There were signs of unrest before 1989: students in Heifei demonstrated in December 1986 against the Party’s role in elections to the Peoples Congress, and student protests spread to Shanghai and other cities. Simmering unrest continued, encouraged by conflict at the top of the Party between hardliners and those more sympathetic to intellectuals. But the spark for the mass protests of April to June 1989 was the death of the former General Secretary Hu Yaobang, forced out of office by hardliners for alleged responsibility for the protests of December 1986. Students massed in Tiananmen Square in April to lay wreaths to Hu, and the protest rapidly developed through marches, occupation of the Square, boycott of classes and formation of autonomous student unions. The demonstrations won support from workers and other Beijing residents and spread to other parts of the country. Some Party leaders tried to conciliate the students, but in May the rise of a more radical student leadership and the launching of a hunger strike, coinciding with the visit of President Gorbachev, led most of the Politburo to endorse the imposition of martial law. This met widespread popular resistance. Numerous collections of documents and accounts of both protest and repression were compiled at the time. The sources selected here seek to give an overall perspective on events.
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C. II.1.c. Tiananmen, The Mass Protests of 1989
Eyewitness account from May 19 by Chinese-speaking American professor.
Collection of materials from the protest movement.
Secret Party papers leaked to the west provide details of the meetings, negotiations and communications between the top leaders about how to deal with the protests, and the triumph of the hardliners over Zhao Ziyang, General Secretary of the Party, who wished to be conciliatory. Western scholars generally accepted the papers as authentic.
Fang Lizhi, a prominent astrophysicist, became an increasingly vocal critic of the regime in the 1980s and was linked to the 1986 student protests.
Collection of documents from participants in demonstrations.
Collection of documents from official perspective.
Includes both an account of the protests and the authorities’ response, and scholarly essays interpreting the context. Extensive bibliography.
Seeks to explain why in 1989 there was a massacre in Beijing but not in Berlin or Prague. Similar discussion in Thompson, Democratic Revolutions: Asia and Eastern Europe (A. 1.b. Strategic Theory, Dynamics, Methods and Movements) .