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27 Heartbreaking Pictures From The Tiananmen Square Massacre

A look back the China's pro-democracy protests of 1989, presented by Getty Images. (Warning: graphic images.)

Last updated on July 3, 2018, at 2:09 p.m. ET

Posted on June 3, 2017, at 9:39 a.m. ET

During the spring and summer of 1989, hundreds of protests erupted across China amid rising socioeconomic anxieties during the post–Mao Zedong era.

The April 1989 death of Hu Yaobang, a former leader of China's Communist Party and beloved figure to Chinese students, inspired many to assemble in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square to express their vision for a new democratic China. They protested for a wide range of issues — including free speech, anti-corruption, freedom of press, and other pro-democracy causes.

Following weeks of continuous demonstrations, government troops armed with assault rifles and tanks advanced toward Tiananmen Square to dispel the protestors, resulting in tremendous violence that left scores of civilians dead. While the official number of casualties differs vastly across sources, it is estimated that anywhere from several hundred to 2,600 people were killed during the government crackdown.


A sea of student protesters gathers in Tiananmen Square on May 4, 1989.
Peter Turnley / Getty Images

A sea of student protesters gathers in Tiananmen Square on May 4, 1989.

A group of young Chinese women read together in Tiananmen Square.
David Turnley / Getty Images

A group of young Chinese women read together in Tiananmen Square.

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Protesters holding red banners listen to a pro-democracy movement leader speak early one morning in Tiananmen Square.
Peter Charlesworth / Getty Images

Protesters holding red banners listen to a pro-democracy movement leader speak early one morning in Tiananmen Square.

Waving banners, high school students march in Beijing streets near Tiananmen Square on May 25, 1989, during a rally to support the protest against the Chinese government.
Catherine Henriette / AFP / Getty Images

Waving banners, high school students march in Beijing streets near Tiananmen Square on May 25, 1989, during a rally to support the protest against the Chinese government.

A pro-democracy movement leader talks into a microphone as he gives a press conference in Tiananmen Square.
Peter Charlesworth / Getty Images

A pro-democracy movement leader talks into a microphone as he gives a press conference in Tiananmen Square.

Riding motorbikes, Chinese workers parade through Beijing streets on May 18, 1989, in support of student hunger strikers.
Catherine Henriette / AFP / Getty Images

Riding motorbikes, Chinese workers parade through Beijing streets on May 18, 1989, in support of student hunger strikers.

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A leader of the pro-democracy protests speaks to the crowds through a golden bullhorn.
David Turnley / Getty Images

A leader of the pro-democracy protests speaks to the crowds through a golden bullhorn.

Students from a Beijing nursing school look after hunger strikers during the protests.
Peter Turnley / Getty Images

Students from a Beijing nursing school look after hunger strikers during the protests.

Paramedics evacuate an ailing hunger striker from Beijing University at Tiananmen Square, as students enter the fifth day of hunger strikes.
Catherine Henriette / AFP / Getty Images

Paramedics evacuate an ailing hunger striker from Beijing University at Tiananmen Square, as students enter the fifth day of hunger strikes.

Crowds of people watch the unveiling of the "Goddess of Democracy" sculpture in Tiananmen Square. The Monument to the People's Heroes and Mao Zedong Mausoleum are visible in the background.
David Turnley / Getty Images

Crowds of people watch the unveiling of the "Goddess of Democracy" sculpture in Tiananmen Square. The Monument to the People's Heroes and Mao Zedong Mausoleum are visible in the background.

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A weary protester pleads with a People's Liberation Army (PLA) officer sitting in his truck to not crack down on the student demonstrators.
Peter Turnley / Getty Images

A weary protester pleads with a People's Liberation Army (PLA) officer sitting in his truck to not crack down on the student demonstrators.

The day after the Chinese government declared martial law, students, protesters, and thousands of Beijing residents and workers in sympathy with them flooded the streets and peacefully persuaded the troops not to continue on to Tiananmen Square. They often gave the troops food.
Peter Turnley / Getty Images

The day after the Chinese government declared martial law, students, protesters, and thousands of Beijing residents and workers in sympathy with them flooded the streets and peacefully persuaded the troops not to continue on to Tiananmen Square. They often gave the troops food.

Several hundred pro-democracy student protesters sit face-to-face with police officers outside the Great Hall of the People.
Catherine Henriette / AFP / Getty Images

Several hundred pro-democracy student protesters sit face-to-face with police officers outside the Great Hall of the People.

A man attempts to hold back the swelling crowd.
David Turnley / Getty Images

A man attempts to hold back the swelling crowd.

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PLA soldiers leap over a barrier on June 4, 1989, during heavy clashes with people and dissident students. The night before, Chinese troops forcibly marched on the square to end the weeks-long occupation by student protesters, using lethal force to remove opposition they encountered along the way. Hundreds of demonstrators were killed in the crackdown as tanks rolled into the square.
Thomas Cheng / AFP / Getty Images

PLA soldiers leap over a barrier on June 4, 1989, during heavy clashes with people and dissident students. The night before, Chinese troops forcibly marched on the square to end the weeks-long occupation by student protesters, using lethal force to remove opposition they encountered along the way. Hundreds of demonstrators were killed in the crackdown as tanks rolled into the square.

Demonstrators overturn a bus in front of a burning truck on Changan Avenue in order to try to hold up soldiers who were fighting their way toward Tiananmen Square.
Peter Charlesworth / Getty Images

Demonstrators overturn a bus in front of a burning truck on Changan Avenue in order to try to hold up soldiers who were fighting their way toward Tiananmen Square.

David Turnley / Getty Images

A group of demonstrators come to the aid of an injured man.

An armored personnel carrier in flames as students attempt to disable the vehicle on June 4, 1989.
Thomas Cheng / AFP / Getty Images

An armored personnel carrier in flames as students attempt to disable the vehicle on June 4, 1989.

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Manuel Ceneta / AFP / Getty Images

A girl wounded during the clash between the army and students is rushed out of the scene by a cart.

Grieving and blood-soaked students rest in Tiananmen Square.
David Turnley / Getty Images

Grieving and blood-soaked students rest in Tiananmen Square.

Buses and vehicles burn as demonstrators retreat down Changan Avenue on June 4, 1989.
Peter Charlesworth / Getty Images

Buses and vehicles burn as demonstrators retreat down Changan Avenue on June 4, 1989.

A demonstrator blocks the path of a tank convoy along the Avenue of Eternal Peace near Tiananmen Square.
Bettmann Archive

A demonstrator blocks the path of a tank convoy along the Avenue of Eternal Peace near Tiananmen Square.

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David Turnley / Getty Images

Killed demonstrators are gathered in a makeshift morgue on June 4, 1989.

Family members try to comfort a grief-stricken mother who has just learned of the death of her son, a student protester killed by soldiers.
David Turnley / Getty Images

Family members try to comfort a grief-stricken mother who has just learned of the death of her son, a student protester killed by soldiers.

Beijing residents inspect the interior of some of more than 20 armored personnel carriers burned by demonstrators to prevent the troops from moving into Tiananmen Square.
Manuel Ceneta / AFP / Getty Images

Beijing residents inspect the interior of some of more than 20 armored personnel carriers burned by demonstrators to prevent the troops from moving into Tiananmen Square.

Locals stop to look at bicycles flattened by the Chinese army tanks.
Peter Charlesworth / Getty Images

Locals stop to look at bicycles flattened by the Chinese army tanks.

A lone cyclist walks past street barriers on Changan Avenue that have been crushed by Chinese army tanks during the night of violence in and around Tiananmen Square.
Peter Charlesworth / Getty Images

A lone cyclist walks past street barriers on Changan Avenue that have been crushed by Chinese army tanks during the night of violence in and around Tiananmen Square.

See more pictures from the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests at Getty Images.


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