The Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 – known in mainland China as the June Fourth Incident – saw student-led demonstrations across the country calling for democratic reform amid corrupt actions by the government. The frustration started after dictator Mao Zedong’s death in 1976, as China’s new leader by 1978 – Dao Xiaoping – oversaw privatisation of production. While many welcomed this, it was also accompanied by nepotism and the promotion of party allies who would benefit from advantages in markets.
The scandal caused uproar in China, and worsened when Beijing announced a new market-based pricing system before retracting it within two weeks amid panic in the country.
Inflation soared leading to the eventual protests – in which students called for greater accountability, constitutional due process, democracy, freedom of the press, and freedom of speech.
After persistent protesting and hunger strikes – China’s government eventually took military action to devastating effect.
On June 3 and 4, Chinese forces moved towards Tiananmen Square, opening fire on unarmed demonstrators.
Others were arrested while some were crushed by vehicles.
The death toll remains unknown, but UK documents released in 2017 suggest 10,000 protestors were killed.
Even worse for the country, however, was the government’s efforts to conceal what had happened from the rest of the world.
As the massacre took place, a Radio director – Wu Xiaoyong – broadcast a statement internationally, asking the world to remember “the most tragic event [that] happened in the Chinese capital, Beijing”.
Wu was placed under house arrest after the crackdown, and two China Central Television news anchors appeared on camera dressed in black as they read the official texts about the army’s successful crackdown on the “counter-revolutionary riot”. Both were removed from their positions.
Propaganda officers took control of all of Beijing’s media, and over the last 30 years, the Communist party has aimed to distort and rewrite the history of the protests.
State machinery conveyed the protests as a conspiracy made up by the West to weaken the country’s image.
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After catching the virus, Li died in early February and caused Chinese internet to overflow with anti-government messages despite the country’s strict censorship.
The doctor has been officially exonerated by an investigation into his death, although some argue this didn’t go far enough as only the reprimand was withdrawn.
China has sent vital medical equipment to Italy and the UK in recent weeks, but while this has the potential to provide a huge boost, some have warned it could be a move to improve the country’s image.
In fact, many countries have rejected the emergency supply claiming the equipment is defective.
Thousands of testing kits and medical masks are below standard according to authorities in Spain, Turkey and the Netherlands.