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Answered 2009-12-28 11:33:24

The Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, referred to in most of the world as the Tiananmen Square massacre and in the People's Republic of China (PRC) as the June Fourth Incident (officially to avoid confusion with two prior Tiananmen Square protests), were a series of demonstrations in and near Tiananmen Square in Beijing in the PRC beginning on 14 April 1989. Led mainly by students and intellectuals, the protests occurred in a year that saw the collapse of a number of communist governments around the world.

The protests were sparked by the death of a pro-democracy and anti-corruption official, Hu Yaobang, whom protesters wanted to mourn. By the eve of Hu's funeral, 100,000 people had gathered at Tiananmen square.[1] The protests lacked a unified cause or leadership; participants included disillusioned Communist Party of China members and Trotskyists as well as free market reformers, who were generally against the government's authoritarianism and voiced calls for economic change[2][3] and democratic reform[3] within the structure of the government. The demonstrations centered on Tiananmen Square, in Beijing, but large-scale protests also occurred in cities throughout China, including Shanghai, which remained peaceful throughout the protests.

The movement lasted seven weeks, from Hu's death on 15 April until tanks cleared Tiananmen Square on 4 June. In Beijing, the resulting military response to the protesters by the PRC government left many civilians and military personnel charged with clearing the square of the dead or severely injured. The number of deaths is not known and many different estimates exist.[4][5] Nicholas D. Kristof of the New York Times estimated the death toll at 400-800 based on information he gathered from multiple medical sources.[5]

Following the conflict, the government conducted widespread arrests of protesters and their supporters, cracked down on other protests around China, banned the foreign press from the country and strictly controlled coverage of the events in the PRC press. Members of the Party who had publicly sympathized with the protesters were purged, with several high-ranking members placed under house arrest, such as General Secretary Zhao Ziyang. There was widespread international condemnation of the PRC government's use of force against the protesters.[3]

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