The Washington Post

Here’s how The Washington Post covered Tiananmen Square in 1989

In 1989, the Chinese military descended on Tiananmen Square and moved to end pro-democracy demonstrations. The event, which resulted in several hundred to several thousand dead, is considered one of the most brutal crackdowns in modern history. At the height of the protests, which were sparked by the death of a Communist Party leader who wanted reform, at least a million people were estimated to have participated in the demonstrations.  Here is a look back at the Tiananmen Square massacre through the pages of The Washington Post.

May 20: Students defy martial law orders

"[T]he government today declared martial law 'in certain areas' of the capital to meet the growing defiance by Chinese citizens. Martial law provisions included a ban on demonstrations, and restrictions on the movements of Chinese citizens and the activities of foreign journalists."

June 3: Troops are blocked for a second time

Although 200,000 troops surrounded Tiananmen Square, citizens were able to stop them from entering. "The citizens shouted 'Go home,' and called on people in the area to join them in opposition to the troops. The troops continued to press forward but were channeled into the left-hand side of the street, when a mass of people now numbering more than 1,000 stopped the soldiers in their tracks. The troops then seemed to give up."


June 3: Frightened students worry about what comes next

After troops were blocked from entering the square twice, concerned students and media contemplate the military's next move. Staff writer Jay Mathews poses a simple question: "Would they come?"


June 4: The massacre

Here is the front page, leading with staff reporter Daniel Southerland's coverage.


June 4: The legacy of Tiananmen Square

The front of The Post's Outlook section: "'There's been nothing like it in human history,'CBS's Charles Kuralt proclaimed on Sunday morning."

June 5: Death in Tiananmen


June 6: An infamous photo is born

July 1: An avenue full of corpses

Shen Tong became the first Chinese student to speak publicly about the massacre. He told reporters: "People around me were being shot because they could not believe the army was shooting at them, so they did not move."


Note: This post was originally published on June 3, 2014. 

Swati Sharma is a digital editor for World and National Security and previously worked at the Boston Globe.



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