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Tiananmen Square 1989
Overview/Background and Causes of Human Rights Violation:
-By 1980, Deng Xiaoping emerged as the most powerful leader in China. Deng was one of the "old revolutionaries" who had ruled China since 1949. Unlike Mao, Deng was willing to use capitalist ideas to help China's economy. He implicated a set of goals known as the Four Modernizations. Deng's economic reforms produced a number of unexpected problems. Although the living standards improved, the gap between the rich and the poor began to grow wider; the public believed that party officials took advantage of their positions by accepting bribes and enjoying privileges denied to others. The new economic policies also led to the flow of Western ideas into China. Warned by officials that their Communist values were at risk, Deng chose to ignore this early threat; but still, more Chinese students learned about democracy with each day, and they began to question Communist values and their own political freedom.
-In 1989, students sparked an uprising that shocked and surprised China's communist leaders. Beginning in April of that year, more than 100,000 students occupied Tiananmen Square. This square was a huge public space located in the heart of Beijing, the capital of China. The students protested the communist government and called for democracy; shouting "Down with corruption!", "Down with dictatorship!", "Long live democracy!" This student protest was applauded by many people; when thousands of students began a hunger strike to highlight their cause, approximately 1 million people poured into Tiananmen Square to show their support. Many students and people began to call for the resignation of Deng Xiaoping.
-In response, Deng called for martial law. Ordering 250,000 troops to surround Beijing, he hoped to suppress the students' protests. The students fought back and chose to continue protest; building a 33 foot statue that they named the "Goddess of Democracy"- resembling the American Statue of Liberty. Then, on June 4th, 1989, the standoff came to an end; thousands of heavily armed soldiers stormed into Tiananmen Square, tanks smashed through barricades and trampled on the Goddess of Democracy. Ironically, "Tiananmen Square" is said to mean "the Gate of Heavenly Peace". Soldiers open-fired into the crowds of frightened students; other officers attacking protesters elsewhere in Beijing. The assault that occurred on that day killed hundreds and wounded thousands of people. The attack on Tiananmen Square marked the beginning of a massive government campaign to stamp out protest. Police arrested an estimated 10,000 people, and the state began to tell people that the reports of massacre were false, claiming that a small group of criminals were acting out against the government. However, despite officials' attempts and suppressing the spread of the truth, television news had already broadcasted the truth worldwide. Despite the brutal repression caused by Deng, he continued his program of economic reforms, and by the mid 1990s, the economy of China was making extraordinary changes.
Actions Taken to Improve Situation:
-In February of 1997, Deng died, and the Communist Party General Secretary Jiang Zemin assumed the presidency. During the 1990s, the U.S. pressured China to release political prisoners and ensure basic rights for political opponents. China was not open to such suggestions, and remained hostile to democratic governments. In late 1997, Jiang visited the United States, and he witnessed the democratic fervor of the U.S. citizens, calling for democracy in China. Jiang admitted to China's mistakes, something that Deng had been unable to do, however he replied that there would be no changes in China's policies.
-Currently, China is still a Communist Republic; however the economic and social conditions in the country are clearly improving. The middle class is expanding and educational opportunities are increasing. Countries outside of China are also continuing to link themselves to China in ways of technology and trade; hoping to have more influence on China politically as relations grow stronger. In the year 2000, the U.S. Congress voted to normalize trade with China; supporters arguing that the best way to get China to make changes in its government, is to promote "engagement rather than isolation".
WHY is this Important:
-This is important because the fact that the government open-fired into a nonviolent crowd of protesters, shows what the Communist Party is truly capable of; suppressing its people and expecting the students and citizens to isolate themselves and to not seek advancement. The massacre that occurred in Tiananmen Square is a reminder to the world of what a corrupt government is capable of; using violent measures to suppress the rebellion of the Chinese people. It serves as a lesson to other democracies in the world also, that democracies are too, capable of this massacre if they continue to suppress the rights of their people.
On June 3 and 4, 1989, Chinese army troops and tanks rolled into the Tiananmen Square area in Beijing to crush student-led pro-democracy protests that had begun in mid-April. Residents of other cities in China and nations worldwide protested the bloody crackdown. Casualties were estimated at 5,000 people, while many others were injured. The significance of this event was that student protest resulted in a massacre of the innocent. Moreover, the Chinese communist government was unwilling to admit to the truth; instead, they removed satellite coverage and told everyone that the stories of the massacre were a result of an anti-government group fabricating lies. Shown above is the Goddess of Democracy, which was erected by the students in Tiananmen Square, however it was later destroyed during the massacre in the square.
Watch CBS Videos Online
The series of events that occurred during the Tiananmen Square massacre, is a symbol of the extent of power a tyrannical and communist leader can impose on his or her people. In the video from the link, thousands of PLA soldiers moved towards the center of Beijing; people flooded the streets trying to block them, setting up barricades along routes into Tiananmen Square. As the army was met with resistance, they broke through in armored personnel carriers, and some open-fired with guns loaded with live ammunition, all killing and injuring many unarmed citizens. This is significant because even today, many of China's younger generations do not know about the massacre that occurred in Tiananmen Square, as the government has suppressed and covered up the truth of that day, hoping that humanity will forget and forgive. However, the world must know of such horror, if it is to refrain from allowing it to happen once more.
1) Perkins, Dorothy. "Tiananmen Square."
Encyclopedia of China: The Essential Reference to China, Its History and Culture
. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2000.
Modern World History Online
. Facts On File, Inc.
ItemID=WE53&iPin=china02379&SingleRecord=True (accessed June 1, 2009).
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