Tiananmen Square Massacre
The 19th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre comes two months before the Beijing Olympics begins
Also In The News
Good, bad or just the same old, same old? What the fans made of the 2007/08 season.
Wednesday, 04, Jun 2008 12:01
The Tiananmen Square protests continue to divide east and west, nineteen years since the peaceful demonstrations were crushed.
The Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 are commonly known as the Tiananmen Square Massacre, but in China are referred to as the June 4th Incident.
Demonstrators were initially made up of students and academics but later included urban workers, who were also unhappy with the speed of political and social reform in China.
The protests began in mid-April but endured until the government crackdown at the beginning of June when a full-scale assault by armoured vehicles and soldiers was launched against the unarmed demonstrators.
Death-toll estimates vary wildly from several hundred to almost 7,000, although the Chinese government insists no one died in the square itself.
The speed of the operation caught even the government by surprise, allowing foreign media outlets in Beijing covering the state visit of Mikhail Gorbachev to initially report on the beginning of the crackdown before being taken off air.
This led to the iconic 'tank man' picture being taken, showing a lone protestor - known as the unknown rebel - blocking the progress of four tanks by refusing to move.
Today Amnesty International UK is holding a mass demonstration with the Tiananmen Mothers organisation outside the Chinese embassy in London as the 19th anniversary of the massacre is marked.
Any attempt to hold similar events in China is illegal, with extra security to be installed in the square itself to prevent any demonstrations taking place as Beijing prepares for the Olympics in two months time.
Many Chinese have a very different impression of the events of June 4th 1989 than people in the west, with any mention of the massacre forbidden.
In addition, any internet coverage of the protests is automatically filtered out in mainland China, making the next generation of Chinese students unaware of the actions of their forebears.
Commenting, Amnesty International UK director Kate Allen said: "Today we are appealing to the Chinese government to support the Tiananmen Mothers' simple demands - the freedom to publicly mourn the deaths of their children without harassment and an investigation into the events of June 1989.
"The Chinese authorities still deny their people the right to peacefully protest, 19 years on from the Tiananmen Square crackdown. It's never been more important for people here in the UK to stand up for human rights in China."