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These Horrifying Pictures Show The Tiananmen Square Protests Like You've Never Seen Them

In 1989, thousands of demonstrators in Tiananmen Square were met with brutal force as the Chinese government sought to crush a wave of pro-democracy protests.

Posted on June 4, 2019, at 2:26 p.m. ET

Peter Turnley / Getty Images

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

After the death of former Chinese Communist Party leader Hu Yaobang, a beloved figure to pro-democratic Chinese students, in 1989, people throughout the country demonstrated in favor of democratic values, such as freedom of speech and freedom of the press, and against corruption within the Chinese Communist Party.

Over the course of several weeks, thousands of people congregated in Beijing's Tiananmen Square demanding government reform.

After protesters ignored orders to vacate the square, the Chinese government deployed armed troops and tanks to forcefully dispel the demonstrators.

On the evening of June 4, violence erupted in the square as unarmed demonstrators were confronted by the Chinese military.

There is no consensus on the actual death toll as estimates range from several hundred to 10,000. In the decades since, China has effectively erased the event from its collective memory and suppressed common knowledge of the massacre.

These pictures capture what transpired in Tiananmen Square in June 1989.

Warning: Some viewers may find some of the following images disturbing.

Peter Charlesworth

A pro-democracy demonstrator gives the "V for Victory" sign to soldiers who are lined up, standing guard outside the Chinese Communist Party's headquarters.

Peter Turnley / Getty Images

Students from a Beijing nursing school look after hunger strikers during the pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square.

Mark Avery / AP

A Chinese military helicopter drops leaflets to students offering an ultimatum to abandon the square or be forced out by the military.

Sadayuki Mikami / AP

A People's Liberation Army tank officer wields a pistol atop a tank as an armored convoy deploys at a major intersection in eastern Beijing, June 5.

Bettmann / Bettmann Archive

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

AFP / Getty Images

Chinese citizens hurl stones at troops, June 4.

Jacques Langevin / Getty Images

A man covered in blood holds up a helmet he took from a Chinese soldier.

Catherine Henriette / AFP / Getty Images

Soldiers leap over a barrier at Tiananmen Square, June 4.

Jacques Langevin / Getty Images

Students are met with military force, June 4.

David Turnley / Getty Images

An injured demonstrator in Tiananmen Square is helped by others, June 4.

Peter Charlesworth

Pro-democracy demonstrators overturn a bus on Chang'an Avenue to try to impede soldiers who are fighting their way toward Tiananmen Square, June 4.

Peter Charlesworth

Pro-democracy demonstrators pull barricades across Chang'an Avenue to try to impede soldiers who are fighting their way toward Tiananmen Square, June 4.

David Turnley / Getty Images

People transport a wounded man during the military crackdown, June 4.

Jeff Widener / AP

A student protester puts barricades in the path of a burning armored personnel carrier that rammed through student lines, June 4.

David Turnley / Getty Images

People transport a wounded woman during the military crackdown, June 4.

David Turnley / Getty Images

A pair of students following the government crackdown, June 4.

Peter Charlesworth

Buses and vehicles burn and pro-democracy demonstrators retreat down Chang'an Avenue as soldiers march toward Tiananmen Square.

David Turnley / Getty Images

Beijing citizens walking through Tiananmen Square in the aftermath of the riots.

David Turnley / Getty Images

Family members try to comfort a mother who has just learned of her son's death after he was killed by soldiers at Tiananmen Square, June 4.

Peter Charlesworth

At the end of the pro-democracy movement in China, cyclists look at bicycles flattened by the Chinese army tanks.

David Turnley / Getty Images

The morning after the military crackdown of the pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square, workers clean their posters from bulletin boards.

Peter Charlesworth

At the end of the pro-democracy movement in China, a lone cyclist walks past street barriers on Chang'an Avenue, crushed by army tanks during the night of violence in and around Tiananmen Square.


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