De iconische foto van de demonstrant die in zijn eentje de tanks tegenhield op het Tiananmenplein
© APGraphicsBank

The 30-year anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre

The 30-year anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre

4 June 2019 marks the 30-year anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre in Beijing, violently ending student-led protests calling for basic freedoms and more democracy in China. On the night of 3 to 4 June, heavily armed troops and hundreds of armoured military vehicles stormed into the Chinese capital to clear the streets of demonstrators, firing at onlookers and protesters alike. On the occasion of one the biggest human rights violations in Chinese history, we organise a masterclass.

Eruption of the protests
In April 1989, protests led by some university students in Beijing who gathered initially to mourn senior Communist Party official Hu Yaobang quickly spread across the country. The students demanded an end to corruption by officials, and called for political and economic reforms. Their demands drew wide public support. Peaceful demonstrations took place in Beijing and throughout China. The authorities failed to persuade the demonstrators to return home. As tensions escalated in Beijing, martial law was declared on 20 May 1989. On the night of 3 June 1989, heavily armed troops and hundreds of armoured vehicles moved into the city to ‘clear’ the pro-democracy demonstrators. Many individuals, including children and elderly people, were shot dead by troops. By 4 June 1989, the troops took full control of Beijing.

An official taboo
It has been 30 years since 1989, to date, there is no public remembrance in mainland China for the hundreds, if not thousands of people who were killed in and around Tiananmen Square and other parts of China. The government does not accept that the 1989 protests were legitimate, claiming instead that the protests were a “counter-revolutionary riot”. In 2016, four activists were detained for “inciting subversion of state power” for producing and promoting their own baijiu (a popular Chinese liquor) labels that commemorated the 27th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown. After nearly 3 years in detention, they were finally tried between 1 and 4 April 2019. On 4 April 2019, Chen Bing was sentenced to three and a half years’ imprisonment, while between 1 and 3 April Fu Hailu, Zhang Junyong and Luo Fuyu were sentenced to three years’ imprisonment, suspended for five and four years respectively. They will be effectively silenced during the suspended sentence period, according to the previous experiences of detained activists. Even 30 years after the crackdown, people’s lives continue to be affected for commemorating the event.

On 4 June we will organise the masterclass ’30 years after Tiananmen: Chinese student activism then & now’ in our office in Amsterdam. For this we invited, among others Marieke. With ten other medical students from Amsterdam, Marieke was on a study trip in the Chinese capital in the spring of 1989, where they would receive lessons in traditional medicine. She will share her personal experiences and show photos that she took of the student protests on the Tiananmen square.

Want to join the Masterclass? Register here