Tuesday, June 4, marks 30 years since the Chinese government ordered its army to attack thousands of peaceful student protesters in Beijing, killing many of them. China has spent 30 years hiding this event from its people.
Tiananmen Square is a huge and famous open area in the center of the Chinese capital, Beijing. Tiananmen Square is important in China’s history and is near many other historic buildings.
In April, 1989, thousands of students came to Tiananmen Square to remember a leader called Hu Yaobang and to protest. Mr. Hu had died recently and was popular with the students because he had promoted freedom. Mr. Hu. had been punished by the government for this.
The students were protesting for freedom and democracy (when people have control over their own government). They wanted the Chinese people to have a bigger voice in the government. They wanted the government to be honest and open. The students were joined by workers.
For seven weeks, the students stayed in Tiananmen Square. As time went on, more and more people came. People held signs, gave speeches, chanted, and sang songs. The students created a huge statue, which they called the “Goddess of Democracy”.
The student protest confused the government. The government didn’t know how to respond. Some people in the government wanted to work with the students. Others wanted to deal with the students harshly.
Some students were so determined to make the government change, that they refused to eat until the government met their demands. The protest in Tiananmen Square continued to disrupt life and embarrass the government. Similar protests were also happening in hundreds of other cities across China.
After many weeks, the government decided to send the army to take control. On the morning of June 4, 1989, the army moved in on Tiananmen Square with tanks. Soldiers violently attacked students and others who were there. The soldiers shot and killed hundreds, perhaps thousands, of the students.
None of the students had weapons. Many tried to run away from the violence. The protesters who weren’t killed and couldn’t get away were arrested.
The protesters were sent to jail. The leaders of the protest spent years in prison. Some were forced to live and work in hard conditions. Many years later, some of the student protesters were able to leave the country.
China has spent 30 years trying to pretend that the violence in Tiananmen Square didn’t happen. Inside of China, the government controls the internet completely. Nothing even slightly connected to the event is allowed online.
Now, 30 years later, in the days before June 4, the Chinese government is cracking down. They have arrested many people, including mothers of students who were killed. The government has blocked the online encyclopedia Wikipedia. Government workers are watching the internet especially closely for anything that might remind people of the violence in Tiananmen Square.
But Chinese people who have left the country, including some members of the army, have been speaking out. They want to make sure that the Chinese government’s terrible attack on its own people is never forgotten.
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