21
Apr
09

On This Day, April 21: Tiananmen Square

April 21, 1989

Chinese students begin protests at Tiananmen Square

Six days after the death of Hu Yaobang, the deposed reform-minded leader of the Chinese Communist Party, some 100,000 students gather at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square to commemorate Hu and voice their discontent with China’s authoritative communist government. The next day, an official memorial service for Hu Yaobang was held in Tiananmen’s Great Hall of the People, and student representatives carried a petition to the steps of the Great Hall, demanding to meet with Premier Li Peng. The Chinese government refused such a meeting, leading to a general boycott of Chinese universities across the country and widespread calls for democratic reforms.

Ignoring government warnings of violent suppression of any mass demonstration, students from more than 40 universities began a march to Tiananmen on April 27. The students were joined by workers, intellectuals, and civil servants, and by mid-May more than a million people filled the square, the site of communist leader’s Mao Zedong’s proclamation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. On May 20, the government formally declared martial law in Beijing, and troops and tanks were called in to disperse the dissidents. However, large numbers of students and citizens blocked the army’s advance, and by May 23 government forces had pulled back to the outskirts of Beijing.

On June 3, with negotiations to end the protests stalled and calls for democratic reforms escalating, the troops received orders from the Chinese government to reclaim Tiananmen at all costs. By the end of the next day, Chinese troops had forcibly cleared Tiananmen Square and Beijing’s streets, killing hundreds of demonstrators and arresting thousands of protesters and other suspected dissidents. In the weeks after the government crackdown, an unknown number of dissidents were executed, and communist hard-liners took firm control of the country.

The international community was outraged at the incident, and economic sanctions imposed by the United States and other countries sent China’s economy into decline. However, by late 1990, international trade had resumed, thanks in part to China’s release of several hundred imprisoned dissidents.

“Chinese students begin protests at Tiananmen Square,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=4942 [accessed Apr 21, 2009]

On This Day

753 BC – Today is the traditional date of the foundation of Rome.

43 BC – Marcus Antonius was defeated by Octavian near Modena, Italy.

1649 – The Maryland Toleration Act was passed, allowing all freedom of worship.

1789 – John Adams was sworn in as the first U.S. Vice President.

1836 – General Sam Houston defeated Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto. This battle decided the independence of Texas.

1865 – U.S. President Abraham Lincoln’s funeral train left Washington.

1914 – U.S. Marines occupied Vera Cruz, Mexico.

1918 – German fighter ace Baron von Richthofen, “The Red Baron,” was shot down and killed during World War I.

1943 – U.S. President Roosevelt announced that several Doolittle pilots had been executed by the Japanese.

1959 – The largest fish ever hooked by a rod and reel was caught by Alf Dean. It was a 16-foot, 10-inch white shark that weighed 2,664 pounds.

1967 – Svetlana Alliluyeva (Svetlana Stalina) defected in New York City. She was the daughter of Joseph Stalin.

1975 – South Vietnam president, Nguyen Van Thieu, resigned, condemning the United States.

1994 – Jackie Parker became the first woman to qualify to fly an F-16 combat plane.

April 21, 1953

Roy Cohn and David Schine return to U.S.

Roy Cohn and David Schine, two of Senator Joseph McCarthy’s chief aides, return to the United States after a controversial investigation of United States Information Service (USIS) posts in Europe. Upon their recommendation, thousands of books were removed from USIS libraries in several Western European countries.

Cohn and Schine had risen to fame on the coattails of Senator McCarthy as he conducted his well-publicized hunt for subversives and communists in the United States. Cohn became chief counsel to the McCarthy Senate subcommittee devoted to investigating communism in the U.S. government, and Schine, one of Cohn’s close friends, became a “special consultant.” In the spring of 1953, Cohn and Schine departed for a seven-nation tour of Western Europe. Their primary task was to investigate the workings of the USIS posts, foreign offices of the United States Information Agency that had recently been established to serve as propaganda centers. The posts hosted speakers, showed movies, and set up libraries containing what were considered to be representative pieces of American literature. Cohn and Schine were appalled by the authors they found on the USIS bookshelves. The two men reported that over 30,000 books in the libraries were by “pro-communist” writers and demanded their removal. The authors they targeted included crime novelist Dashiell Hammett, African-American intellectual W.E.B. Du Bois, Herman Melville, John Steinbeck, and Henry Thoreau. The State Department, which oversaw the operations of USIS, immediately ordered thousands of books removed from the libraries.

The irony of the situation did not escape commentators of the time. With the Nazi book burnings of World War II still fresh in the collective memory, many felt it was questionable that America had joined the ranks of nations that censored literature. In the fight against communism, even Moby Dick was dispensable.

“Roy Cohn and David Schine return to U.S.,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2644 [accessed Apr 21, 2009]

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