Twenty years ago the Chinese government ordered the suppression of a peaceful protest movement that had been carried out by students and civilians in China's major cities over a period of two months in the spring of 1989. The center of the protest movement was Tiananmen Square in Beijing, where tens of thousands of students camped out to press their demands for democratic reform and a halt to China’s escalating corruption problem, and where more than one million people marched carrying banners and shouting slogans. On the night of June 3, 1989, the government ordered the People's Liberation Army to clear the square. On the afternoon of June 3rd, martial law troops moved into Beijing and clashed with civilians trying to block their way to Tiananmen Square. In the early hours of June 4th, the troops cleared the square and opened fire on unarmed students and civilians in the surrounding area who resisted the suppression.
According to an internal Chinese document, more than 2,000 people died in various Chinese cities on June 3rd and 4th and the days immediately following. The Tiananmen Mothers have documented the names of 182 victims, including three who died at Tiananmen Square.
In addition, in the follow-up to June 4th, more than 500 people were imprisoned in Beijing's No. 2 prison alone, and an unknown number were imprisoned in other Chinese cities. An additional unknown number were executed. Some 130 people are believed to remain in prison serving long terms for crimes connected with the 1989 protests.
However, the total number of dead, wounded, imprisoned and executed remains unknown, because the Chinese government has consistantly refused to carry out a thorough investigation or accounting of the events of June 1989.
The Tiananmen Mothers, along with Human Rights in China and many other groups and individuals, have over the past twenty years repeatedly called for an independent investigation into the June 4th incident, a thorough official accounting of the dead, injured and disappeared, appropriate redress to surviving victims and families of the dead, and accountability on the part of the officials who ordered the crackdown. China cannot make genuine progress in its domestic development or as a world power until it addresses this stain on its history.