Weird History
16.4k readers

30 Sobering Photos Of Tiananmen Square

Updated September 3, 2019 16.4k views30 items
Editor's Note: Voting and Reranking have been closed.

The Tiananmen Square Protests of 1989, often called the '89 Democracy Movement, were demonstrations led by students in pursuit of democracy in Beijing, China. Photos of the Tiananmen Square Protests document the passion of the students as they ignited conversations about the political state of the nation and protested in over 400 cities.

It all began in April, with the death of the Chinese politician, Hu Yaobang, who had strong views supporting democracy. Around 4,000 students went to the Great Hall of the People to hold a memorial for Hu Yaobang on April 17. 200 students remained the following morning, only to be chased away by police with batons. Stories of police brutality flared across the country, and, by April 22, 100,000 students had gathered at Tiananmen Square for the official state funeral of Hu Yaobang. 

Throughout the month of May, the Chinese government struggled with the demands of the student demonstrators. First, they tried to frame the protests as a conspiracy; then, they tried to hold open discussions. The student movement gained sympathy and strength, reaching upwards of a million people in attendance at certain times. The government finally declared martial law on May 20, sending a quarter of a million troops to clear Tiananmen Square. Protestors were warned to clear the streets and the square, but instead, they surrounded the military vehicles and offered food and conversation. In four days, the troops were withdrawn. 

The government decided to try again in the late evening of June 3, sending more tanks and soldiers. This time, to the disbelief of the world, the army opened fire on the student protestors. It is estimated that 500 to 1,000 people were killed that night. Decades after the fact, the Tiananmen Square Massacre is still heavily censored in China. Compiled here are a list of photos that provide a window into the Tiananmen Square Protests, documenting the growth of an idea, the manifestation of passion, and the brutal end of a movement. 

  • After Martial Law Is Declared, Students And Ordinary Citizens Successfully Turn Back The Troops

    Photo: Peter Turnley / Getty Images Entertainment
  • Mangled Bicycles Hang Off A Tank That Was Burned By Student Protesters

    Photo: Peter Turnley / Getty Images Entertainment
  • People Transport A Wounded Woman During The Military Crackdown

    Photo: David Turnley / Getty Images Entertainment
  • A Weary Protester Pleads With A PLA Officer

    Photo: Peter Turnley / Getty Images Entertainment