A day after the death of Hu Yaobang, supporters of liberalization started small scale protests. While the protests lacked a unified cause or leadership, participants were generally against the authoritarianism and voiced calls for economic liberalization and democratic reform within the structure of the government. The demonstrations centered on Tiananmen Square in Beijing, but large-scale protests also occurred in cities throughout China, including Shanghai, which stayed peaceful throughout the protests.
The movement lasted seven weeks from Yaobang's death on 15 April until tanks cleared Tiananmen Square on 4 June. In Beijing, the resulting military response to the protesters by the PRC government left many civilians dead or injured. The reported tolls ranged from 200–300 (PRC government figures) and to 2,000–3,000 (Chinese student associations and Chinese Red Cross).
Following the violence, the government conducted widespread arrests to suppress protesters and their supporters, cracked down on other protests around China, banned the foreign press from the country and strictly controlled coverage of the events in the PRC press. Members of the Party who had publicly sympathized with the protesters were purged, with several high-ranking members placed under house arrest, such as General Secretary Zhao Ziyang. The violent suppression of the Tiananmen Square protest caused widespread international condemnation of the PRC government.
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 and political 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.
The Tiananmen Square protests in 1989 were in large measure sparked by the death of former Secretary General Hu Yaobang: Hu Yaobang's resignation from the position of Secretary General of the CPC had been 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, not only to mourn the deceased Secretary General, but also to have their voices heard in "demanding a reversal of the verdict against him" and bringing renewed attention to the important issues of the 1986–1987 pro-democracy protests and possibly also to those of the Democracy Wall protests in 1978–1979.
Protests started out on a small scale, on 16 April and 17 April, in the form of mourning for Hu Yaobang and demands that the party revise their official view of him. Hu Yaobang was a general secretary famous for advocating capitalism. Socialist hardliners had ousted him for his "laxness" on "bourgeois liberalization".
On 18 April, 10,000 students staged a sit-in on Tian'anmen square, in front of the Great Hall of the People. On the same evening, a few thousand students gathered in front of Zhongnanhai, the residence of the government, demanding to see government leaders. They were dispersed by security.
The protests gained momentum after news of the confrontation between students and police spread; the belief by students that the Chinese media was distorting the nature of their activities also led to increased support (although one national newspaper, the Science and Technology Daily published, in its issue dated 19 April, an account of the 18 April sit-in).
On the night of 21 April, the day before Hu's funeral, some 100,000 students marched on Tiananmen square, gathering there before the square could be closed off for the funeral. On 22 April, they requested, in vain, to meet premier Li Peng, widely regarded to be Hu's political rival. On the same day, protests happened in Xi'an and Changsha.
From 21 April to 23 April, students from Beijing called for a strike at universities, which included teachers and students boycotting classes. The government, which was well aware of the political storm caused by the now-legitimized 1976 Tiananmen Incident, was alarmed. On 26 April, following an internal speech made by Deng Xiaoping, the CPC's official newspaper People's Daily issued a front-page editorial titled Uphold the flag to clearly oppose any turmoil, attempting to rally the public behind the government, and accused "extremely small segments of opportunists" of plotting civil unrest. The statement enraged the students, and on 27 April about 50,000 students assembled on the streets of Beijing, disregarding the warning of a crackdown made by authorities, and demanded that the government revoke the statement.
In Beijing, a majority of students from the city's numerous colleges and universities participated with support of their instructors and other intellectuals. The students rejected official Communist Party-controlled student associations and set up their own autonomous associations. The students viewed themselves as Chinese patriots, as the heirs of the May Fourth Movement for "science and democracy" of 1919. The protests also evoked memories of the Tiananmen Square protests of 1976 which had eventually led to the ousting of the Gang of Four. From its origins as a memorial to Hu Yaobang, who was seen by the students as an advocate of democracy, the students' activity gradually developed over the course of their demonstration from protests against corruption into demands for freedom of the press and an end to, or the reform of, the rule of the PRC by the Communist Party of China and Deng Xiaoping, the de facto paramount Chinese leader. Partially successful attempts were made to reach out and network with students in other cities and with workers.
The protests were begun by Beijing students to encourage free-market reforms and liberalization. Protesters believed that China had not gone far enough in economic liberalization and privatization. They also believed that the social reforms made by Deng Xiaoping had not gone far enough and China needed to reform its political systems.
Unlike the Tiananmen protests of 1987, which consisted mainly of students and intellectuals, the protests in 1989 commanded widespread support from the urban workers who were alarmed by growing inflation and corruption. In Beijing, they were supported by a large number of people. Similar numbers were found in major cities throughout mainland China such as Urumqi, Shanghai and Chongqing; and later in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Chinese communities in North America and Europe.
On May 4, a declaration demanded the government to accelerate political and economic reform, guarantee constitutional freedoms, fight corruption, adopt a press law, and allow the establishment of privately run newspapers.
That day, approximately 100,000 students and workers marched in Beijing making demands for free media reform and a formal dialogue between the authorities and student-elected representatives. The government rejected the proposed dialogue, only agreeing to talk to members of appointed student organizations. On 13 May, two days prior to the highly-publicized state visit by the reform-minded Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, huge groups of students occupied Tiananmen Square and started a hunger strike, insisting the government withdraw the accusation made in the People's Daily editorial and begin talks with the designated student representatives. Hundreds of students went on hunger strikes and were supported by hundreds of thousands of protesting students and part of the population of Beijing, for one week.
Protests and strikes began at colleges in other cities, with many students traveling to Beijing to join the demonstration. Generally, the demonstration at Tiananmen Square was well-ordered, with daily marches of students from various Beijing area colleges displaying their solidarity with the boycott of college classes and with the developing demands of the protest. The students sang "The Internationale", the world socialist anthem, on their way to and within the square. The students even showed a surprising gesture of respect to the government by helping police arrest three men from Hunan Province, including Yu Dongyue, who had thrown ink on the large portrait of Mao that hangs from Tiananmen, just north of the square.
The students ultimately decided that in order to sustain their movement and impede any loss of momentum a hunger strike would need to be enacted. The students' decision to undertake the hunger strike was a defining moment in their movement. The hunger strike began in May 1989 and grew to include "more than one thousand persons". The hunger strike brought widespread support for the students and "the ordinary people of Beijing rallied to protect the hunger strikers...because the act of refusing sustenance and courting government reprisals convinced onlookers that the students were not just seeking personal gains but (were) sacrificing themselves for the Chinese people as a whole".
On 19 May at 4:50 am, General Secretary Zhao Ziyang went to the Square and made a speech urging the students to end the hunger strike. Part of his speech was to become a famous quote, when he said, referring to the older generation of people in China, "We are already old, it doesn't matter to us any more." In contrast, the students were young and he urged them to stay healthy and not to sacrifice themselves so easily. Zhao's visit to the Square was his last public appearance.
Partially successful attempts were made to negotiate with the PRC government, who were located nearby in Zhongnanhai, the Communist Party headquarters and leadership compound. Because of the visit of Mikhail Gorbachev, foreign media were present in mainland China in large numbers. Their coverage of the protests was extensive and generally favorable towards the protesters, but pessimistic that they would attain their goals. Toward the end of the demonstration, on 30 May, a statue of the Goddess of Democracy was erected in the Square and came to symbolize the protest to television viewers worldwide.
The Standing Committee of the Politburo, along with the party elders (retired but still-influential former officials of the government and Party), were, at first, hopeful that the demonstrations would be short-lived or that cosmetic reforms and investigations would satisfy the protesters. They wished to avoid violence if possible, and relied at first on their far-reaching Party apparatus in attempts to persuade the students to abandon the protest and return to their studies. One barrier to effective action was that the leadership itself supported many of the demands of the students, especially the concern with corruption. However, one large problem was that the protests contained many people with varying agendas, and hence it was unclear with whom the government could negotiate, and what the demands of the protesters were. The confusion and indecision among the protesters was also mirrored by confusion and indecision within the government. The official media mirrored this indecision as headlines in the People's Daily alternated between sympathy with the demonstrators and denouncing them.
Among the top leadership, General Secretary Zhao Ziyang was strongly in favour of a soft approach to the demonstrations while Li Peng was seen to argue in favour of a crackdown. Ultimately, the decision to forcefully intervene on the demonstrations was made by a group of Party elders who saw abandonment of single-party rule as a return of the chaos of the Cultural Revolution. Although most of these people had no official position, they were able to control the military. Deng Xiaoping was chairman of the Central Military Commission and was able to declare martial law; Yang Shangkun was President of the People's Republic of China, which, although a symbolic position under the 1982 Constitution, was legally the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The Party elders believed that lengthy demonstrations were a threat to the stability of the country. The demonstrators were seen as tools of advocates of "bourgeois liberalism" who were pulling the strings behind the scenes, as well as tools of elements within the party who wished to further their personal ambitions.
University students in Shanghai also took to the streets to commemorate the death of Hu Yaobang and protest against certain policies of the government. In many cases, these were supported by the universities' Party committees. Jiang Zemin then-Municipal Party Secretary, addressed the student protesters in a bandage and expressed his understanding, as he was a former student agitator before 1949. At the same time, he moved swiftly to send in police forces to control the streets and to purge Communist Party leaders who had supported the students.
On 19 April, the editors of the World Economic Herald, a magazine close to reformists, decided to publish, in their 24 April #439 issue, a commemorative section on Hu. Inside was an article by Yan Jiaqi, which commented favourably on the Beijing student protests on 18 April and called for a reassessment of Hu's purge in 1987. On 21 April, a party official of Shanghai asked the editor in chief, Qin Benli, to change some passages. Qin Benli refused, so Chen turned to Jiang Zemin, who demanded that the article be censored. By that time, a first batch of copies of the paper had already been delivered. The remaining copies were published with a blank page. On 26 April, the "People's Daily" published its editorial condemning the student protest. Jiang followed this cue and suspended Qin Benli. His quick rise to power following the 1989 protests has been attributed to his decisive handling of these two events.
In Hong Kong, on 27 May 1989, over 300,000 people gathered at Happy Valley Racecourse for a gathering called "Democratic songs dedicated for China." Many famous Hong Kong and Taiwanese celebrities sang songs and expressed their support for the students in Beijing. The following day, a procession of 1.5 million people, one fourth of Hong Kong's population, led by Martin Lee, Szeto Wah and other organization leaders, paraded through Hong Kong Island.
Across the world, especially where Chinese lived, people gathered and protested. Many governments, such as those of the USA, Japan, etc., also issued warnings advising their own citizens not to go to the PRC.
Soldiers and tanks from the 27th and 28th Armies of the People's Liberation Army were sent to take control of the city. The 27th Army was led by a commander related to Yang Shangkun. In a press conference, US President George H. W. Bush announced sanctions on the People's Republic of China, following calls to action from members of Congress such as US Senator Jesse Helms. The President suggested intelligence he had received indicated some disunity in China's military ranks, and even the possibility of clashes within the military during those days. Intelligence reports also indicated that 27th and 28th units were brought in from outside provinces because the local PLA were considered to be sympathetic to the protest and to the people of the city. Reporters described elements of the 27th as having been most responsible for civilian deaths. After their attack on the square, the 27th reportedly established defensive positions in Beijing - not of the sort designed to counter a civilian uprising, but as if to defend against attacks by other military units. The locally-stationed 38th Army, on the other hand, was reportedly sympathetic to the uprising. They were supplied no ammunition, and were said to be torching their own vehicles as they abandoned them to join the protests.
Entry of the troops into the city was actively opposed by many citizens of Beijing. Protesters burned public buses and used them as roadblocks to stop the military's progress. The battle continued on the streets surrounding the Square, with protesters repeatedly advancing toward the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and constructing barricades with vehicles, while the PLA attempted to clear the streets using tear gas, rifles, and tanks. Many injured citizens were saved by rickshaw drivers who ventured into the no-man's-land between the soldiers and crowds and carried the wounded off to hospitals. After the attack on the square, live television coverage showed many people wearing black armbands in protest of the government's action, crowding various boulevards or congregating by burnt out and smoking barricades. Meanwhile, the PLA systematically established checkpoints around the city, chasing after protesters and blocking off the university district.
The assault on the square began at 10:30 p.m. on 3 June, as armored personnel carriers (APCs) and armed troops with fixed bayonets approached from various positions. These APCs rolled on up the roads, firing ahead and off to the sides, perhaps killing or wounding their own soldiers in the process. BBC reporter Kate Adie spoke of "indiscriminate fire" within the square. Eyewitness reporter Charlie Cole also saw Chinese soldiers firing AK-47's into the crowd, killing and wounding many that night. Students who sought refuge in buses were pulled out by groups of soldiers and beaten with heavy sticks. Even students attempting to leave the square were beset by soldiers and beaten. Leaders of the protest inside the square, where some had attempted to erect flimsy barricades ahead of the APCs, were said to have "implored" the students not to use weapons (such as molotov cocktails) against the oncoming soldiers. Meanwhile, many students apparently were shouting, "Why are you killing us?" Around four or five the following morning, June 4, Charlie Cole reports to have seen tanks smashing into the square, crushing vehicles and people with their tank treads. By 5:40 a.m. June 4, the Square had been cleared.
The suppression of the protest was immortalized in Western media by the famous video footage and photographs of a lone man in a white shirt standing in front of a column of tanks which were attempting to drive out of Tiananmen Square. Taken on 5 June as the column approached an intersection on the Avenue of Eternal Peace, the footage depicted the unarmed man standing in the center of the street, halting the tanks' progress. As the tank driver attempted to go around him, the "Tank Man" moved into the tank's path. He continued to stand defiantly in front of the tanks for some time, then climbed up onto the turret of the lead tank to speak to the soldiers inside. He reportedly said, "Why are you here? You have caused nothing but misery." After returning to his position blocking the tanks, the man was pulled aside by secret police. Eyewitness reporter Charlie Cole believes that "Tank Man" was probably executed after being taken from the tank by secret police, since the Chinese government could not ever produce him to hush the outcry from the civilized world. Time Magazine dubbed him The Unknown Rebel and later named him one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century. British tabloid the Sunday Express reported that the man was 19-year-old student Wang Weilin; however, the veracity of this claim is dubious. What happened to the 'Tank Man' following the demonstration is not known for certain. In a speech to the President's Club in 1999, Bruce Herschensohn — former deputy special assistant to President Richard Nixon — reported that he was executed 14 days later. In Red China Blues: My Long March from Mao to Now, Jan Wong writes that the man is still alive and hiding in mainland China. In Forbidden City, Canadian children's author William Bell, claims the man was named Wang Ai-min and was killed on 9 June after being taken into custody. The last official statement from the PRC government about the "Tank Man" came from Jiang Zemin in a 1990 interview with Barbara Walters. When asked about the whereabouts of the "Tank Man", Jiang responded that the young man was "I think never killed".
After the crackdown in Beijing on 4 June, protests continued in much of mainland China for several days. There were large protests in Hong Kong, where people again wore black in protest. There were protests in Guangzhou, and large-scale protests in Shanghai with a general strike. There were also protests in other countries, many adopting the use of black arm bands as well. However, the government soon regained control. Although no large-scale loss of life was reported in ending the protests in other cities, a political purge followed in which officials responsible for organizing or condoning the protests were removed, and protest leaders jailed.
According to Nicholas D. Kristof "The true number of deaths will probably never be known, and it is possible that thousands of people were killed without leaving evidence behind. But based on the evidence that is now available, it seems plausible that about a dozen soldiers and policemen were killed, along with 400 to 800 civilians." One reason the number may never be known is suspicion that Chinese troops may have quickly removed and disposed of bodies.
The Chinese government has maintained that there were no deaths within the square itself, although videos taken there at the time recorded the sound of gunshots. Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and State Council claimed that "hundreds of PLA soldiers died and more were injured." Yuan Mu, the spokesman of the State Council, said that a total of about 300 people died, most of them soldiers, along with a number of people he described as "ruffians". According to Chen Xitong, Beijing mayor, 200 civilians and several dozen soldiers died. Other sources stated that 3,000 civilians and 6,000 soldiers were injured. In May 2007, CPPCC member from Hong Kong, Chang Ka-mun said 300 to 600 people were killed in Tiananmen Square. He echoed that "there were armed thugs who weren't students."
However, foreign journalists who witnessed the incident have claimed that at least 3,000 people died. Some lists of casualties were created from underground sources with numbers as high as 5,000.
Ambassador James Lilley's account of the massacre notes that State Department diplomats witnessed Chinese troops opening fire on unarmed people and based on visits to hospitals around Beijing a minimum of hundreds had been killed.
A strict focus on the number of deaths within Tiananmen Square itself does not give an accurate picture of the carnage and overall death count since Chinese civilians were fired on in the streets surrounding Tiananmen Square. And students are reported to have been fired on after they left the Square, especially in the area near the Beijing concert hall.
Statistics and estimates generated from different groups of sources would indicate:
According to the Chinese government, the "official figure is 241 dead, including soldiers, and 7,000 wounded".
Declassified NSA document indicated early casualty estimates of 180-500.
Smaller protest actions continued in other cities for a few days. Some university staff and students who had witnessed the killings in Beijing organised or spurred commemorative events upon their return to school. At Shanghai's prestigious Jiaotong University, for example, the party secretary organised a public commemoration event, with engineering students producing a large, metal wreath. However, these were quickly put down, with those responsible being purged.
Chinese authorities summarily tried and executed many of the workers they arrested in Beijing. In contrast, the students - many of whom came from relatively affluent backgrounds and were well-connected - received much lighter sentences. Wang Dan, the student leader who topped the most wanted list, spent seven years in prison. Many of the students and university staff implicated were permanently politically stigmatized, some never to be employed again.
The Party leadership expelled Zhao Ziyang from the Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China (PSC), because he opposed martial law, and Zhao remained under house arrest until his death. Hu Qili, the other member of the PSC who opposed the martial law but abstained from voting, was also removed from the committee. He was, however, able to retain his party membership, and after "changing his opinion," was reassigned as deputy minister of Machine-Building and Electronics Industry. Another reform minded Chinese leader, Wan Li, was also put under house arrest immediately after he stepped out of an airplane at Beijing Capital International Airport upon returning from his shortened trip abroad, with the official excuse of "health reasons." When Wan Li was released from his house arrest after he finally "changed his opinion" he, like Qiao Shi, was transferred to a different position with equal rank but mostly ceremonial role.
The event elevated Jiang Zemin - then Mayor of Shanghai - to become the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China. Jiang's decisive actions in Shanghai, in closing down reform-leaning publications and preventing deadly violence, won him support from party elders in Beijing. Members of the government prepared a white paper explaining the government's viewpoint on the protests. An anonymous source within the PRC government smuggled the document out of China, and Public Affairs published it in January 2001 as the Tiananmen Papers. The papers include a quote by Communist Party elder Wang Zhen which alludes to the government's response to the demonstrations.
Two news anchors who reported this event on 4 June in the daily 1900 hours (7:00 pm) news report on China Central Television were fired because they showed their sad emotions. Wu Xiaoyong, the son of a Communist Party of China Central Committee member, and former PRC foreign minister and vice premier Wu Xueqian were removed from the English Program Department of Chinese Radio International. Editors and other staff at the People's Daily (the newspaper of the Communist Party of China), including its director Qian Liren and Editor-in-Chief Tan Wenrui, were also removed from their posts because of reports in the paper which were sympathetic towards the students. Several editors were arrested, with Wu Xuecan, who organised the publication of an unauthorised Extra edition, sentenced to four years' imprisonment.
Rob Gifford, a National Public Radio journalist, said that much of the political freedoms and debate that occurred post-Mao and pre-Tiananmen ended after Tiananmen. For instance, some of the authors of the film River Elegy (He Shang) were arrested, and some of the authors fled Mainland China. Gifford concluded that "China the concept, China the empire, China the construct of two thousand years of imperial thinking" has forbidden and may always forbid "independent thinking" as that would lead to the questioning of China's political system. Gifford added that people under the age of 37 as of 2007 had "near-complete depoliticization" while older intellectuals no longer focus on political change and instead focus on economic reform.
All international networks were eventually ordered to terminate broadcasts from the city during the crackdown, with the government shutting down the satellite transmissions. Broadcasters attempted to defy these orders by reporting via telephone. Footage was quickly smuggled out of the country, including the image of "the unknown rebel." The only network which was able to record some images during the night was TVE.
CBS correspondent Richard Roth and his cameraman were imprisoned during the crackdown. Roth was taken into custody while in the midst of filing a report from the Square via mobile phone. In a frantic voice, he could be heard repeatedly yelling what sounded like "Oh, no! Oh, no!" before the phone was disconnected. He was later released, suffering a slight injury to his face in a scuffle with Chinese authorities attempting to confiscate his phone. Roth later explained he had actually been saying, "Let go!"
Images of the protests - along with the collapse of Communism that was occurring at the same time in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe - would strongly shape Western views and policy toward the PRC throughout the 1990s and into the 21st century. There was considerable sympathy for the student protests among Chinese students in the West. Almost immediately, both the United States and the European Economic Community announced an arms embargo, and China's image as a reforming country and a valuable ally against the Soviet Union was replaced by that of a repressive authoritarian regime. The Tiananmen protests were frequently invoked to argue against trade liberalization with mainland China and by the United States' Blue Team as evidence that the PRC government was an aggressive threat to world peace and US interests.
Among overseas Chinese students, the Tiananmen Square protests triggered the formation of Internet news services such as the China News Digest and the NGO China Support Network. 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.
Despite early expectations in the West that PRC government would soon collapse and be replaced by the Chinese democracy movement, by the early 21st century the Communist Party of China remained in firm control of the People's Republic of China, and the student movement which started at Tiananmen was in complete disarray.
In Hong Kong, the Tiananmen square protests led to fears that the PRC would not honour its commitments under one country, two systems in the impending handover in 1997. One consequence of this was that the new governor Chris Patten attempted to expand the franchise for the Legislative Council of Hong Kong which led to friction with the PRC. There have been large candlelight vigils attended by tens of thousands in Hong Kong every year since 1989 and these vigils have continued following the transfer of power to the PRC in 1997.
The protests also marked a shift in the political conventions which governed politics in the People's Republic. Prior to the protests, under the 1982 Constitution, the President was a largely symbolic role. By convention, power was distributed between the positions of President, Premier, and General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, all of whom were intended to be different people, in order to prevent the excesses of Mao-style dictatorship. However, after Yang Shangkun used his reserve powers as head of state to mobilize the military, the Presidency again became a position imbued with real power. Subsequently, the President became the same person as the General Secretary of the CPC, and wielded paramount power.
In 1989, neither the Chinese military nor the Beijing police had adequate anti-riot gear, such as rubber bullets and tear gas commonly used in Western nations to break up riots. After the Tiananmen Square protests, riot police in Chinese cities were equipped with non-lethal equipment for riot control.
The protest leaders at Tiananmen were unable to produce a coherent movement or ideology that would last past the mid-1990s. Many of the student leaders came from relatively well-off sectors of society and were seen as out of touch with common people. A number of them were socialists. Many of the organizations which were started in the aftermath of Tiananmen soon fell apart due to personal infighting. Several overseas democracy activists were supportive of limiting trade with mainland China which significantly decreased their popularity both within China and among the overseas Chinese community. A number of NGOs based in the U.S., which aim to bring democratic reform to China and relentlessly protest human rights violations that occur in China, remain. One of the oldest and most prominent of them, the China Support Network (CSN), was founded in 1989 by a group of concerned Americans and Chinese activists in response to Tiananmen Square.
The official media in mainland China views the crackdown as a necessary reaction to ensure stability. It is common for Chinese youth born after the crackdown to be entirely unaware of the Tiananmen protests. Every year there is a large rally in Victoria Park, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong, where people remember the victims and demand that the CPC's official view be changed. In 2008, this vigil was reported for the first time in the mainstream Chinese press, but was attributed to be in support of the victims of the recent earthquake in south-east China, and no mention of Tiananmen Square was made.
Petition letters over the incident have emerged from time to time, notably from Dr. Jiang Yanyong and Tiananmen Mothers, an organization founded by a mother of one of the victims killed in 1989 where the families seek vindication, compensation for their lost sons, and the right to receive donations, particularly from abroad. Tiananmen Square is tightly patrolled on the anniversary of 4 June to prevent any commemoration on the Square.
After the PRC Central Government reshuffle in 2004, several cabinet members mentioned Tiananmen. In October 2004, during President Hu Jintao's visit to France, he reiterated that "the government took determined action to calm the political storm of 1989, and enabled China to enjoy a stable development." He insisted that the government's view on the incident would not change.
In March 2004, Premier Wen Jiabao said in a press conference that during the 1990s there was a severe political storm in the PRC, amid the breakdown of the Soviet Union and radical changes in Eastern Europe. He stated that the Communist Central Committee successfully stabilized the open-door policy and protected the "Career of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics."
In January 2006, Google agreed to censor their mainland China site, Google.cn, to remove information about the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, as well as other topics such as Tibetan independence, the banned spiritual practice Falun Gong and the political status of Taiwan. When people search for those censored topics, it will list the following at the bottom of the page in Chinese, "According to the local laws, regulations and policies, part of the searching result is not shown." The uncensored Wikipedia articles on the 1989 protests, both in English and Chinese Wikipedia, have been attributed as a cause of the blocking of Wikipedia by the government in mainland China. The ban of Wikipedia in mainland China was lifted recently, but the link to this incident in Chinese Wikipedia remained dead.
In 2006, the American PBS program "Frontline" broadcast a segment filmed at Peking University, many of whose students participated in the 1989 protests. Four students were shown a picture of the Tank Man, but none of them could identify what was happening in the photo. Some responded that it was a military parade, or an artwork.
On May 15, 2007, the leader of the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for Betterment of Hong Kong, Ma Lik, provoked much criticism when he said that "there was not a massacre" during the protests, as there was "no intentional and indiscriminate shooting." He said Hong Kong was "not mature enough" due to believing foreigners' rash claims that a massacre took place. He said that Hong Kong showed through its lack of patriotism and national identity that it would thus "not be ready for democracy until 2022. His remarks were met with wide condemnation.
On June 4, 2007, the anniversary of the massacre, a notice reading, "Paying tribute to the strongwilled mothers of June 4 victims" was published in the Chengdu Evening News newspaper. The matter is currently being investigated by the Chinese government, and three editors have since been fired from the paper. The clerk who approved the ad had reportedly never heard of the June 4 crackdown and had been told that the date was a reference to a mining disaster.
The arms embargo was discussed at a PRC-EU summit in the Netherlands between December 7 and 9, 2004. In the run-up to the summit, the PRC had attempted to increase pressure on the EU Council to lift the ban by warning that the ban could hurt PRC-EU relations. PRC Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui had called the ban "outdated", and he told reporters, "If the ban is maintained, bilateral relations will definitely be affected." In the end, the EU Council did not lift the ban. EU spokeswoman Françoise le Bail said there were still concerns about the PRC's commitment to human rights. But at the time, the EU did state a commitment to work towards lifting the ban.
The PRC continued to press for the embargo to be lifted, and some member states began to drop their opposition. Jacques Chirac pledged to have the ban lifted by mid-2005. However, the Anti-Secession Law of the People's Republic of China passing in March 2005 increased cross-strait tensions, damaging attempts to lift the ban, and several EU Council members changed their minds. Members of the U.S. Congress had also proposed restrictions on the transfer of military technology to the EU if they lifted the ban. Thus the EU Council failed to reach a consensus, and although France and Germany pushed to have the embargo lifted, the embargo was maintained.
Britain took charge of the EU Presidency in July 2005, making the lifting of the embargo all but impossible for the duration of that period. Britain had always had some reservations on lifting the ban and wished to put it to the side, rather than sour EU-US relations further. Other issues such as the failure of the European Constitution and the ensuing disagreement over the European Budget and Common Agricultural Policy superseded the matter of the embargo in importance. Britain wanted to use its presidency to push for wholesale reform of the EU, so the lifting of the ban became even more unlikely. The election of José Manuel Barroso as European Commission President also made a lifting of the ban more difficult. At a meeting with Chinese leaders in mid-July 2005, he said that China's poor record on human rights would slow any changes to the EU's ban on arms sales to China.
Political will also changed in countries that had previously been more in favor of lifting the embargo. Schröder lost the 2005 German federal election to Angela Merkel, who became chancellor on 22 November 2005 - Merkel made her position clear that she was strongly against lifting the ban. Jacques Chirac declared he would not stand again as a candidate for the French Presidency in 2007. His successor, Nicolas Sarkozy, is also in favour of lifting the embargo like Chirac. That is, the French government has changed, but not the French foreign policy on this matter.
In addition, the European Parliament has consistently opposed the lifting of the arms embargo to the PRC. Though its agreement is not necessary for lifting the ban, many argue it reflects the will of the European people better as it is the only directly elected European body—the EU Council is appointed by member states. The European Parliament has repeatedly opposed any lifting of the arms embargo on the PRC:
The arms embargo has limited China's options from where it may seek military hardware. Among the sources that were sought included the former Soviet bloc that it had a strained relationship with as a result of the Sino-Soviet split. Other willing suppliers have previously included Israel and South Africa, but American pressure has restricted future co-operation.
The British rock band The Cure, during a concert in Rome on 4 June 1989, dedicated their last encore, "Faith," to "everyone that died today in China." Singer Robert Smith extended the song with improvised lyrics about a person who has a gun held to their mouth and urged to say "Yes" to the question "Do you love me?", but finally refuses to do so. The bootlegged recording of this 15 minute version is known as "Tiananmen Faith". In the same year, Joan Baez wrote and recorded her folk anthem "China" to commemorate the democratic revolt. The song "Hypnotize" by System Of A Down is based on the event. Billy Joel's history-themed single "We Didn't Start the Fire", released late 1989, mentions the event in the line "China's under martial law." American thrash metal band Slayer released a song "Blood Red" on their 1990 album titled "Seasons in the Abyss", which was inspired by the Tiananmen Square incident. The song includes the lines: "Peaceful confrontation meets war machine, Seizing all civil liberties... No disguise can deface evil, The massacre of innocent people." The same year, another American thrash metal band Testament released the song "Seven Days in May" protesting the Beijing massacre (though the assault on Tiananmen Square took place on 3rd June, not in May) on their "Souls of Black" album, including the words: "In the square they play the game, That's when the tanks and the army came... They called the murders minimal, Described their victims as criminals... Dead souls like you and me, Who only wanted free society". British goth rock outfit Siouxsie and the Banshees recorded the song "The Ghost in You" for their album Superstition in 1991. It is about a person who witnessed the massacre returning to Tiananmen Square and remembering the terrible emotions he/she experienced there. Sinéad O'Connor, on her 1990 album I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got, referenced the killings in her song "Black Boys on Mopeds" with the following opening lines: "Margaret Thatcher on TV, Shocked by the deaths that took place in Beijing".
Roger Waters referred to the massacre on the song "Watching TV" from his 1992 album Amused to Death. In 1996, Nevermore released the track titled "The Tiananmen Man" on their The Politics of Ecstasy album. The song is about the Tank Man who famously stood in front of the tanks in the Square. In 2006 a Chinese folk singer Li Zhi wrote a song titled "The Square", where the sound of bullets and ambulance and voice of TAM mother Mrs. Ding were sampled. In 2007 Hed PE wrote a song entitled "Tiananmen Squared" on their Insomnia album.