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From the Archive
June 2, 2014
by Magnum Photographers
On June 4th, 1989, armed forces of the People's Republic of China violently suppressed a seven-week long demonstration in the nation's capital.
The demonstration began following the April 15th death of Hu Yaobang, a progressive government official who favored reforms in favor of capitalism. A day before Hu's funeral supporters gathered in Tiananmen Square to pay tribute to his memory. Before long approximately 100,000 had joined the demonstrators, most of which were students and intellectuals. At the same time demonstrations developed in other cities around the country. Though the protestors were unorganized and fragmented in their specific messages they were united in their criticism of the authoritarian government and democratic reform.
During the month of May, workers joined organized student groups in marches through the city. At the same time hundreds of students decided to begin hunger strikes. In response the government declared martial law and though temporarily blocked, army units began entering Beijing.
Late on the night of June 3rd armored vehicles and infantry began its drive toward Tiananmen Square, some of which had been indiscriminately firing into groups of protesters as they advanced. By early morning of June 4th the square had been cleared. Though the Chinese government claims that 241 were killed and 7000 wounded some sources believe that the actual number of civilian deaths may have been somewhere between 3000 and 6000.
Following the "June Fourth Incident", as it's known in China, the government tried and executed a number of workers who'd been involved in the demonstration and also arrested and tried students and intellectuals, many of whom received prison sentences.
To this day people are forbidden to discuss the June 4th Incident in China.