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date: 24 April 2024

The 1989 Tiananmen Movement and Its Aftermathfree

The 1989 Tiananmen Movement and Its Aftermathfree

  • Rowena Xiaoqing HeRowena Xiaoqing HeHistory Department, Saint Michael’s College


In spring 1989, millions of Chinese took to the streets calling for reforms. The nationwide movement, highlighted by a hunger strike in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, ended on June 4 with the People’s Liberation Army firing on unarmed civilians. Over 200,000 soldiers, equipped with tanks and machine guns, participated in the lethal action. Student leaders, intellectuals, workers, and citizens were subsequently purged, imprisoned, or exiled.

Tiananmen remains one of the most sensitive and taboo subjects in China today, banned from both academic and popular realms. Even the actual number of deaths from the military crackdown remains unknown. Every year on the anniversary of June 4, the government intensifies its control, and citizens who commemorate the events are put under various forms of surveillance. The Tiananmen Mothers are prohibited from openly mourning family members who died in the massacre, and exiles are prohibited from returning home, even for a parent’s funeral. Many older supporters of the movement, leading liberal intellectuals in the 1980s, died in exile.

The post-Tiananmen regime has constructed a narrative that portrays the Tiananmen Movement as a Western conspiracy to weaken and divide China, hence justifying its military crackdown as necessary for stability and prosperity and paving the way for China’s rise. Because public opinion pertaining to nationalism and democratization is inseparable from a collective memory of the nation’s most immediate past—be it truthful, selective, or manipulated—the memory of Tiananmen has become highly contested. While memory can be manipulated or erased by those in power, the repression of both memory and history is accompanied by political, social, and psychological distortions. Indeed, it is not possible to understand today’s China and its relationship with the world without understanding the spring of 1989.


  • China


The 1989 Tiananmen Movement, known in Chinese as “June Fourth” (Liu Si), was a nationwide nonviolent citizens’ movement calling for reforms in China. Sparked by the April 15, 1989, death of Hu Yaobang, the former general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) whose reformist views distinguished him from the hardliners in the leadership, Chinese intellectuals and students in cities throughout the country, soon joined by other citizens, began a series of peaceful petitions, demonstrations, and hunger strikes. The movement ended on June 4 when the Chinese government deployed over 200,000 soldiers, equipped with tanks and machine guns, to crack down on what the regime called a “counterrevolutionary riot.” Historian Tim Brook Historian Tim Brook argues that the military crackdown is a “massacre,” noting that “using combat weapons against unarmed citizens was a moral failure.”1 The general secretary of the CCP at the time, Zhao Ziyang, who refused to order the crackdown, was dismissed and lived under house arrest until his death in 2005. General Xu Qinxian, commander of the 38th Army of the People’s Liberation Army, who refused to participate in the crackdown, was court martialed, imprisoned for five years, and expelled from the CCP.2

Tiananmen remains one of the most sensitive and taboo subjects in China today. Discussions in the media, on the internet, and in the classroom are banned. Even the actual number of deaths from the military crackdown remains unknown. The Tiananmen Mothers are prohibited from openly mourning family members who died in the massacre, and exiles are prohibited from returning home, even for a parent’s funeral. In 2014, Professor Hao Jian3 and four other intellectuals were detained after attending a private symposium commemorating the twenty-fifth anniversary of the movement at Professor Hao’s apartment. Chen Yunfei, a student at Beijing Agricultural University in 1989, was arrested after visiting the grave of a Tiananmen victim in 2015 and was detained for two years without trial;4 he was sentenced to four years of imprisonment in 2017.

Immediately after the crackdown, the government carried out mass arrests and purges throughout the country. These were followed by an elaborate campaign, through education and the state-controlled media, to reestablish the legitimacy of the regime. An official version of the 1989 events was constructed, and massive efforts were undertaken to imprint this official account into national memory. But the official narrative has been disputed by many groups, including historians, participants in the movement, the Tiananmen Mothers, family members of the victims, and survivors of the massacre.

The official justification for the military crackdown is that it quelled a riot that otherwise would have threatened the country’s stability and prosperity. Information collected by the Tiananmen Mothers,5 however, reveals that many victims had never joined the protests and never confronted the troops. For example, Ma Chengfen, a veteran of the People’s Liberation Army, was shot and killed while sitting on the steps of her building chatting with her neighbors.6 Moreover, the Tiananmen Massacre did not only occur as the troops were advancing toward Tiananmen Square. Instead, the killings continued after the army had accomplished its task of clearing the square. For example, Fang Zheng, a survivor who was a senior at Beijing Sports College in 1989, was run over by a tank and lost both legs when a tank chased him and other students from behind after they had left the square and were peacefully returning to their campuses.

Another official justification for the military crackdown is that the students were “counterrevolutionaries,” collaborating with hostile foreign forces, and that any government would crack down on those seeking to overthrow it. But the students themselves called their movement a “Patriotic Democracy Movement” (Aiguo minzhu yundong). They were mainly hoping the regime would transform itself from within and not seek a radical regime change.7 The actions by intellectuals and students in 1989 were rooted in the Chinese tradition of Confucian dissent—helping the rulers to improve but not seeking to overthrow them.8 Sinologist Perry Link observes that a “worrying mentality” was pervasive among Chinese intellectuals in the 1980s. “Those who work to improve society, whether they succeed or not, represent the courageous ideal of the Chinese intellectual in its purest form.”9

The nature of Confucian dissent in the movement was epitomized when three college students knelt on the steps of the Great Hall of the People and lifted a copy of their petition over their heads on April 22, 1989. Another example occurred when three men hurled paint at Mao’s giant portrait in Tiananmen Square in late May 1989 because they thought that the Maoist legacy and the Communist ideology were the roots of the problem. Students immediately turned these men over to the police. They tried to separate themselves from workers and other groups instead of attempting to form a grand alliance to overthrow the regime as the Beijing government has asserted. Strategically, some students also thought that, if they called the movement “patriotic,” the government would not crack down.

Born during the Cultural Revolution and growing up in the atmosphere of reform and opening of the 1980s, the Tiananmen generation shared a widespread sentiment that the government would not only improve itself, but also welcome popular support to achieve this historic mission. When the movement was designated as “counterrevolutionary” in a blistering editorial published in the People’s Daily on April 26, the students felt betrayed. But it was not until after the crackdown on June 4 that this generation began to understand the wider context of state violence and suppression that framed post-1949 Communist party rule in China.

The official suppression of history makes teaching and researching the Tiananmen Movement challenging. Many Chinese students have been inoculated with a version of the 1989 events that is inconsistent with the historical truth. This is not a matter of varyng interpretations that are normal to unfettered historical inquiry but rather due to state-sponsored manipulation. Because public opinion pertaining to nationalism and democratization is inseparable from a collective memory of the nation’s most immediate past—be it truthful, selective, or manipulated—memory of this traumatic past has become highly contested.

The opposing narratives of the official myth and historical reality are reflected in the terms in which the movement has been characterized. The 1989 Tiananmen Movement is also referred to as the ’89 Democracy Movement (bajiu minyun) and the ’89 Student Movement (bajiu xueyun). The June 4 crackdown is also referred to as the Tiananmen Massacre (Tiananmen tusha) or the June 4 Massacre (liusi tusha). June 4 (Liu Si) is used in Chinese to refer to both the Tiananmen Movement and the military crackdown.10 The Beijing government first labeled the movement a “counterrevolutionary turmoil” (before the crackdown), and then a “riot” (after June 4), then it became an “incident,” and then a “political disturbance,” and eventually practically nothing.11 Inside China, in order to pass censorship, codes have been created, such as “May 35th,” “that year,” or “that spring and summer.” The creativity continues each time the original code is detected and banned by the censors. The most recent code is: (5+1) (5–1).

In the early 1990s, China’s paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, concerned about protecting the CCP legitimacy, sent clear signals that Chinese could make money any way they wanted as long as they did not become involved in unapproved politics, religion, and related matters. Deng’s policies led to a booming economy, higher living standards, and China’s prominent place in the world. But they also resulted in profound popular cynicism and nationalism, erosion of public trust, enormous wealth inequality, persistent environmental problems, massive expenditures on “stability maintenance,” and new signs of belligerence accompanying China’s international rise.

The iconic image of the Tiananmen Movement, the “Tank Man,” who stood in front of a column of tanks on June 5, became a symbol of the power of the powerless. The spirit of the Tiananmen Movement inspired citizens around the world, including those in Eastern Europe in late 1989, to confront and overthrow their respective Communist dictatorships and to set out on a democratic path. Many Tiananmen veterans, both at home and abroad, have continued efforts to promote political change in China, often in the face of political pressures and at high cost. Among them is the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, who died in 2017 while serving eleven years in prison. The Tiananmen Massacre and its aftermath are also a reminder to world leaders that the “Tiananmen solution,” using guns and tanks against unarmed citizens—even if it achieves short-term stability and preserves the power of the ruling elite—is never a lasting solution to problems of social and economic justice and governance. June 4 as a watershed epitomizes the relationship between history and memory, power and politics, and intellectual freedom and human rights in the Chinese context. Indeed, it is not possible to understand today’s China and its relationship with the world without understanding the spring of 1989.

Background and Context

The Tiananmen Movement was rooted in the political, social, and economic changes, as well as the intellectual trends and cultural crises that occurred in the twilight of the Mao Zedong era in the mid-1970s and at the beginning of Deng Xiaoping’s period of reform and opening in the early 1980s.

Deng, a veteran revolutionary and skilled administrator who had been one of Mao’s chief lieutenants since the 1940s, had been purged by Mao in 1967 during the Cultural Revolution, but he survived in domestic exile. In 1973, when Premier Zhou Enlai was suffering from terminal cancer, Mao, himself increasingly enfeebled, summoned Deng back to Beijing to run the government that was driven by factional disputes between Cultural Revolution radicals, led by Mao’s wife Jiang Qing, and a more moderate bureaucratic faction, represented by Zhou Enlai that favored modernization and economic development over revolutionary turmoil. Mao purged Deng once again in February 1976, a month after Zhou Enlai died, and appointed a relative unknown named Hua Guofeng as his successor.

In April 1976, toward the end of the Cultural Revolution, large-scale demonstrations took place in Tiananmen Square during Qingming festival, a traditional time to “sweep the graves,” mourning the death of Zhou Enlai and directed against the radical Maoists led by Jiang Qing. Tiananmen Square, located at the center of the capital city, has been the traditional site for popular protests since the May 4 Movement in 1919. Demonstrators gathered in Tiananmen Square and laid wreaths, poems, and posters at the Monument to the People’s Revolutionary Heroes to honor Zhou’s memory. The widely shared discontent with Mao’s radical policies was reflected in similar political events of public mourning and mass protests in other cities throughout the nation.12 The events in Beijing were repressed by force on April 5. The incident is now referred to as the “April 5 Movement” or the “April 5 Tiananmen Incident.” Commemoration as a form of protest was an invention of the April 5 Movement.13

In the aftermath, Deng Xiaoping was accused of being the “black hand” behind the movement. Activists were jailed on “counterrevolutionary” charges. Among them was Wang Juntao, a seventeen-year-old high school student.14 In some ways, the April 5 Movement was a precursor of the 1989 Tiananmen Movement, which also began with mourning the death of a CCP leader and ended with a “counterrevolutionary” verdict. As in 1976, in 1989 protesters laid wreaths, posters, and poems around the Monument to the People’s Revolutionary Heroes in Tiananmen Square, the same location where the participants of the May 4 Movement had gathered.15 This time, Deng ordered a crackdown, and Wang Juntao, accused of being one of the “black hands,” was sentenced to thirteen years in prison.

Mao’s death on September 9, 1976, introduced a decisive round in the struggle over his succession. Jiang Qing and her radical associates, dubbed the “Gang of Four,” were arrested just one month later. Hua Guofeng proved unable to consolidate his position and by 1978, Deng Xiaoping, with the backing of moderate party and military leaders, assumed the dominant leadership position, sidelining Hua Guofeng and setting China on the path of the post-Mao reforms.

In December 1978, at the third plenum of the Eleventh Central Committee of the CCP, Deng Xiaoping announced the end of the period of revolutionary turmoil and stated that henceforth China would focus on modernizing its backward economy by opening up to the world and introducing domestic reforms. Not daring to repudiate Mao directly, Deng deliberately reinterpreted Mao’s legacy by selectively gathering quotes that showed Mao’s “pragmatic side.” He also presented himself as a pragmatist who was following in Mao’s footsteps. Thus, even as he was dismantling the Maoist legacy, he wrapped himself in the cloak of Mao’s authority. Deng himself had no blueprint for change. Instead he favored experimentation, particularly in terms of the economy, and he was willing to adapt the Communist ideology to fit the needs of economic development.16 In 1980 Hu Yaobang was appointed general secretary of the CCP, who later earned the respect of intellectuals for reversing Mao-era cases of unjustified persecution. Zhao Ziyang was appointed premier, responsible for economic reforms. Deng held the key post of chairman of the Central Military Commission. Within the strictly hierarchical CCP, Deng was generally accepted as the paramount leader. In 1978–1979, while Deng was still moving to expand his power, the Democracy Wall Movement erupted in Beijing, as all sorts of unofficial political and social opinions were expressed in the form of big-character posters (dazibao) that anyone could read and ponder. As a common mode of political expression during the Communist era, big-character posters were “one of the few outlets of expression available to Chinese who desired to make a dissenting political statement or to raise a personal grievance.”17 Big-character posters had also been widely used to denounce people in political campaigns during the Maoist era. They were instruments of both individual expression as well as suppression. The movement quickly spread to other cities. Unlike the brief April 5 Movement in 1976 and the later 1989 Tiananmen Movement, which lasted about six weeks, the Democracy Wall Movement continued for more than a year. At first Deng permitted the existence of Democracy Wall because he wanted to take temporary advantage of the activists’ demands for political and economic reforms to oust the remaining Maoists from the party leadership.18 The party had already nullified the “counterrevolutionary” verdict on the April 5 Movement and had released hundreds of imprisoned participants. The reversal of cases of unjustified persecution during the Mao years was still ongoing. Deng himself called for “socialist democracy and rule of law.” Yet when Wei Jingsheng, a young electrician at the Beijing Zoo, posted a call for true democracy in China, Deng ordered the arrest of Wei. (He was subsequently sentenced to fifteen years.) In an essay entitled “The Fifth Modernization,” Wei had argued that democracy should be added to the list of the Four Modernizations advocated by Deng, namely, modernization of agriculture, industry, national defense, and science and technology.19 The Democracy Wall Movement is now also known as the first Beijing Spring.

Beginning in 1978, China enacted partial reforms of the basic institutions in the economy, first in agriculture, then in industry. Under the former institutions, dating back to the 1950s, farmers or manufacturers were required to deliver specified quantities of output (quotas) to the state distribution system at state-determined prices. Deng retained these systems but stipulated that production above these quotas could be traded at prices determined by supply and demand, with the producers retaining the proceeds. These incentives resulted in increases in output and income, and the formation of pools of capital for investment. But while the market reforms triggered increases in domestic production, they also brought about increased opportunities for corruption, as well-connected people could buy goods at lower, state-administered prices and sell them at higher market prices. The partial liberalization of prices also led to a surge in inflation, which approached 30 percent annually by 1988–1989. For people whose incomes were fixed by administrative fiat, the consequences were obviously severe. The economic hierarchy was turned upside down as professional salaries, including those of teachers, doctors, and officials, stagnated, while those entrants into the emerging market economy, often with little or no education, reaped the benefits of the economic reforms.20

A freer atmosphere developed inside China as writers, artists, intellectuals, students, journalists, and professionals sensed opportunities to experiment, to write critically, and to engage in exploring the new space opened up by the post-Mao leadership. Such intellectual trends were reflected in various literary genres, such as reportage literature (baogao wenxue) that exposed the injustices and sufferings of ordinary people, misty poems (menglong shi) protesting state-imposed restrictions on art, and scar literature (shanghen wenxue) that portrayed the human suffering during the Cultural Revolution and earlier political campaigns such as the Anti-Rightists Campaign. The discontent that had characterized the late Maoist period gave way to a fresh current of idealism and hope for a better future, not only materially but also with respect to individual freedoms, political rights, and personal happiness. Intellectuals who had been reviled and purged during the Maoist period were rehabilitated and given the opportunity to join the establishment and work with the reformists. Rather than acting as an opposition seeking regime change like dissenters in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe, they were following Confucian tradition whereby it was both their responsibility and historical mission to help their leaders.21

College campuses in the 1980s blossomed with the emergence of diverse interest groups, ranging from those preparing for the TOEFL exam for study abroad to playing Mahjong and dancing as well as discussing China’s future. The Tiananmen generation, born toward the end of Mao’s Cultural Revolution and maturing at the beginning of Deng’s reform era, had grown up under the influence of both the collectivist Communist ideology enshrined in revolutionary stories and also the new individualistic ideas that appeared during the post-Mao era. Unlike their predecessor Red Guard generation that had few resources to turn to in their struggle to escape the mental prison of Maoism during the Cultural Revolution, the first generation of China’s reform era was exposed to a variety of ideas, foreign as well as indigenous, and, despite continuing official political indoctrination, they enjoyed considerably more freedoms.

Within the CCP, resistance to Deng’s reforms grew among conservatives who feared the loss of party power as Chinese liberals, inspired by models of democratic governance, pushed the limits of what was permitted. The party launched a number of political campaigns, like the Anti-Spiritual Pollution Campaign in 1983, to rein in what conservatives perceived as negative intellectual and cultural trends. In late 1986, in the Anti-Bourgeois Liberalization Campaign, Deng cracked down on student demonstrations calling for political reforms and a halt to the burgeoning corruption that flourished as a consequence of the economic reforms. Inspired by their liberal vice chancellor, Fang Lizhi, an internationally renowned astrophysicist, students at the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) began protests that later spread to Shanghai, Beijing, and other major cities. In January 1987, Fang was expelled from the CCP and removed from his position as vice chancellor. The more liberal general secretary of the CCP, Hu Yaobang, was also purged.

In sum, the decade prior to the Tiananmen Movement was a period of rapid economic and social change within a political system that, at its highest levels, was fundamentally averse to any change that might threaten those holding power. Contradictory tendencies in society struggled for dominance as modernization was promoted by an emerging elite of technocrats, party bureaucrats, urban bourgeoisie, intellectuals, and students, while remnant Maoists, revolutionaries, and xenophobes who distrusted China’s increasing integration into the international system attempted to impose constraints. Hu Yaobang’s downfall came about because tough-minded Deng Xiaoping considered Hu Yaobang to be soft on liberal intellectuals and student protesters.22

Tiananmen in History

By end of the 1980s, people were complaining about various problems in the economy, especially inflation and official profiteering. Intellectuals who initially had enthusiastically supported Deng’s reform and opening policies became concerned, especially after the purge of Hu Yaobang and Fang Lizhi in 1987, that Deng’s vision was limited only to economic reforms. The younger generation of college students was worried about prospects after graduation and the state’s overall treatment of intellectuals. Jobs were still assigned by the government. A bitter joke complained that those using shaving knives for a living (barbers) earned more than those using surgical knives (doctors). An increasing number of students engaged in campus group discussions to debate what they could do to improve China’s future. Discussions were most intense in, but not limited to, elite Beijing universities.23

On January 6, 1989, Fang Lizhi, then working at the Beijing Astronomical Observatory, wrote a letter to Deng Xiaoping proposing “a general amnesty, specifically to include all political prisoners such as Wei Jingsheng” to “capture the spirit” of the anniversaries of important historical events—the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution, the 70th anniversary of the May 4 Movement, and the 40th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.24 In China, anniversaries of important historical events are considered to be of great significance. In his letter, Fang reminded Deng that Wei Jingsheng had already been imprisoned for ten years. Fang’s initiative was followed by other requests for amnesty for political prisoners, including a letter signed by thirty-three intellectuals on February 13.25

Referring to the major anniversaries, the writer Su Xiaokang predicted, “The year 1989 is destined to be a singular memorial year which meets many historical giants.”26 Su was one of the authors of a prominent 1988 TV series, “River Elegy” (He shang), that used the Yellow River as a symbol of China’s inward-looking culture to intimate that China should open itself to the world outside. River Elegy aroused heated debates in Chinese society, especially among intellectuals and the party leadership.

On April 15, 1989, the sudden death of former general secretary, Hu Yaobang, triggered the 1989 Tiananmen Movement, the most serious open conflict between the Communist regime and the Chinese people since the 1949 establishment of the People’s Republic of China. Hu was a proponent of reform and had a good public image for reversing cases of unjustified persecution during the Mao era. Students, cognizant of Hu’s liberal reputation, felt especially connected with him, but they had done nothing to support him when he lost power in January 1987. Now, with the reform programs in retreat, students saw an opportunity to regain the initiative and to promote political change by commemorating Hu’s memory.27

Within hours after Hu’s death, big-character posters appeared on campuses, especially at Peking University, which soon became the center of the 1989 Movement. Founded in 1898, Peking University, known for its liberal tradition, had been at the center of the country’s political debates. In particular, the “Triangle,” a jumble of bulletin boards erected to form three sides on the campus, had historically been a symbolic space for free expression. Throughout the course of the 1989 Movement, students, teachers, and ordinary citizens gathered at the Triangle to express opinions, to learn of the latest developments, and to read big-character posters. The most highly concentrated poster sites became gathering points for student demonstrators on campuses all over the country.

The movement began with spontaneous mourning activities, similar to the mourning for Zhou Enlai in 1976. On April 17, several hundred students and young faculty from the Chinese University of Political Science and Law (CUPSL) marched to Tiananmen Square with a large floral wreath. Singing the Internationale, the Communist anthem, along their way to and again in the square, they held a brief but formal ceremony and laid the large wreath at the base of the Monument to the People’s Revolutionary Heroes. Even at the initial stage of the movement, when the marches expressed mourning rather than protest, the participants were uncertain about the regime’s reactions. A Peking University discussion group decided to avoid sensitive figures such as Fang Lizhi when organizing their activities in order to deprive the regime of any excuse to label them as “illegal.”28

In general, most students emphasized that they were neither against the country nor against the party. They wanted a genuine dialogue (duihua) with the government regarding their calls for a free press, free speech, and an end to corruption and inflation, a dialogue in which they would be treated as equal and legitimate partners.29 Instilled with revolutionary ideals throughout their education, many students in 1989 believed it was time for them to share the responsibility for the fate of the country.30 The popularity of the Internationale among the students was a sign of their Communist educations. But the government side kept rejecting the notion of an equal face-to-face conversation since it viewed the students as inferior in status and power.31

Late at night on April 17, Peking University students started marching to Tiananmen Square while carrying a large banner reading in Chinese calligraphy “China’s Soul.” They observed a moment of silence at the Monument to the People’s Revolutionary Heroes and sang the Internationale.32 During that night’s sit-in, they drafted a petition that later became known as the “Seven Demands.” It called on the government to

(1) affirm as correct Hu Yaobang's views on democracy and freedom; (2) admit that the campaigns against spiritual pollution and bourgeois liberalization had been wrong; (3) publish information on the income of state leaders and their family members; (4) end the ban on privately run newspapers and permit freedom of speech; (5) increase funding for education and raise intellectuals' pay; (6) end restrictions on demonstrations in Beijing; and (7) hold democratic elections to replace government officials who made bad policy decisions. In addition, they demanded that the government-controlled media print and broadcast their demands and that the government respond to them publicly.33

On April 19, students began a sit-in in front of Xinhua Gate, the entrance to Zhongnanhai, the seat of the central government near Tiananmen Square, demanding a dialogue with the leadership about their demands. Confrontations between students and police occurred in the early morning of April 20. The authorities, expecting that those under their rule would be compliant and loyal, felt insulted. The students in turn felt humiliated by the leadership’s reluctance to talk to them. The upshot was a more mobilized and organized movement.34 Tensions mounted as the officials rejected a dialogue. The immediate impact was the declaration of a campus strike and students camping out in Tiananmen Square prior to Hu Yaobang’s funeral on April 22.

On April 21, there was still no official response. Students from different colleges in Beijing spent the night in Tiananmen Square, which was supposed to be closed for Hu’s funeral scheduled to be held the next morning inside the Great Hall of the People on the western side of the square. On April 22, three students slipped through the lines of soldiers and reached the steps outside the Great Hall. Before the eyes of thousands, the three students knelt down. One of them held the long scroll of the petition over his head.

This was a classic image of traditional Confucian dissent, signifying both compliance and the peaceful intent of ordinary people imploring the ruler to hear them. Students were shocked by this scene. There were many turning points throughout the Tiananmen Movement, but this was an especially emotional dividing moment between the CCP authorities and the students—those inside the Great Hall refused to engage in dialogue with the students on their knees.

On April 23, the Beijing College Students Autonomous Federation was established, and student leaders were elected. It was called “autonomous” to stress its independence and to distinguish it from the student unions on campus that were under the control of the CCP, even though many leaders of the movement had been “three-good students” and student cadres within the CCP system.35 But the freer atmosphere of the 1980s had given them opportunities to think critically. Many student leaders who emerged in the course of the movement had been involved in earlier campus discussion groups. For example, Wang Dan, who topped the “21 most-wanted list” of college students after the Tiananmen crackdown, had been the organizer of a “Democratic Salon” at Peking University, and Wuer Kaixi, second on the most-wanted list, had organized a “Confucius Study Society” at Beijing Normal University.36

Also on April 23, General Secretary Zhao Ziyang departed for a scheduled visit to North Korea. In his absence, hardliners Premier Li Peng and President Yang Shangkun met with Deng Xiaoping on April 24 and convinced him that the student protests posed a significant danger to the regime.

On the evening of April 25, state-controlled CCTV and the Central China Radio Station broadcast an editorial to be published the next day in the authoritative CCP newspaper, the People’s Daily, designating the student demonstrations a “premeditated and organized turmoil with anti-party and anti-socialist motives.” If unchecked, they would lead to a “chaotic and unstable China without any future.”37 The students were outraged. People had been wondering about Deng’s attitude toward the demonstrations. Many had hoped that as a reformer he would support the students’ patriotic intentions. Just five years earlier, during the National Day parade (October 1, 1984), students from Peking University had displayed a large banner reading “Hello Xiaoping,” revealing their affection for him and their hope for the success of his reforms. But the editorial had made it clear that Deng regarded their efforts as “turmoil.”

On April 27, tens of thousands of students from major colleges in Beijing mounted a demonstration to protest the editorial. While on their march to the square, they were supported by cheering intellectuals, workers, housewives, and children. On April 29, State Council spokesman Yuan Mu held a meeting with some students, but the students had been chosen by the government from the official student unions, not the autonomous federation. Therefore, no substantive result was achieved.

Upon his return from North Korea on April 30, Zhao realized that the April 26 editorial had exacerbated the situation. The official verdict had failed to intimidate the people. Instead, the April 27 demonstrations had emboldened the students, who were confident that the government would not deploy troops against them. Yet Zhao, privy to the inflexible position of his hard-line colleagues, feared that if the situation was not handled carefully, bloodshed might ensue.38 On May 4, in a speech at a meeting of the Asian Development Bank in the Great Hall, Zhao tried to walk a fine line, indicating his willingness to engage in a dialogue with the students but not disavowing the verdict in the editorial. Outside the Great Hall, students proceeded with their planned demonstrations to commemorate the seventieth anniversary of the May 4 Movement. On the same day, journalists from nearly every Beijing-based news outlet, together with workers and citizens, joined the students in their march to the square. One of the journalists’ banners proclaimed, “We want to tell the truth; don’t force us to lie.” In the southern metropolis of Guangzhou, the first formal demonstration did not take place until May 4. It, too, was organized by an independent student federation called the Guangzhou Patriotic Student Federation and its leaders had been elected by representatives from universities and colleges in the area.39

Zhao tried desperately to repair the damage done during his absence, especially that wrought by the April 26 editorial. His efforts to meet with Deng were spurned—Deng had already decided to dismiss him from his position as general secretary.40 The People’s Daily on May 7, during the brief period of media openness, quoted Zhao as saying it would be beneficial for the government to conduct a dialogue with the students. Students on various campuses were debating whether they should end their strikes. At Peking University, a majority of the students voted to continue boycotting classes lest they lose their leverage for a dialogue. But others were concerned that the government would “settle accounts” afterward by retaliating against the student protestors. One Triangle poster called for retraction of the April 26 editorial and official recognition of the independent student organizations as preconditions for the resumption of classes.41

Student response to the April 26 editorial was rooted in the culturally laden concept of “yuan” or “yuanwang”—wrongful accusations that give rise to a desire for justice. They hoped their names would be cleared, as had those of the participants in the April 5 Movement. Besides, negative entries in the official dossiers (dang’an) that accompanied people throughout their lives would affect their futures, condemning them to inferior job assignments.

The students and their leaders were divided about what to do next. Efforts for a real dialogue with the government continued as a “dialogue delegation” was formed. Others proposed the idea of a hunger strike because their peaceful petitions for a direct, open, and equal dialogue had been rebuffed. On the evening of May 12, in a public speech at the Triangle, Chai Ling, a graduate student at Beijing Normal University, expressed the prevailing frustration with the government’s refusal to engage the students in dialogue and encouraged them to join the hunger strike: “We only want the government to talk with us and to say that we are not traitors. . . . We, the children, are ready to sacrifice ourselves.”42

On May 13, just two days prior to the arrival of Soviet leader Gorbachev for an historic Sino-Soviet summit, students launched a hunger strike in Tiananmen Square. Beginning with several hundred students, at its height it grew to some 3,000 hunger strikers. Most participants expected the hunger strike would only last for just a day or two, but it continued for a full seven days. According to official estimates, between May 13 and May 24, thirty-two hospitals in Beijing treated 9,158 student hunger strikers, of whom 8,205 required hospitalization. Many of the hunger strikers were treated multiple times.43 The self-sacrifice of the youth inspired sympathy from ordinary citizens and ignited more protests throughout the country. Residents in Beijing poured into Tiananmen Square to support the students. Public order was unprecedentedly good; even thieves published a statement that they would not steal during the hunger strike.44 The emotionally powerful Hunger Strike Manifesto reflected the influence of the language and rhetoric of Communist revolutionary narratives:

Even though our shoulders are still soft and tender, even though death seems to us too weighty, when history demands it, we have no choice but to die . . . Farewell mothers and, farewell fathers! Please, forgive me, if your child who cannot be loyal [to the country] and [meet the demands of] filial manner at the same time! Farewell, people! Please allow us to use this means, however reluctantly, to demonstrate our loyalty. . . . The vows written with our lives will brighten the skies of the Republic!45

After the hunger strike began on May 13 and before Gorbachev’s visit on May 15, there was another attempt to set up a meeting with the government. Students were hopeful for a real dialogue when their two conditions for a meeting were met—to choose their own student representatives and to broadcast the dialogue live. But the meeting ended abruptly when the dialogue delegation learned that it was not being broadcast live. As students were hunger striking in Tiananmen Square, Gorbachev was received in the Great Hall of the People instead of in the square as originally planned. The change of venue was a great loss of face for Deng Xiaoping. Journalists from all over the world, assigned to cover the first summit after thirty years of hostility between the two Communist countries, ended up focusing on the new generation of Chinese students who were risking their lives to fight for the ideals that Communism had promised.

Zhao Ziyang became isolated within the leadership when his political opponents favored imposition of martial law. In the early morning of May 19, in Tiananmen Square he made his last public appearance. He took a bullhorn from one of the students to address them in a tired voice filled with anguish:

Students, we came too late. Sorry, students . . . You have been on a hunger strike for six days, and it’s now the seventh day. You cannot go on like this. I know, you are doing this in the hope that the Party and the government will give a most satisfactory answer for what you are asking for . . . I am old—it doesn’t matter; you are still young—you have much time ahead of you.46

On the same day, students decided to end the hunger strike and replace it with a sit-in. At the same time, troops were moving into the city before the official declaration of martial law on May 20.47 Zhao’s last attempt to protect the students had failed.

Establishment intellectuals close to Zhao were critical of the students for failing to end the movement earlier. They believed it cost the political life of Zhao, who, had he remained in power, might have brought about real reform after the crisis had passed. However, there were many reasons why the students were unprepared to take such a chance on Zhao. They were confused by conflicting news accounts—there was no governance transparency or free press. Besides, after riding a roller coaster between hopes and disappointments since April 15, they were exhausted from lack of sleep and later from the hunger strike, and beset by fears of official retaliation. This was compounded by the distrust created by the condemnatory editorial obviously approved by Deng Xiaoping. Moreover, Zhao Ziyang had been implicated in the corruption that the students opposed. He did not enjoy the liberal reputation of former general secretary Hu Yaobang.

The movement remained nonviolent even after martial-law troops entered Beijing on May 19, on orders from Premier Li Peng and authorized by Deng Xiaoping. Ordinary citizens and students blocked the army and tried to reason with the soldiers, bringing them food, water, and even flowers. Stymied in their attempt to enter the city, the troops withdrew and people applauded them. No one expected that the army would later return. The subsequent government rationale for the military crackdown was that the situation was out of control. But throughout the movement, students had been trying to prove that they were not counterrevolutionary malcontents. On May 23, when three men hurled paint at Mao’s portrait in Tiananmen Square in late May 1989, the students immediately turned them over to the police. Besides, by the third week of May, the movement was losing momentum.48 Journalists covering the event had good reason to think the story was over. In fact, in an attempt to revive the movement, with three others Liu Xiaobo, the Nobel Peace laureate who died as a political prisoner in 2017, launched a hunger strike on June 2, just one day before the Tiananmen Massacre. On the night of June 3, when over 200,000 army troops were deployed in Beijing with orders to clear Tiananmen Square, Liu and his colleagues negotiated with the army commander in the square and convinced him to let the students leave the square peacefully. Liu reported this to the students, and after a voice vote they proceeded to leave the square.

But nevertheless there were still casualties in Tiananmen Square. For example, Cheng Renxing, a twenty-five-year-old graduate of the People’s University of China, was shot and killed at a flagpole near the north end of the square; and Dai Jingping, a twenty-seven-year-old master’s student of the Beijing Agricultural University, was shot to death right beside the Mao Zedong Memorial Hall.49 Although the students were promised a safe exit, they were not safe after they left the Square. On the morning of June 4, students who had just left the square and were peacefully returning to their campuses were chased from behind by tanks. Among the known victims, five were killed and nine were wounded. Fang Zheng, a senior at Beijing Sports College, was among the survivors, but he was crushed by a tank and lost both legs. He could have crossed the road divider before the tank ran him over, but he was trying to help a schoolmate to safety. During the subsequent nationwide purge, Fang asked the schoolmate whose life he had saved to testify that he was not a “rioter.” Out of fear, she refused. The authorities forced Fang to say that he had been run over by a car, not a tank. When Fang refused to lie, he was denied his diploma.

Troops entered the city of Beijing opening fire blindly in all directions.50 The victims included young children. T, a student at Peking University, tried to save a boy of about ten who had been wounded by gunfire near Muxidi, but the boy died at the Children’s Hospital. His body, still unclaimed after seven days, was collected by the government.51 Residents of Beijing, infuriated by the troops’ wanton slaughter of unarmed civilians, came out to block the troops. Some attacked the soldiers with sticks and rocks and set fire to military vehicles. The Chinese government cited such attacks to support its claim that it was suppressing a riot, but those attacks did not occur until after the military had started to fire at unarmed civilians at around 10 pm on June 3.52 Moreover, there were instances of students and citizens trying to protect soldiers from attacks by the angry crowds.

Even as the massacre was occurring, some expressed fear that all the blood would be shed in vain. One Chinese man asked a Canadian reporter on the street, “Does the world know what happened here?”53 Liane Lee, a college journalism student from Hong Kong, was outside the Museum of the Chinese Revolution next to Tiananmen Square on the night of June. She fainted upon seeing a young boy covered in blood. When she regained consciousness, people tried to put her into an ambulance. She told them that the wounded needed the ambulance more than she did. A second ambulance arrived and again she declined to get in. A middle-aged female doctor held her hands and said to her in English: “Child, we need you to return to Hong Kong. We need you to leave alive to tell the world what our government did to us tonight.”54

The Chinese media also tried to get the news out. Wu Xiaoyong, deputy director of the English-language service of Radio Beijing55 and son of Wu Xueqian, China’s former foreign minister and vice premier, tried to broadcast a statement internationally:

This is Radio Beijing. Please remember June the third, 1989. The most tragic event happened in the Chinese capital, Beijing. Thousands of people, most of them innocent civilians, were killed by fully armed soldiers when they forced their way into the city. Among the killed are our colleagues at Radio Beijing. The soldiers were riding on armored vehicles and used machine guns against thousands of local residents and students who tried to block their way. When the army convoys made a breakthrough, soldiers continued to spray their bullets indiscriminately at crowds in the street.56

Wu was placed under house arrest after the crackdown. Two CCTV anchors resisted by dressing in black and reporting with sad expressions on their faces about the army’s successful crackdown on the “counterrevolutionary riot.” They were both removed from their positions.


After the military suppression, the state-security system pursued those suspected of participating in the movement. Student leaders and intellectuals who were considered the “Black Hands”—behind-the-scenes manipulators of the movement57—were arrested and subjected to the practice of “verdict first, trial second.”58 Workers were punished more severely than students and intellectuals; at least ten workers in Beijing were summarily tried and executed within days after their arrest. Eight are still serving life sentences.59 University students were forced to attend weekly “political study” sessions to confess to the number of times they had joined the demonstrations, to inform on their friends, and to study the speeches of Deng Xiaoping.60

A widespread purge of media personnel began immediately after the crackdown. Propaganda officers of the People’s Liberation Army took control of all major media in Beijing. Although many editors attempted to protect their journalists, high-level decisions were soon taken to remove these editors so that the purge could proceed smoothly.61 Along with many reporters, both the editor-in-chief and the director of the People’s Daily, the official mouthpiece of the CCP, were dismissed from their posts because of their sympathetic attitudes toward the students. In Shanghai, the World Economic Herald, one of the country’s most liberal weekly newspapers during the 1980s, was banned from publishing at the end of April. After June 4, its editor-in-chief, Qin Benli, was placed under house arrest, and four members of its editorial board were detained for between one and twenty months. The paper was officially closed down in April 1990.62 In March 1991, two days before Qin’s death, the head of the Propaganda Department of the Shanghai Municipal Party Committee announced that Qin had been expelled from the party.

General Secretary Zhao Ziyang, who had favored a soft approach to the student demonstrations and had opposed imposition of martial law, was purged. He spent the last fifteen years of his life under house arrest. In 2009, four years after his death, he spoke to the world through some thirty audiotapes that he had secretly recorded in 1999 and 2000 and had smuggled out of the country. Based on the transcripts, Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang was published in both English and Chinese to coincide with the twentieth anniversary of the Tiananmen Movement. The book is banned in China.

Chinese authorities blamed “foreign forces” for the Tiananmen protests. An editorial titled “Rumors and the Truth” was published in September 1989 in the English-language Beijing Review, accusing Western media of spreading rumors and attempting to undermine China’s efforts to restore order:

The true story of the “Tiananmen Incident,” which itself had been invented jointly by the media of some Western countries, Hong Kong and Taiwan, and particularly by the Voice of America (VOA), has come out since the riot in Beijing was quelled in June. . . . However, the media have not told their readers, listeners or audience the true story. They are afraid that once the public has learned the truth, people will make their own judgements, and the accusations that China “suppressed the democratic movement” and “trampled on human rights” will be shown to be groundless.63

An article in another issue of Beijing Review claimed that “the Chinese government’s just action in resolutely quelling the riot in Beijing has been supported by people in all walks of life.”64

Piece by piece, the official state media constructed what was purported to be the “true story” of the events. An editorial in Beijing Review asserted,

The plotters and organizers of the counter-revolutionary rebellion are mainly a handful of people who have for a long time obstinately advocated bourgeois liberalization, opposed Party leadership and socialism and harbored political schemes, who have collaborated with hostile overseas forces and who have provided illegal organizations with the top secrets of the Party and state. . . . Taking advantage of students’ patriotic feelings . . . this handful of people with evil motives stirred up trouble.65

The regime charged that students were poisoned by “bourgeois liberalization”—shorthand for a universal value system. The official position on universal values, a concept the CCP abhorred, was articulated in an article in Guangming Daily:

“What are human rights? As understood by Western scholars, they are the innate rights of human beings, or the basic rights and freedoms enjoyed by a person as a human . . . These rights are innate, permanent, universal, and nontransferable. They cannot be taken away. . . . In the context of Marxism [however], such an interpretation of human rights is unscientific, incorrect, contrived, biased, and idealistically metaphysical . . . Human rights, like democracy and freedom, are concrete and class-oriented.66

On June 9, 1989, Deng Xiaoping, chairman of the CCP Central Military Commission, received the ranking commanders of the martial law-enforcement troops and congratulated them for a job well done. In the same month, Deng granted the “Guardians of the Republic” award to ten soldiers who had enforced martial law. Three months later, a book entitled The Most Beloved Men in the New Era: A List of the Heroes of the Beijing Martial Law Enforcement Troops was published.67 Students of all ages, including undergraduate and graduate students at universities and colleges, were called upon to learn from these national role models. Thousands of members of the official CCP youth group, the Young Pioneers, assembled in Tiananmen Square to show that China’s revolutionary youth had reclaimed the square from the student demonstrators. At the Monument to the People’s Heroes, where college students had taken an oath “to use their youthful life” to defend their motherland, the youngsters now pledged to remember the soldiers who had enforced Martial Law:

Beloved revolutionary martyrs, may you rest in peace! The Young Pioneers will remember you! The people will remember you! The motherland will remember you! Let our brilliant red scarves serve as our pledge. We love the Chinese Communist Party! We love the socialist motherland! We love the People’s Liberation Army! We will carry on the cause of Communism!68

The Tiananmen Mothers

The fear created by the massacre is pervasive. After the twenty-eight-year-old son of one family was killed, the boyfriend of his sister broke up with her. When she later began a relationship with another boy, he too abandoned her after learning of her family’s past. She and her mother decided that she would never again mention her brother to anyone she planned to date. She is now married with a son, but her husband still has no idea about the death, or even the existence, of his brother-in-law.69

While the Beijing regime set in motion the state machinery to erase or distort any memory of June 4, the Tiananmen Mothers group, cofounded by Professor Ding Zilin, has been fighting a war of memory against forgetting. Ding’s seventeen-year-old son, Jiang Jielian, was shot and killed during the massacre. Over the years, despite escalating government repression, Ding has spearheaded a campaign to collect information about the victims. Her book, In Search of the Victims of June 4, published in Hong Kong in 2005, documents any information she could find about the victims. The sixteen names that Ding had collected by 1993 had grown to 202 by 2013. The list of victims is not arranged alphabetically but by the date when the information came to light. For example, after Xiao Bo, a Peking University lecturer, was killed, the authorities warned Xiao Bo’s wife to remain silent about her husband’s death—otherwise she and her two twin infant sons would not be allowed to remain in their campus housing.70 It was not until 1993, when Ding reached her, that her husband’s name was added to the list.71

In 2011 China’s official English-language newspaper, the China Daily, published a story headlined “Tiananmen Massacre a Myth.” Citing the release of the WikiLeaks diplomatic cables72 that indicated that there had been no bloodshed in the square, the article claimed,

Tiananmen remains the classic example of the shallowness and bias in most Western media reporting, and of governmental black information operations seeking to control those media. China is too important to be a victim of this nonsense.73

The state-sponsored myth is challenged by Ding’s list of victims. Maps created based on information provided by the Tiananmen Mothers that pinpoint the locations of the documented killings and the hospitals where the victims died show that state violence was widespread throughout central Beijing.74 Since its establishment, the Tiananmen Mothers have been demanding the right to peacefully mourn their loved ones in public, an end to the persecution of victims’ families, the release of all those imprisoned for their roles in the 1989 protests, and a full public accounting of the military crackdown. In 2006 the group called for “truth and reconciliation.” But so far the regime has turned a deaf ear to their requests.

In 2012, a Tiananmen father, Ya Weilin, hanged himself in an empty Beijing parking lot several days before the Tiananmen anniversary, making his final dramatic statement without ever seeing justice done on behalf of his son. In a 2004 video testimony, Ya appeared sad but determined. His wife asks, “Why did you use real guns and bullets on your people? Even if you kill a chicken, or a lamb, you should apologize and compensate, right? Such a big China, such a big CCP, you killed my son, but you didn’t even say sorry. Are we citizens not allowed to say a single word?” Ya’s son is number 131 on Ding’s list of victims. Before this young man became a number, he had a name: Ya Aiguo. In Chinese, Ai means “to love” and guo means “country,” so the name Aiguo means “patriotism.” The student protesters of 1989 accurately called their movement “patriotic.” But since the night that Ya Aiguo and the others were killed, the word “aiguo” has taken on an entirely new meaning.

Emerging Student Nationalism

Well aware of the negative impact of the 1989 military crackdown on the legitimacy of CCP rule, the post-Tiananmen Chinese leadership launched a vigorous “Patriotic Education Campaign” aimed at restoring its authority. Schools, from kindergarten to university, turned their classrooms into forums for patriotic education.75 Top party organs promulgated various documents, including the “Outline on the Implementation of Patriotic Education,” drafted by the Propaganda Department of the CCP Central Committee in 1994. Politics and history textbooks were significantly revised76 to emphasize China’s victimhood at the hands of the West and Japan, and to redirect anger that might otherwise have been focused on the CCP. Meanwhile, state propaganda has selectively commemorated past national glories, traumas, and humiliations.77

The Patriotic Education Campaign intersects with popular discourse through film, television, the print media, patriotic education sites (such as museums and memorials), theme parks, and Red tourism. Popular nationalism became increasingly evident during the late 1990s, with demonstrations against Japan and the United States and books such as China Can Say No, portraying the West in general, and the United States and Japan in particular, as implacably hostile to China.

The Patriotic Education Campaign has succeeded in tapping a widespread willingness among students to identify with a “rising China,” tying this to a particular understanding of the world order and China’s place within it. Key elements of this officially sponsored view of their nation are (1) China’s record of suffering and humiliation at the hands of foreign powers now use “universal values” to weaken and divide it; (2) the necessity of authoritarian governance that, notwithstanding moral and political drawbacks, guarantees the country’s unity and prosperity; (3) pride in a China whose economic and military “rise” enables its people, for the first time since the Opium Wars, to “raise their heads”; and finally (4) a China that glories in its cultural traditions and status as the world’s only civilization with an unbroken history stretching back into antiquity. Many members of the post-Tiananmen generation, who grew up learning a state-approved history in an environment of intensifying nationalism make little distinction between the Communist regime and the Chinese nation. They defend the Beijing government as if they are defending China itself, and they view those critical of the regime as national traitors. The year 2008 witnessed an unprecedented global display of Chinese patriotism, with thousands of flag-waving “China defenders” rallying to the defense of China’s hosting of the Olympics, protesting against a Western “smear campaign distorting China,” and cursing the Dalai Lama.


Many of China’s best-known writers and intellectuals, as well as prominent student leaders, fled abroad after the June 4 crackdown. Most went to North America or Europe. Despite intense surveillance, sympathetic Hong Kong citizens helped some 133 of China’s leading dissidents escape from China to the West via an underground railroad known as “Operation Yellowbird.” To protect those involved, details about it remained secret until 1991, when an escape mission failed and the Chinese secret police obtained extensive knowledge about its operations.78 Nevertheless, many observers believe that the successful “Great Escape” indicates silent resistance and cooperation from both the army and civilians. Otherwise, escape from China under tightened military control would have been nearly impossible.

In the early 1990s, many Tiananmen exiles found a haven at Princeton University, which had sheltered political exiles from Nazi Germany in the 1930s. Alumnus John Eliot, who happened to be visiting Professor Yu Ying-shih on the night of June 4, 1989, donated $1 million to set up a program called the China Initiative. With the support of Professor Yu and Professor Perry Link, a scholar of Chinese history and culture, the China Initiative provided a home for intellectuals, former government officials, and student leaders who had fled China after 1989.

The Chinese government, perhaps realizing that it could achieve more by exiling the dissidents than by holding them in prison, voluntarily released and expelled some of them from the country. The exiles describe their life in the diaspora as “gaining the sky but losing the earth”; they can now enjoy the freedom and rights they longed for, but they are cut off from the land where they fought for these values. Meanwhile, in China the CCP has successfully demonized and marginalized those in exile.

The exile community has grown over the years. Among more recent arrivals are the three men who defaced the giant portrait of Mao Zedong overlooking Tiananmen Square in 1989. Among them, Yu Dongyue, a twenty-one-year-old fine0arts editor in 1989, could no longer recognize his family members after years of torture and solitary confinement. Older members in exile, such as Fang Lizhi, Liu Binyan, Chen Yizi, Wang Ruowang, and Ge Yang—leading liberal intellectuals in the 1980s—all died in exile. Many others were banned from returning home to visit their dying mothers or even to attend their funerals. The situation for the younger generation has varied. Wuer Kaixi, an exiled Uyghur who was the second on the most-wanted list, has repeatedly tried to turn himself in to the Chinese authorities—in Macau in 2009, in Tokyo in 2010, in 2011 in Washington, DC, and in 2013 in Hong Kong—in order to return to China to see his elderly parents, who are not allowed to leave China to visit him, but the authorities have consistently refused his request.79

Various organizations and NGOs were established overseas in response to the 1989 Movement. The Independent Federation of Chinese Students and Scholars (IFCSS) was established in the United States in July 1989. Chinese students from more than 300 universities across the country sent over 600 delegates to Chicago to attend the founding congress. Even outside China, they used the term “independent,” as the students did in 1989, to distinguish themselves from student organizations under the control of the Chinese embassy. The organization successfully lobbied U.S. Congress to pass the “Chinese Students Protection Act” in 1992. As a result, 80,000 Chinese in the United States were granted “June 4 Green Cards” so that they could remain in the United States. Although the IFCSS was initially influential among Chinese in the United States, in recent years its membership has decreased dramatically as many Chinese students who have arrived more recently, inculcated by the Patriotic Education campaign, do not want to have anything to do with these supposed “traitors.”

Even though the IFCSS helped 80,000 Chinese gain legal immigrant status in the United States, many of its members chose not to apply for U.S. citizenship. Many have been denied entry to China because of their humanitarian aid to families of the Tiananmen victims. Unlike the Tiananmen exiles who were in China during the uprising, most members of the IFCSS were Chinese graduate students and scholars, studying or conducting research in the United States in 1989. They have been banned from returning to China because of their support for the victims of the massacre. In January 2012, an IFCSS member, Ge Xun, was kidnapped, beaten up, and interrogated in Beijing while he was on his way to visit Tiananmen Mother Ding Zilin.80 His requests to call his family or the U.S. embassy were denied, and he was eventually taken to Beijing airport and deported to the United States.


Tiananmen continues to be a politically sensitive subject banned from academic and popular arenas. Authors who write about the topic use pseudonyms or veil the identities of people in their studies. For example, the editors of Cries for Democracy: Writings and Speeches from the 1989 Chinese Democracy Movement wrote under the Chinese pseudonyms of Han Minzhu and Hua Sheng, meaning “shouting for democracy” and “voice of China,” respectively. They explained their decision in this way:

With a brutal military assault and a ruthless repression, the Chinese Communist Party once again has demonstrated that it finds it far easier to eliminate its critics than to face their criticisms. We the editors, who cannot at this time reveal our identities, know that our tears and angers will not bring back those who cried for democracy. Yet, we do not despair for China.81

In another book, The Long March to the Fourth of June, the author, using the name Li Xiaojun, articulates explicitly the reasons for hiding his/her identity:

I publish this book under a pseudonym. This is because I have to be cautious not only for my own and my family’s sake, but for that of my colleagues and friends, especially those who have helped me with information and access to records. Accordingly I cannot say who I am or what my work is, nor am I free to explain my access to the information upon which the following is based. In present-day China it is not possible to write and publish a book like this without consequences: I have written it because I wish China to become otherwise.82

Blacklisting foreign critics of the regime and denying visas have become a common practice after the massacre. For example, prominent foreign scholars such as Andrew Nathan of Columbia University and Perry Link of the University of California at Riverside have both been banned from going to China. Edward Friedman, a leading American scholar of Chinese politics, has flatly stated that “studying China is dangerous.”83

In the immediate aftermath of June 4, the United States, western European countries, and Japan imposed economic sanctions on China to express their revulsion at the bloody crackdown. But China’s growing importance as an economic, political, and military power soon led first Japan and then the other countries to weaken and then remove most of the sanctions. Abroad as well as at home, Deng Xiaoping’s “Southern Tour” in early 1992 signaled the paramount leader’s continuing commitment to reform and opening, providing a pretext for foreign countries to view June 4 as an aberration rather than as an expression of the core nature of the Chinese regime.

In 2015 a group of Chinese students studying abroad wrote an open letter to their peers in China: “We feel the aftershocks of this tragedy. . . . The more we know, the more we feel we have a grave responsibility on our shoulders. We are writing you this open letter, fellow college students inside China, to share the truth with you and to expose crimes that have been perpetrated up to this day in connection with the Tiananmen Massacre in 1989.”84

The state-owned newspaper Global Times dismissed the letter, claiming that “Chinese society has reached a consensus on not debating the 1989 incident. . . . When China is moving forward, some are trying to drag up history in an attempt to tear apart society. It’s a meaningless attempt.”85 This official piece was quickly removed from the paper’s website.

Public opinion related to nationalism and democratization is inseparable from a collective memory of the nation’s past. Citizens learn their responsibility for their country’s future by debating the moral meaning of history. The suppression and distortion of history by the authorities is accompanied by other distortions of all kinds—political, social, and psychological. Values holding that human life, human dignity, and human rights may be sacrificed create a society that promotes twisted rationales and denies common sense. Such values, which will stop at nothing for their interests, not only affect China but also have a profound influence on the world.

Despite repeated repression, the past twenty-eight years witnessed a war of memory against forgetting, a struggle between the power and the powerless. Many rights activists, both inside and outside China, including those who are imprisoned and those who are quietly working on NGO projects, are veterans of the Tiananmen movement. They were not high-profile leaders in 1989, but those days have changed their life trajectories profoundly. Since 1989 commemoration activities are organized in major cities around the world around Tiananmen anniversaries. The candlelight vigil in Hong Kong’s Victoria Park attracts hundreds of thousands of people each year. The image of the candles lit in the six packed soccer fields has become ironic like the Tank Man, reminding us that Tiananmen is not just about repression, but also about hope.

Discussion of the Literature

The first wave of materials about the Tiananmen Movement and subsequent massacre appeared in the 1990s right after its tragic ending. These publications, aimed at understanding the causes and consequences as well as the actual events of 1989, were not limited to scholarly interpretations by historians, sociologists, political scientists, and others. They also comprise reports by human-rights organizations and overseas Chinese associations, as well as media reports, including primary sources collected by Hong Kong journalists who had covered the events in China from the beginning. Many of these materials provide chronologies of the movement.

In Quelling the People: The Military Suppression of the Beijing Democracy Movement, historian Timothy Brook named three reasons for an incident to be called a “massacre”: that the strong slaughter the weak, that they slaughter them in large numbers, and that they regard the slaughter as appropriate.86 In the case of the June 4 crackdown, the CCP “does not dispute the central fact of the killing,” but refer to the exercise of state violence as “quelling turmoil” (and a “riot” after June 4). Capitalizing on this official justification, Brook named his book Quelling the People. He was the first author to reconstruct the military mobilization based on a variety of sources. Information that the author indicated that he could not confirm when the book was first published in 1992, for example, about General Xu Qinxian’s refusal to participate in the crackdown has subsequently been confirmed as new information emerged. The only minor error was the misspelling of General Xu’s name as Xu Jingxian.87

Sociologist Craig Calhoun’s Neither Gods nor Emperors (1994)88 offers both a narrative treatment of the events and an analysis of the sources and meanings of the movement. Calhoun’s book, together with Perry Link’s Evening Chats in Beijing (1992)89 on the roots and forms of the traditional duty of Chinese intellectuals, and later Merle Goldman’s From Comrade to Citizen (2005),90 offer complementary, but equally important, in-depth analysis of the relationship between the state and Chinese intellectuals/students, and the cultural and political sources of their actions and reactions. While much of the literature focuses on the state or the major role players of the movement, students, and intellectuals, Schell’s (1994) Mandate of Heaven91 captures another aspect of the movement, the workers’ autonomous organizations, and profiled one of the worker leaders.

Cries for Democracy,92 edited by pseudonymous editors, is a rich collection of translations of original writings and speeches from the movement, ranging from big-character posters, poems, and newspaper reports, to government statements, not just from Beijing, but also other Chinese cities. It is an important primary source in English. Other primary sources include personal accounts and memoirs by former participants as well as information provided by the Tiananmen Mothers group, victims’ families, and survivors. The two maps created based on such information pinpoint the locations of the documented killings and the hospitals where the victims died. These materials, as well as the individual video testimony given by each known victim’s family, have made great contribution to knowledge of the massacre.

The government side of the story used to be a matter of speculation until the appearance in 2009 of Prisoner of the State,93 deposed CCP general secretary Zhao Ziyang’s secret journal giving details about the struggles within the top leadership. A thorough understanding of the military mobilization during the night of the massacre awaits the release of official materials at some future time when Chinese government archives may be made accessible to researchers.

Please refer to the Primary Sources and Further Reading sections for more references.

Primary Sources

The Tiananmen Archive (Tian an men zi liao ji) collected by the Yenching Library of Harvard University contains twenty-nine boxes of both print and nonprint materials from the Tiananmen Movement and the subsequent June 4 Massacre. Print materials include big-character posters (copied or photographed), handbills, declarations, petitions, pamphlets, and other relevant materials, not just from demonstrations in Beijing, but also from various Chinese provinces. These materials are very useful in helping to understand the demands and the reactions of demonstrators at different stages of the development of the movement. Another category of print materials comprises news reports in Chinese state media—newspapers and magazines—as well as official PRC government documents. The print collection also includes reports from Western newspapers and magazines both during the movement and after the massacre.

The nonprint materials include videotapes, tape recordings, and photographs related to the movement and its aftermath from Beijing and other cities in China as well as from outside China. Materials originating from Hong Kong and elsewhere in support of the movement, eyewitness accounts, personal letters, interview transcripts, and artifacts related to the movement are archived in the collection. For example, there are photographs of demonstrations by Chinese students at universities in the United States, including Harvard and MIT.

Particularly worth noting among these non-print materials is Box 25, which contains blood-stained clothing and a banner. The banner appears to be some medical bandages stained with blood, possibly first used to wrap a wounded person and later used as a banner. There is also a pair of a man’s blue pants, with a small, hand-written note explaining that the blood on the pants was from a badly wounded student who fell at Muxidi next to a graduate student from Beijing University.

The materials of the Tiananmen Archive are not digitalized or available online. The boxes are stored in a Harvard repository and accessible only by special request. There is a limit on the number of boxes one can request at a time. The general Catalogue website provides more detailed description of the contents of each box. Boxes 21–24 contain videotapes that need to be played in a video recorder. Some photographs from the collection, especially those from during the massacre, are graphic and disturbing. Educators may wish to prepare their students in advance before bringing classes to the archive.

Another important set of sources are the Testimonies of the Tiananmen Mothers’ group. These testimonies, collected by the Tiananmen Mothers group—family members of the victims—are in Chinese with English subtitles. The testimonies provide details about where the victims were killed and where their bodies were found as well as other information about the massacre. For information regarding personal accounts by observers and memoirs and oral histories by participants, please refer to the Discussion of the Literature section. For digital links of relevant external sites related to the movement, please refer to the Links to Digital Materials section.

The world’s first and only June 4 Museum was opened in Hong Kong on April 26, 2014, but was forced to close down in 2016. It was temporarily reopened in 2017, and it was unclear what happened to the materials it collected.

Links to Digital Materials

Further Reading

  • Bao Pu, Renee Chiang, and Adi Ignatius, ed. Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2009.
  • Barme Geremie Barme and Linda Jaivin, ed. New Ghosts, Old Dreams: Chinese Rebel Voices. New York: Times Books, 1992.
  • Black, George, and Robin Munro. Black Hands of Beijing: Lives of Defiance in China’s Democracy Movement. New York: John Wiley, 1993.
  • Brook, Timothy. Quelling the people: The military suppression of the Beijing democracy movement. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1992.
  • Calhoun, Craig. J. Neither Gods nor Emperors: Students and the Struggle for Democracy in China. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994.
  • Cheng Eddie. Standoff at Tiananmen. Berkeley, CA: Sensys Corp, 2009.
  • Cherrington, Ruth. China’s Students: The Struggle for Democracy. New York: Routledge, 1991.
  • Duke, Michael S. The Iron House: A Memoir of the Chinese Democracy Movement and the Tiananmen Massacre. Laton, UT: Gibbs Smith, 1990.
  • Goldman, Merle. From Comrade to Citizen: The Struggle for Political Rights in China. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005.
  • Han Minzhu, and Hua Sheng, editors. Cries for Democracy: Writings and Speeches from the 1989 Chinese Democracy Movement. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990.
  • He, Rowena. Tiananmen Exiles: Voices of the Struggle for Democracy in China. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.
  • Hicks, George, editor. The Broken Mirror: China after Tiananmen. Essex: Longman Current Affairs, 1990.
  • Lim, Louisa. The People’s Republic of Amnesia: Tiananmen Revisited. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.
  • Link, E. Perry. Evening Chats in Beijing: Probing China’s Predicament. New York: W. W. Norton, 1992.
  • Ogden, Suzanne et al., editors. China’s Search for Democracy: The Student and Mass Movement of 1989. Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 1992.
  • Schell, Orville. Mandate of Heaven: A New Generation of Entrepreneurs, Dissidents, Bohemians, and Technocrats Lay Claim to China’s Future. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994.
  • Shen Tong, with Marianne Yen. Almost a Revolution. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1990.
  • Unger, Jonathan, editor. The Pro-democracy Protests in China: Reports from the Provinces. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1991.
  • Wasserstrom, Jeffrey N., and Elizabeth J. Perry, editors. Popular Protest and Political Culture in Modern China, Second Edition. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1994.
  • Zhang Liang, Andrew Nathan, and Perry Link. The Tiananmen Papers. New York: Public Affairs, 2002.
  • Zhao Dingxin. The Power of Tiananmen: State–Society relations and the 1989 Beijing Student Movement. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001.


  • 1. Timothy Brook, Quelling the People: The Military Suppression of the Beijing Democracy Movement (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1998), 4–5. Please also refer to the Discussion of the Literature section.

  • 2. The story was first revealed in Brook, Quelling the People, 39–40, but had Xu Qinxian’s name misspelled as “Xu Jingxian. The story was later confirmed by Mao’s former secretary Li Rui, reported for example in Asia Weekly by Jiang Xun, posted on China Perspectives, Saturday, May 23, 2009.

  • 3. Hao Jian is a professor of the Beijing Film Academy.

  • 4. Edward Wong, “Chinese Activist Chen Yunfei Is To Stand Trial, Lawyer Says,” The New York Times, June 27, 2016.

  • 5. Survivors and family members of the victims of the June 4 Massacre.

  • 6. Testimony of Du Dongxu, Widow of Ma Chengfen, Human Rights in China.

  • 7. As occurred in the case of Taiwan’s democratic transformation in the 1980s under President Chiang Ching-kuo, a precedent about which the students may have been unaware.

  • 8. Merle Goldman, From Comrade to Citizen: The Struggle for Political Rights in China (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005), 7–12.

  • 9. Perry Link, Evening Chats in Beijing: Probing China’s Predicament (New York: Norton, 1992), 249–255.

  • 10. In English, the Tiananmen Movement is often referred to as the Tiananmen Square Movement, and the military crackdown is referred to as the Tiananmen Square Massacre. This can be misleading because the movement was not confined to Tiananmen Square, although that is the general public image because of the extensive coverage by Western journalists who covered Gorbachev’s visit and the Sino-Soviet summit. Instead, it was a nationwide movement that took place in cities throughout the country. Likewise, the Tiananmen Massacre did not take place only in Tiananmen Square; it included killings throughout Beijing.

  • 11. Perry Link, “What the Tiananmen Mothers Offer China,” China Rights Forum 2 (2004): 41–43.

  • 12. Guo Jian, Yongyi Song, and Yuan Zhou, Historical Dictionary of the Chinese Cultural Revolution: 1966–1976, 2d ed. (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015), 5.

  • 13. Guo Jian, Historical Dictionary, 5.

  • 14. Goldman, From Comrade to Citizen, 41.

  • 15. On May 4, 1919, several thousand students demonstrated in Beijing against the provisions of the Versailles Peace Treaty that compromised Chinese sovereignty by ceding to Japan former German concessions in Shandong province. Ever since, the CCP has commemorated the “May Fourth Movement” as the birth of popular nationalism and democracy.

  • 16. Alexander V. Pantsov with Steven I. Levine, Deng Xiaoping: A Revolutionary Life (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015), 359–376.

  • 17. Minzhu Han, ed., Democracy: Writings and Speeches from the 1989 Chinese Democracy Movement (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990), xix–xx.

  • 18. Goldman, From Comrade to Citizen, 31.

  • 19. The concept of Four Modernizations was first introduced by Zhou Enlai in January 1963 (after the Great Famine) and reintroduced by Zhou in January 1975 when Deng was officially named to top positions at Mao’s suggestion.

  • 20. Barry Naughton, The Chinese Economy: Transitions and Growth (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2007), 91–100, 442–444.

  • 21. Goldman, From Comrade to Citizen, 11–13.

  • 22. Pantsov, Deng, 386–387.

  • 23. Craig J. Calhoun, Neither Gods nor Emperors: Students and the Struggle for Democracy in China (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994), 5.

  • 24. Fang Lizhi translated by Perry Link, The Most Wanted Man in China: My Journey from Scientist to Enemy of the State, (New York: Henry Holt, 2016), 274.

  • 25. Fang, Most Wanted Man, 276.

  • 26. Schwarcz, Vera, “Memory and Commemoration: The Chinese Search for a Livable Past,” in Popular Protest and Political Culture in Modern China: Learning from 1989, eds. Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom and Elizabeth J. Perry (Boulder, CO: Westview, 1992), 111.

  • 27. Pao Pu, Renee Chiang, and Adi Ignatius, eds., Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000), 5.

  • 28. Tong Shen, with Marianne Yen, Almost a Revolution, 2d ed. (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1998), 169.

  • 29. Brook, Quelling the People, 25.

  • 30. He, Rowena, Tiananmen Exiles: Voices of the Struggle for Democracy in China (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), 71.

  • 31. Yang, Guobin, “Emotional Events and the Transformation of Collective Action: The Chinese Student Movement,” in Emotions and Social Movements, eds. Helena Flam and Debra King (London: Routledge, 2005), 85–87.

  • 32. Eddie Cheng, Standoff at Tiananmen (Berkeley, CA: Sensys Corp, 2009), 63.

  • 33. Zhang Liang, Andrew Nathan, and Perry Link, “The Tiananmen Papers” (New York: Public Affairs, 2002), ch. 1.

  • 34. Yang, “Emotional Events,” 89.

  • 35. The “three-good” student honor system, in practice since the 1950s, rewarded students with all-round moral, academic, and physical development. In this context, good “morals” mainly meant adhering to political standpoints that were in accord with the government’s political indoctrination.

  • 36. He, Tiananmen Exiles, 126.

  • 37. “It Is Necessary to Take a Clear-Cut Stand against Turmoil,” People’s Daily, April 26, 1989, front page.

  • 38. Zhao, Prisoner of the State, 33.

  • 39. He, Tiananmen Exiles, 71.

  • 40. Zhao, Prisoner of the State, 18–20; and Pantsov, Deng, 411–415.

  • 41. Cheng, Standoff, 127.

  • 42. Cheng, Standoff, 135.

  • 43. Brook, Quelling the People, 37.

  • 44. Kristof, Nicholas, “The Tiananmen Victory,” The New York Times, June 2, 2004.

  • 45. Strikers’ Statement,” in Cries for Democracy: Writings and Speeches from the 1989 Chinese Democracy Movement, ed. Minzhu Han (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990), 201.

  • 46. Retrieved from

  • 47. Brook, Quelling the People, 44.

  • 48. Brook, Quelling the People, 43.

  • 49. Liu Xiaobo, “Listen Carefully to the Voices of the Tiananmen Mothers,” in No Enemies, No Hatred: Selected Essays and Poems, eds. Perry Link, Tienchi Martin-Liao, and Liu Xia (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012), 6.

  • 50. Liu Xiaobo, “Listen Carefully,” 4.

  • 51. He, Tiananmen Exiles, 6.

  • 52. Wu Renhua, Liusi Shijian Zhong De Jianyan Budui (Los Angeles, CA: Zhenxiang Publisher, 2009).

  • 53. Schidlovsky, John, “Waiting for Their Turn to Die: The Battle for Tiananmen Square,” Toronto Star, June 5, 1989, A14.

  • 54. He, Tiananmen Exiles, 4.

  • 55. Radio Beijing is now called China Radio International.

  • 56. Listen to this Haunting Broadcast Made by Radio Beijing on June 4, 1989,” Shanghailist, June 4, 2013.

  • 57. George Black and Robin Munro, Black Hands of Beijing: Lives of Defiance in China’s Democracy Movement (New York: John Wiley, 1993).

  • 58. Orville Schell, Mandate of Heaven: The Legacy of Tiananmen Square and the Next Generation of China’s Leaders (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994), 216.

  • 59. Chinese Human Rights Defenders, “Qianglie yaoqiu yizhi shifang ‘liusi’ shijiu zhounianhou renzai yuzhong fuyingde Beijing shimin” (We Strongly Demand the Immediate Release of Beijing Citizens Who Are Still Serving Prison Sentences Nineteen Years Following the June 4 Incident), June 2, 2008.

  • 60. Calhoun, Neither Gods nor Emperors, 5.

  • 61. Asia Watch, “Punishment Season: Human Rights in China after Martial Law,” in The Broken Mirror: China after Tiananmen, ed. George Hicks (Essex: Longman Current Affairs, 1990), 383.

  • 62. According to Zhang Weiguo, director of the Beijing Office of the World Economic Herald, the registration of the newspaper was revoked in April 1990. The four detained members of the editorial board were: Chen Lebo, Ruan Jiangning, Xu Xiaohui, and Zhang Weiguo.

  • 63. “Rumors and the Truth,” Beijing Review 32.37 (September 18–24, 1989), 20–26.

  • 64. “People Comment on the Riot in Beijing,” Beijing Review 32.2 (July 10–16, 1989), 21, 25.

  • 65. An Zhiguo, “Notes from the Editors: On the Events in Beijing,” Beijing Review 32.26 (June 26–July 2, 1989), 4.

  • 66. Guangming Daily, November 17, 1989.

  • 67. Zhong Bu, ed., Xinshiqi zui ke’ai de ren: Beijing jieyan budui yingxiong lu (The Most Beloved Men in the New Era: List of Heroes of the Beijing Martial Law Enforcement Troops) (Beijing: Guangming Daily Press, 1989).

  • 68. The Gate of Heavenly Peace,” Long Bow Group Film, 1995.

  • 69. Chinese Charter 08 Signatories Awarded Homo Homini: Speeches by Vaclav Havel, Xu Youyu, and Cui Weiping,” Prague, March 13, 2009.

  • 70. Ding Zilin, Xunfang liusi shounanzhe (In Search of the Victims of June 4) (Hong Kong: Open Press, 2005), 84.

  • 71. Rowena He, “Still Seeking Justice for the Tiananmen Massacre,” Washington Post, June 4, 2012.

  • 72. WikiLeaks is an international online organization that publishes secret information, news leaks, and classified media from anonymous sources.

  • 73. “Tiananmen Massacre a Myth,” China Daily, July 14, 2011.

  • 74. The two maps were created in 2009 (in English), and also available at

  • 75. Jeffrey F. Meyer, “Moral Education in the People’s Republic of China,” Moral Education Forum 15.2 (1990), 3–26; Ronald Price, “Moral-Political Education and Modernization,” in Education and Modernization: The Chinese Experience, ed. Ruth Hayhoe (Oxford: Pergamon Press, 2002), 211–237; and Stanley Rosen, “The Effect of Post–4 June Re-education Campaigns on Chinese Students,” The China Quarterly 134 (1993): 310–334.

  • 76. Christopher R. Hughes, Chinese Nationalism in the Global Era (London: Routledge, 2006).

  • 77. Wang Zheng, Never Forget National Humiliation: Historical Memory in Chinese Politics and Foreign Relations (New York: Columbia University Press, 2012).

  • 78. Gong Yue, “Xiagan yidan xie chunqiu: Ji huanying ‘huangque xingdong’ muhou yingxiong chendaizheng zuotanhui” (Forum on the Unsung Heroes of “Operation Yellowbird”), Beijing zhichun (Beijing Spring) 170 (July 2007): 75–78.

  • 79. He, Tiananmen Exiles, 27.

  • 80. Ge Xun, “21 Hours in Beijing,” trans. Yaxuan Cao, Seeing Red in China, February 2012.

  • 81. Han, ed., Cries for Democracy, xxi.

  • 82. Li Xiaojun, The Long March to the Fourth of June, trans. E. J. Griffiths (London: Duckworth, 1989), xiii.

  • 83. Edward Friedman, “Studying China Is Dangerous,” keynote speech delivered at the 49th annual conference of the American Association for Chinese Studies, University of Richmond, October 5–7, 2007.

  • 84. Retrieved from

  • 85. Rowena He, “The Open Wound of Tiananmen,” The Wall Street Journal, June 3, 2015.

  • 86. Timothy Brook, Quelling the people: The Military Suppression of the Beijing Democracy Movement (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1992), 4.

  • 87. Brook, Quelling the People, 39–40.

  • 88. Craig J. Calhoun, Neither Gods nor Emperors: Students and the Struggle for Democracy in China (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994).

  • 89. E. Perry Link, Evening Chats in Beijing: Probing China’s Predicament (New York: W. W. Norton, 1992).

  • 90. Merle Goldman, From Comrade to Citizen: The Struggle for Political Rights in China (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005).

  • 91. Orville Schell, Mandate of Heaven: A New Generation of Entrepreneurs, Dissidents, Bohemians, and Technocrats Lay Claim to China’s Future (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994).

  • 92. Han Minzhu and Hua Sheng, eds. Cries for Democracy: Writings and Speeches from the 1989 Chinese Democracy Movement (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990).

  • 93. Bao Pu, Renee Chiang, and Adi Ignatius, eds., Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2009).