The Tiananmen Square Massacre This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   Everybody's seen the picture, right? A lone student faces a huge line of tanks rolling toward him. It's a scary, brutal picture, especially for those who have learned more about the events of June 3-4, 1989 in Tiananmen Square, Beijing.

The events leading to the massacre started in the early spring of that year. Unrest had been breaking out, and students organized a petition that was totally ignored by the government. Students mourned a dead government official who had been one of their advocates, and finally organized a hunger strike of roughly 3,000 students in Tiananmen Square, where the crackdown occurred.

Deng Xiaoping, supreme leader of the Chinese Communist Party, seemed most responsible for the massacre. The presence of the students was a sign of the weakening of Communism at the hands of Deng and other party hard-liners, but was also an embarrassment when Mikhail Gorbachev arrived in Beijing for a Sino-Soviet summit. Although as much space as possible was kept between the students and Gorbachev, he couldn't help but realize what the strike symbolized. At one point, he remarked, "Well, I come to Beijing and you have a revolution!"

All jokes aside, once Gorbachev left, the tone turned grim. Deng Xiaoping left town - some believe he headed to Wuhan to recruit the People's Liberation Army. The rest, as they say, is history.

But is it really history? Can we bury the events of June, 1989 in history books and old tapes of "Nightline"? Or can we, as Americans who seem to take our democracy for granted, learn something from those students? Can we understand how brutal it is for a government to kill its students, how valuable it is to make a statement even when running a major risk? Can we begin to grasp how much power we as students have? Perhaps we take simple freedoms for granted, when we should really give them more attention. n


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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