30 Years Ago: Students Flood Tiananmen Square

30 Years Ago: Students Flood Tiananmen Square

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the nationwide, student-led democracy movement in China, and the subsequent June 4th military crackdown in Beijing. To commemorate the student movement, CDT is posting a series of original news articles from 1989, beginning with the death of Hu Yaobang on April 15 and continuing through the tumultuous spring.

From the May 15, 1989 New York Times:

Thousands of university students occupied Beijing’s central square through the night, defying Government plans to seal off the area. They said they wanted to hold their own welcoming ceremony for Mikhail S. , the Soviet leader, who arrived today for the first Chinese-Soviet summit meeting in 30 years.

Unable to seal off the square and embarrassed by the presence of the demonstrators, the Governmentcanceled plans to hold the official welcoming ceremony there and moved it to the Beijing airport.

There, amid the sounds of a 21-gun salute, President Yang Shangkun met Mr. Gorbachev after the Soviet chief arrived by plane from the Soviet Union.

Some students recognized the Government action as a minor step in the right direction. ”We think it is a concession,” said Wang Zahao, a 37-year-old student leader from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. ”But we still have a long way to go in protecting human rights in China.” [Source]

See an ABC News report from May 15, 1989:

See also articles from AP and Time Magazine from the same day.

The following photo shows students from Beijing’s Tsinghua University on May 15, 1989 marching to  to show solidarity with hunger strikers. See more photos from the spring of 1989 on the CND Virtual Museum and from a recently released collection by David Chen, a then university student and pro-democracy organizer, on the Chinese-language site of The New York Times.


[This series was originally posted by CDT in 2009 to mark the 20th anniversary of the protests. If you have access to additional sources of original reporting, video, accounts or photos from the spring of 1989, please send them to us at cdt@chinadigitaltimes.net and we’ll consider including them in this series. Many thanks.]

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