In Thursday night's GOP debate, Donald Trump called the protests in Tiananmen Square a "riot."
The comment was made in response to a question about his views on the 1989 student protests and the bloody crackdown that followed. Here is the exchange:
TAPPER: Mr. Trump, some of your Republican critics have expressed concern about comments you have made praising authoritarian dictators. You have said positive things about Putin as a leader, and about China's massacre of pro-democracy protesters at Tiananmen Square, you've said: "When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it, then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength."
How do you respond?
TRUMP: That doesn't mean I was endorsing that. I was not endorsing it. I said that is a strong, powerful government that put it down with strength. And then they kept down the riot. It was a horrible thing. It doesn't mean at all I was endorsing it.
The comment the moderator references comes from a 1990 interview with Playboy. The quote has been cited by some as an endorsement of the Chinese government's handling of the mass, student-led mobilization, that is, as praise for the way the People's Liberation Army "cleared" the Square on the morning of June 4th, 1989, leaving hundreds, if not thousands, dead.