Higher Education Sparks Clash Against
Political Corruption: The 1989 Student
Protests in Tiananmen Square
October 15, 2013
Yu Qing Liu
Figure 1: June 5, 1989. A lone man stands before a line of tanks
preventing the government show of force from carrying on.
Figure 2: A line of tanks in Tiananmen Square. Held in place
momentarily by one lone man laden with shopping bags.
• It was a combination of advanced education,
political corruption, increasing civil unrest and
wide spread media that prompted the June
Protests of 1989 in Tiananman Square Beijing,
What Was it
• Tiananmen Square incident, also called June Fourth
incident or 6/4
• series of protests and demonstrations in China in the
spring of 1989 that culminated on the night of June 3–
4 resulting with a government crackdown on the
demonstrators in Tiananmen Square in Beijing.
• Although the demonstrations and their subsequent
repression occurred in cities throughout the
country, the events in Beijing—and especially
in Tiananmen Square, historically linked to such other
protests as the May Fourth Movement (1919)。
• China's 1989 is described as a student
movement, with rallies and hunger strikes organized
by educated youths.
• When crowds a million strong thronged Beijing's
streets, however, only a minority of demonstrators
belonged to this social group — as had to be the case
since there were far fewer than a million college
students in the entire country.
• When soldiers killed hundreds of protesters and
onlookers in the capital late on June 3 and early on
June 4, the dead were a mix of workers and educated
Student Initiative Protestors
Figure 3: Student waves flag in central Tiananmen Square on June 3, 1989 before
the government sends in the military
Where Did The Action Happen?
• Tiananmen Square was not the only site of dramatic
protests in China in 1989
• large demonstrations also took place in the central
plazas of scores of other cities. Nor was Beijing the
only urban center that witnessed a massacre.
• In Chengdu, on June 4 and 5, soldiers also killed at
least dozens of people. Which suggests, the widelyused term "Tiananmen Square Massacre" is
misleading, as the main killing fields in the capital
were near the plaza, not in it.
Figure 4: Tiananmen Square, the main public square in central Beijing, the capital city
Figure 5: Elevated picture of Tiananman Square. There is the Zhengyangmen gate
tower to the South (bottom), The Great Hall of People to the West (left), the
National Museum of China to the East (right) and the
China’s Capital, Beijing
Figure 6: China, third largest country in the world by landmass (only 300,000 km2
smaller than Canada) and 1st in the world for population, 1.2 billion in 1989 (only
1.17 billion people more than Canada)
The City of Beijing
Figure7: Beijing, the capital city of China. Over 10 million people call this city
home. At the centre of the city is located Tiananmen Square.
Chinese Authorities Clamp Down on
Information of 1989?
• Initially, the authorities strove to popularize their
interpretation of events, which held that there had been
"counter-revolutionary riots" .
• This official version of the story, complete with its denial
that the June 4th Massacre took place, has not changed.
From the early 1990s on, though, the government has
switched from telling its tale loudly to discouraging any
public talk of 1989.
• Internet minders work diligently this time of year, for
example, to keep the Chinese Internet free of all
references to "liusi" ("June 4," literally "6/4," the most
common shorthand for the upheaval), and to ensure that
web searches for "Tiananmen" and "Tiananmen Square"
will take browsers only to sites that discuss this plaza's
role as the home of revolutionary monuments
• BBC Reporting on the Tiananmen Square protests
OF June 4, 1989 and the documentation of the
government military response.
• This video shows a stark contrast to the Chinese
Governments official statements that minimal
force was used in dispersing the crowds and that
there were no fatalities.
What Did Protesters Do?
• The main tactics used in the 1989 protests — marches by
banner-carrying demonstrators, rallies and speeches at
Tiananmen Square, students kneeling before the Great
Hall of the People to present a petition with their
• little attention is sometimes given to the central
importance of the group hunger strike students launched
on May 13, 1989. Nothing did more to galvanize popular
support for the struggle, drawing its power from the stark
symbolic contrast it set up between selfless youths who
fasted and selfish officials who feasted. The lavish
banquets that only the well-connected enjoyed at that
time in China had come to epitomize rampant official
Why Did People Take to the Streets?
• The is perhaps the most divided among scholars with the
majority arguing the rallies and movement was in favour of
democracy and the others arguing that the students simply
were protesting against rampant corruption within their
• One more motivation to factor in, which is often forgotten in
the West's remembrance of the day, provides a fitting place
to end these anniversary reflections: patriotism. A favorite
song of the students in 1989 was "Children of the Dragon," a
folk anthem with nationalist overtones. And a central
demand of the students who stayed longest around the
Square was that the government needed to apologize to
them for official editorials that had described their protests
as efforts to damage the country. The students wanted a
formal acknowledgment that, to the contrary, they had
marched precisely because they loved their country — loved
it so much that they were willing to risk their lives to make it
a better place.
• Since the aim of Student Protester actions was
to directly challenge the political framework
of the country of China it would fall under the
classification of Political Terrorism according
to Schmid’s Framework.
Calhoun, Craig. 1989. "Revolution and Repression in Tiananmen Square." Society 26, no.
6: 21-38. SocINDEX with Full Text, EBSCOhost (accessed October 10, 2013).
Gardner, Hall. 1990. China and the world after tiananmen square. SAIS Review 10, (1)
(Winter): 133, http://search.proquest.com/docview/1311697317?accountid=10969
(accessed October 10, 2013).
Moskvitch, Katia. 2012. “China bans Tiananmen Square-related web search terms”. BBC
News, June 4 2012. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-18321548
Nickerson, Colin. 1990. Represion in high gear; Chinese leaders wary as Tiananmen
anniversary nears. The Gazette, April 14, 1990
(accessed October 13, 2013).
Park, Henry. 1992. Tiananmend diary: Thirteen days in June (book review). Journal of
Contemporary Asia 22, (2) (Jan 01): 283,
(accessed October 13, 2013).
Wasserstrom, Jeffrey. 2010. “China’s June 4, 1989: Remembered-and Misremembered.
Time World, June 03, 2010.