The Tiananmen Square Massacre was a protest in the People’s Republic of China which occurred in 1989. It was violently broken up by government forces, leading to mass criticism around the world. During the government’s attempts to subdue the protesters, thousands were killed, with credible estimates ranging from 1,000 to 4,000 people killed during the demonstration. The events at Tiananmen shocked and horrified much of the world, and proved to be a major turning point in Chinese history. Tiananmen Square itself is quite ancient, and it is one of the largest public gathering places in the world. The earliest version of the plaza appeared in the 1100s, and it has long been used as a gathering place for rallies, demonstrations, and other events. It is also an iconic part of the Chinese landscape, since it is located right next to the Forbidden City. Protest movements have often used the Square as a rallying point, as has the government. Starting in April 1989, protesters of all ages and affiliations across China began leading demonstrations which criticized the Chinese government. Students were particularly involved in these protests across China, although older Chinese took part as well. Tiananmen Square was the site of several protests during this period, including a student hunger strike. The protests grew larger as word spread, and international media descended upon China to report on the issue. Many people suspected that these mass protests would mark a new era in Chinese history. By 20 May 1989, the Chinese government had declared martial law, but troops had difficulty enforcing it in the face of thousands of protesters. It took several weeks for troops to penetrate Beijing and converge on Tiananmen Square, in hopes of putting down the protest quickly. One of the most enduring images from the Tiananmen Square massacre is a photograph of a lone man standing in front of a line of tanks as they attempt to enter the Square. The fate of “tank man,” sometimes called the “unknown rebel,” is unknown. When the troops entered Tiananmen Square, they opened fire indiscriminately on the protesters who were gathered there. Troops even fired at each other in the confusion, as protesters tried to find shelter and news agencies looked on in horror. Within hours, photo and video of the event had been sent to the outside world, and Tiananmen Square had been cleared of survivors and thousands of bodies. The topic continues to be a taboo subject in Communist China.
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