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June 5, 2014

25 years later, Tiananmen Square massacre remains unspoken tragedy in China

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This week marks 25 years since the Chinese government staged a bloody dispersal of pro-democracy demonstrations in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, killing hundreds, if not thousands, of people. This massacre was covered by media around the world, but was largely unreported within China. Harsh Chinese censorship laws mean many citizens there still do not know about the massacre, and the bloody anniversary was met with little reaction within China.

In 1989, unarmed students took to Tiananmen Square to call for government accountability, freedom of press and other pro-democracy causes. They were met by China’s People’s Liberation Army, which shot automatic gunfire into the crowd.

China’s Communist has tried to airbrush this history, turning Tiananmen Square into the center of the world’s largest consumer market.

China’s one-party state still sees the scandal of corruption as a threat, despite having a tight hold on its citizens. On the day of the anniversary, police blocked cemeteries where the Tiananmen dead lie. China’s Internet censors block access to information about the event on the web.

“We have to go through what happened in the square, like what happened in the Soviet Union, like the Arab spring,” said Chinese dissident Hu Jia, who witnessed the massacre when he was a teenager. “The Communist Party is really worried. They have arrested a lot of people and they are under an incredible amount of pressure.”

Close to 100,000 people from mainland China attended a vigil in Hong Kong, a special autonomous city-state within China that has its own set of laws, to remember the victims. This is one of the only public remembrances in China, which 25 years later, still has not officially inquired into the events of that day.


Warm up questions
  1. Where is China?
  2. In the United States, the First Amendment gives us the right to freedom of speech. How do you think that comes into play during protests?
Discussion questions
  1. What do you think were the reasons behind the students’ protests at Tiananmen?
  2. Why do you think the Chinese government tries to minimize and control the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre? Explain your answer. What methods do they use to control it?
Writing prompt

Although peaceful protests sound, well, peaceful, they is often met with violence. The man sometime referred to as “Tank Man” stood in front of an approaching column of tanks to protest the lack of democracy in China. No one knows what his fate was; all that is left is the powerful video footage. Is there any cause or anyone in this world that you would risk your life for? Explain your answer either way.

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