
  29. ^ Image of the "Tank Man" at the World Press Photo Foundation.
  30. Hsi-tʻung Chʻen: Report on checking the turmoil and quelling the counter-revolutionary rebellion: June 30, 1989 , Beijing: New Star Publishers, 1989
  31. ^ Scott Savitt: Defiant citizens confront tanks; government predicts long struggle , United Press International, June 5, 1989
  32. quoted from Black, Munro: p. 236.
  33. Straits Times: Tiananmen activists flew to freedom on the wings of the Yellow Bird , June 3, 2014
  34. Le Monde: En Chine, la fascinante opération "Yellow Bird" , June 2, 2016
  35. Sophie Lepault Operation Yellow Bird - The Secret Services and the Tian'anmen Uprising (60 minutes, F 2016, German version: Spiegel-TV 2018)
  36. Federal Office of Economics and Export Control: Overview of the country-specific embargoes. In: https://www.bafa.de/DE/Home/home_node.html . Federal Office of Economics and Export Control, December 4, 2018, accessed on March 22, 2019 .
  37. HK's Tiananmen museum shuts temporarily amid probe, days before crackdown anniversary. In: The Straits Times , June 2, 2021.
  38. Werner Meißner (ed.), Anja Feege (edit.): The GDR and China 1945–1990: Politics - Economy - Culture. A collection of sources (= sources on the history of German-Chinese relations from 1987 to 1995 ). Akademie, Berlin 1995, p. 392, fn. 1 .
  39. Quotation from Das Westfernsehen and the revolutionary upheaval in the GDR in autumn 1989 http://www.lars-bruecher.de/ddr_westmedien.htm#_ftn212
  40. See the online finding aid for the protocols of the SED Politburo, Protocol No. 22/89: Meeting of the Politburo on June 6, 1989. Signature DY 30 / J IV 2/2/2331. In: BSTU.Bundesarchiv.de.
  41. Julia Weber: Suppression of the protest movement on Tiananmen Square in Beijing, 1989. In: German Broadcasting Archive .
  42. ^ Collapse of the SED regime. ( Memento of April 24, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) In: Federal Agency for Political Education ; Diary of German Unity ( Memento from January 26, 2012 in the Internet Archive )
  43. Thomas Klein : "Peace and Justice!". The politicization of the Independent Peace Movement in East Berlin during the 1980s (= contemporary historical studies. ) Böhlau, Cologne / Weimar / Vienna 2007, pp. 463–465 .
  44. Uwe Thaysen: The round table. Or: where was the people? The way of the GDR to democracy. Westdeutscher Verlag, Opladen 1990, p. 21 .
  45. ^ Motion by all parliamentary groups in the People's Chamber of the German Democratic Republic for a joint declaration on the events of June 3rd and 4th, 1989 in the People's Republic of China. In: German Bundestag (ed.): Minutes of the People's Chamber of the German Democratic Republic: 10th electoral period (April 5 to October 2, 1990). Minutes of the 1st meeting to the 9th meeting. Emphasis. Springer, Wiesbaden 2000, p. 323 f.
  46. http://orf.at/stories/2343108/ Hong Kong: Gedenken an Tiananmen Massacre, orf.at, June 4, 2016, accessed June 5, 2016.
  47. Grit Hartmann: The prescribed harmony. Berliner Zeitung , March 27, 2008, accessed on June 3, 2009 .
  48. Liu Xiaobo: The government must finally tell the truth , printed in the Berliner Zeitung on October 14, 2010.
  49. ^ Michael Metzger: Internet censorship: Web 0.0 in China. Die Zeit , June 3, 2009, accessed June 4, 2009 .
  50. http://orf.at/#/stories/2343152/ Tiananmen-Gedenken: Several arrests, orf.at, June 5, 2016, accessed June 5, 2016.
  51. Chinese police arrest activists and relatives of victims. Retrieved June 4, 2019 .
  52. Twitter apologizes for blocked China accounts ahead of Tiananmen… In: Reuters . June 2, 2019 ( reuters.com [accessed June 4, 2019]).
  53. Keywan Tonekaboni: Microsoft Bing: Photo of the "Tank Man" temporarily disappears from the search engine . In: heise online News from June 5, 2021.
  54. Chinese defense minister says Tiananmen crackdown was justified . In: Reuters . June 2, 2019 ( reuters.com [accessed November 6, 2021]).
  55. Deutsche Welle (www.dw.com): 30 years after Tiananmen, the influence of democracy activists is waning | DW | June 3, 2019. Retrieved June 4, 2019 (German).
  56. Tian'anmen Mothers: An Offering to the Spirits of the Victims on the 21st Anniversary of the June Fourth Massacre of June 1, 2010, in: Human Rights in China, accessed on September 26, 2011 (English)
  57. Amnesty International: Intimidation of the Tiananmen Mothers ( Memento of December 1, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) AI campaign of June 3, 2005, accessed on September 26, 2011
  58. Epoch Times: Tiananmen Mothers Reject Offers of Individual Compensation , June 4, 2011
  59. China: "Tiananmen mothers" demand justice in: Amnesty of May 2009, accessed on September 26, 2011
  60. Unless otherwise stated, this chapter is based on Black, Munro: p. 246 f. With many other references. (also online )
  61. Richard Roth: There was no "Tiananmen Square Massacre," CBSNEWS, June 4, 2009
  62. ^ Longitude Film: Tiananmen ( Memento from August 31, 2012 in the Internet Archive ), video and information about the film
  63. Grimme Institute: Jury's statement ( Memento from November 9, 2013 in the Internet Archive )
  64. ^ Robert Geisendörfer Prize: Prize Winner ( Memento from April 8, 2014 in the Internet Archive )
  65. ^ Arte TV: 1989. The massacre on Tiananmen Square
  66. Official website for the film The Gate of Heavenly Peace
  67. Official website for the film "The Tank Man"
  68. ^ Operation Yellow Bird. The secret services and the Tian'anmen uprising. ZDF, accessed on May 28, 2019 .
  69. Christine Adelhardt: Weltspiegel Extra: China's great taboo - 25 years after the Tiananmen massacre. In: ARD media library. ARD, June 7, 2015, accessed on August 14, 2019 .
  70. 1989, Tiananmen Square (1/2) - People versus Party. In: arte media library. Retrieved October 5, 2019 .
  71. 1989, Tiananmen Square (2/2) - Party versus People. In: arte media library. Retrieved October 5, 2019 .
  72. Tiananmen. In: IMDB. Retrieved October 5, 2019 .
  73. Marillion: Lyrics: King of Sunset Town / Marillion
  74. Lyrics: Watching TV ( Memento from May 14, 2009 in the Internet Archive )