Tiananmen Square Protests - 25 Years Later


On June 4th, 1989 the Chinese military crushed a rebellion started by students who protested at Beijing's Tiananmen Square. Troops with heavy weapons and tanks advanced on the square. Soldiers fired on unarmed protesters. According to the Chinese authorities, 400 people were killed in the Tiananmen crackdownalthough estimates go into the thousands. 

Protesters demanded the freedom of press and speech as well as more rights for workers.  The Tiananmen Square protests were also spurred by economic problems. China was suffering from a high inflation rate and free market reforms put more money into the hands of high officials and wealthy Chinese instead of ordinary people. Corruption was widespread.


The protests started in April when a liberal politician had died. They continued to grow throughout May. Students and other opponents of the government even staged hunger strikes. Protests also spread to 80 other cities in China. In May the Chinese government declared a state of martial law. The authorities said that the protests were organised to bring down the Chinese government. In the first days of June more and more protesters got together at Tiananmen Square, the heart of the Chinese capital. Soon enough there were over a million people. On June 4th the army started using violence against the angry protesters.

After the crackdown, the government arrested thousands of people, most of them students who received high prison sentences. In the weeks that followed the government in Beijing was harshly criticized for its actions and for violating basic human rights.


Today 25 years later, the Tiananmen tragedy is still a topic Chinese authorities do not want to talk about. Beijing has banned all ceremonies that want to commemorate this tragic day in history. There is no mention of any of the events in the media. 1989 is banned from all text- and history books.

In the past 25 years, not much has changed in China. Even though the country has grown economically, basic human rights are still an issue. Freedom of the press does not exist and Chinese citizens are still not allowed to discuss things in public.



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  • according to = as reported by …
  • advance = to move forward
  • although = while
  • arrest = to  take people to a police station because you think they have done something wrong
  • authorities = organizations of the government with a lot of power
  • ban = forbid, not allow
  • basic = necessary
  • capital = the main city of a country; where the government is
  • ceremony = important or special event
  • citizen = person who lives in a country and has rights there
  • commemorate = in honour of, to remember
  • corruption = illegal or bad behaviour by  people in the government; some of them take money for certain actions
  • crackdown = action that is taken to deal with crime or protests
  • crush = defeat; here: to use violence against someone
  • declare = to say officially
  • demand = call for, want
  • economically = here: everything that has to do with producing goods and money
  • estimate = guess
  • even though =while
  • free market = economic system in which prices are not controlled by the government
  • government = people who rule a country
  • harshly = strongly
  • heart = centre
  • human rights = a basic right that everyone should have, like the freedom of speech or the freedom of the press
  • in public = for everyone to see
  • inflation = when prices go up and people cannot afford things any more
  • issue = topic
  • liberal = not conservative ; here: someone with new ideas
  • martial law = situation in which  the army controls the area instead of the police, especially because of fighting against the government
  • media = press, TV, radio
  • military = army
  • official = person in a high position
  • opponent = person who is against something
  • ordinary = normal
  • receive = get
  • sentence = punishment
  • spread = move to
  • spur = to make something go on
  • stage = organize
  • suffer = here: to experience a bad situation
  • tank = heavy military machine that has large guns on board  and runs on metal belts
  • throughout = in all of
  • troops = soldiers
  • unarmed = without guns or other weapons
  • violate = not follow a law
  • wealthy = rich
  • weapon = something you use to fight with, like a gun or knife
  • widespread = common