Chinese troops invade Tiananmen Square in central Beijing, killing and arresting thousands of pro-democracy protesters. The Chinese government’s brutal aggression against the protesters shocked the West and prompted accusations and sanctions from the United States.
In May 1989, nearly a million Chinese, mainly young students, gathered in central Beijing to protest against greater democracy and call for the resignation of Chinese Communist Party leaders who were deemed too repressive. For nearly three weeks, the demonstrators maintained daily vigils and marched and chanted. Western journalists have captured much of the drama for television and newspaper audiences in the United States and Europe.
READ MORE: Tiananmen Square protests: chronology and massacre
On June 4, 1989, however, Chinese troops and security police burst into Tiananmen Square, indiscriminately shooting at the crowd of protesters. Unrest ensued as tens of thousands of young students attempted to escape from the raging Chinese forces. Other protesters responded, stoning the attacking troops, overturning and burning military vehicles. Western journalists and diplomats at the scene estimated that at least 300, and possibly thousands, of the protesters had been killed and up to 10,000 arrested.
The savagery of the Chinese government’s attack shocked its allies and enemies of the Cold War. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev said he was saddened by the events in China. He said he hoped the government would adopt its own internal reform program and start democratizing the Chinese political system.
In the United States, editorial writers and members of Congress denounced the Tiananmen Square massacre and pressed for President George Bush to punish the Chinese government. Just over three weeks later, the United States Congress voted to impose economic sanctions against the People’s Republic of China in response to the brutal violation of human rights.
READ MORE: China: a timeline