Tiananmen Square Massacre – Facts, Fiction and Propaganda

<For more discussions on this topic, check out my new book China, China, Chyyna: Greatest Disruption to American Century> — Chris Kanthan

“As far as can be determined from the available evidence, NO ONE DIED that night in Tiananmen Square.” What?! Who would make such a blatant propagandist claim? China’s communist party? Nope. It was Jay Mathews, who was Washington Post’s Beijing Bureau Chief in 1989. He wrote this for Columbia Journalism Review.

Here are a few more examples of what western journalists once said about what happened in Tiananmen Square in June 1989:

CBS NEWS: “We saw no bodies, injured people, ambulances or medical personnel — in short, nothing to even suggest, let alone prove, that a “massacre” had occurred in [Tiananmen Square]” — thus wrote CBS News reporter Richard Roth.

Tinanmen CBS

BBC NEWS: “I was one of the foreign journalists who witnessed the events that night. There was no massacre on Tiananmen Square” — BBC reporter, James Miles, wrote in 2009.

NY TIMES: In June 13, 1989, NY Times reporter Nicholas Kristof – who was in Beijing at that time – wrote, “State television has even shown film of students marching peacefully away from the [Tiananmen] square shortly after dawn as proof that they [protesters] were not slaughtered.” In that article, he also debunked an unidentified student protester who had claimed in a sensational article that Chinese soldiers with machine guns simply mowed down peaceful protesters in Tiananmen Square.

REUTERS: Graham Earnshaw was in the Tiananmen Square on the night of June 3. He didn’t leave the square until the morning of June 4th. He wrote in his memoir that the military came, negotiated with the students and made everyone (including himself) leave peacefully; and that nobody died in the square.

But did people die in China? Yes, about 200-300 people died in clashes in various parts of Beijing, around June 4 — and about half of those who died were soldiers and cops.

WIKILEAKS: A Wikileaks cable from the US Embassy in Beijing (sent in July 1989) also reveals the eyewitness accounts of a Latin American diplomat and his wife: “They were able to enter and leave the [Tiananmen] square several times and were not harassed by troops. Remaining with students … until the final withdrawal, the diplomat said there were no mass shootings in the square or the monument.”

But what about the iconic “tank man”? Well, if you watch the whole video, you can see that the tanks stopped and even let the tank man jump on the tank. He eventually walked away unharmed. In fact, there are almost no pictures or videos of soldiers actually shooting at or killing people (doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, but it’s a point to keep in mind).

Propaganda involves not only exaggeration, but also omission. Western media rarely show pictures of tanks and military vehicles burned down, because this will demonstrate how restrained the military was.

Here’s a slideshow of military buses, trucks, armored vehicles, and tanks being burned by the “peaceful” protesters:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Sometimes the soldiers were allowed to escape, and sometimes they were brutally killed by the protesters. Numerous protesters were armed with Molotov cocktails and even guns.

In an article from June 5, 1989, the Wall Street Journal described some of this violence: “Dozens of soldiers were pulled from trucks, severely beaten and left for dead. At an intersection west of the square, the body of a young soldier, who had been beaten to death, was stripped naked and hung from the side of a bus.


Here’s a rare video from the Chinese media (Xinhua) of the shocking mayhem and violence near Tiananmen (from June 2nd/3rd):

The official report of the Chinese government from 1989 (translated here) shows that more than 1000 military and police vehicles were burned by rioters. And 200+ soldiers and policemen were murdered. Just imagine how much restraint the military and the police had shown.

Wait, how could the protesters kill so many soldiers? Because, until the very end, Chinese soldiers were unarmed. Most of the times, they didn’t even have helmets or batons.

Unarmed Soldiers with protesters

Here is one more picture of unarmed Chinese police and military hanging out with the public. Compare these pictures to what’s happening in the USA during the Black Lives Matters protests.

And here’s a video of the Chinese military and the protesters singing songs to one another in a friendly duel. This was the climate for many weeks. The Chinese government and most of the protesters never expected the situation to escalate.

So what exactly happened in Beijing in 1989?

To understand the chaos, let’s start with the two most important people in this story: Hu Yaobang and James Lilley.

Hu Yaobang was the Chairman & General Secretary of the CCP. He was a “reformer” and was liked by young people. And he died on April 15, 1989. Without his death, there would probably have been no drama in China that year! College students initially gathered at the Tiananmen Square only to mourn his death.

Within a day or two after Yaobang’s death, the US realized that hundreds of thousands of young people would be congregating in Beijing. It was the perfect time for a coup, since the rest of the world was dismantling communism that year! Thus, on April 20, 1989 – five days after Yaobang’s deathJames Lilley was appointed as the US Ambassador to China. He was a 30-year veteran from the CIA.

An article from Vancouver Sun (17 Sep 1992) described the role of the CIA: “The Central Intelligence Agency had sources among [Tiananmen Square] protesters” … and “For months before [the protests], the CIA had been helping student activists form the anti-government movement.”

To help the US intelligence, there were two important people: George Soros and Zhao Ziyang. Soros is legendary for organizing grassroots movements around the world. In 1986, he had donated $1 million – which was a lot of money in China in those days – to the Fund for the Reform and Opening of China. Over the next three years, Soros’ group had cultivated and trained many pro-democracy student leaders, who would spring into action in 1989. The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) also opened offices in China in 1988. NED is also another regime-change organization.

And who would allow all these western fake NGOs? Zhao Ziyang, who was the Premier of China and the General Secretary of the Communist Party. He was a big fan of privatization and Milton Friedman. His close advisor, Chen Yizi, headed China’s Institute for Economic and Structural Reform, an influential neoliberal think tank. By late May, students on the extreme spectrum were openly calling for the removal of Den Xiaoping, overthrow of the communist party, and making Zhao Ziyang the new capitalist/democratic leader of China. By the way, after the protests, Soros and his NGO were banned in China; Zhao Ziyang was purged and placed under house arrest for the rest of his life; and Chen Yizi escaped to America.

Another westerner who played a significant role in the Tiananmen Square agitations is Gene Sharp, who’s the author of Color Revolution manuals and the subject of an acclaimed documentary called How to Start a Revolution.” He was in Beijing for nine days during the protests and wrote about it. Of course, he didn’t reveal his role, but it’s not hard to imagine. Gene Sharp worked closely with the Pentagon, the CIA, NED etc. for decades and fomented uprisings all over the world — here’s an in-depth article on him.

During the few weeks of the Tiananmen protest, millions of dollars quickly flowed in from the U.S., U.K., Taiwan, and Hong Kong to support the Color Revolution. Propaganda also played a key role. For example, Voice of America was broadcast every day during these few weeks to spread all kinds of fake news and anti-CCP propaganda.

The influence of westerners in Tiananmen Square is obvious, looking at all the large signs in English, expressing American ideals:

Tiananmen English

Two more facts to be noted are that the Chinese government did not impose a martial law until May 20, and there were no major clashes between the military and the people until the very end. Here’s a picture of protesters giving food to the Chinese soldiers:

Tiananmen peace

As for the students, they were not a monolithic group. They fell under a few different categories:

  • Those who came to mourn Hu Yaobang, the beloved communist leader. In the beginning, these entirely comprised the group at Tiananmen Square. These students and workers were communists who loved Mao. They were not looking to be rescued by America.
  • Then there those who just came out to hang out, socialize and have fun.
  • Those who suffered from economic malaise. Inflation was going through the roof in China in the 1980s. In 1988, prices of consumer goods and food went up 26%. College tuition was also going up, and many graduates couldn’t find good jobs. Ironically, all these were the result of liberalization and rapid transition to western-style economy.
  • Idealistic young people who really wanted democracy, free speech, free press etc.
  • Student leaders who were unscrupulous. Most top student leaders escaped from China – the CIA called it “Operation YellowBird” – right after the protests, came to the US, and went to Yale, Harvard, Princeton etc., thanks to generous help from the US government.
  • Provocateurs and thugs who were in the minority, but could significantly escalate tension. This strategy based on mob-rule psychology works very effectively all over the world. Very few people, for example, realize that some of these provocateurs also had guns — including the 1000s of rifles and machine guns that were stolen from military vehicles.
  • image5(1)

One of the student leaders of Tiananmen protests, Chai Ling, said during an interview, “I wanted to tell them [students] that we were expecting bloodshed, that it would take a massacre, which would spill blood like a river through Tiananmen Square, to awaken the people. But how could I tell them this? How could I tell them that their lives would have to be sacrificed in order to win?She escaped from China a couple of days before June 4, 1989. Listen to her — it’s quite ruthless and psychotic:

A massacre was needed to bring down the communist party. When it didn’t happen, the narrative of massacre was created. Because perception is reality. History is written by winners. And the people with the best narratives are winners. It’s a feedback loop.

China’s leaders may not be very good in the art of soft-power, but they understand that the Chinese history in the last two hundred years is filled with devastation from colonialism and civil wars. Stability and unity are not only core Confucian principles, but are paramount to China’s economic progress now. Furthermore, the geopolitical reality is that the US is trying to stop the rise of China. The endless American propaganda about Tiananmen “massacre” only reinforces the Chinese government’s fear about the West’s intentions.

Will China be better off with more free speech, more free press and more transparent government? Absolutely. However, that’s a journey that the Chinese society has to take in its own terms. Only China can decide the speed and direction of its reforms. While the Tiananmen events are tragic, there’s no doubt that the Chinese people appreciate the incredible progress the country has made since 1989.

[Updates from June 2020]

While Americans ritually cry crocodile tears for the victims of Tiananmen Square protest every June, compare how the American government is violently attacking its own people using heavily armed police and even the military, during the protests of 2020. No tanks in the US yet, but Humvees, Predator drones, military helicopters, National Guard, active US military, privatized military like Blackwater, FBI, tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets and guns are all being deployed against Americans.

As seen before, nothing happened to the “tank man,” because the tanks stopped. Guess what happens in the USA, the land of freedom, when a person stands before a police vehicle? Watch the clip below:

Here is a quick slideshow on how heavily-armed US police and military are occupying American cities to crush the Black Lives Matter protests:

One thing is for sure: if Americans became violent as it happened in the last few days of Tiananmen Square protests, the US police and the military will ruthlessly kill thousands of people.


  1. Many thanks for this as I have already made mention of the BBC lies on reporting the matter during it’s coveraage. Several people have informed me of what really happened as per eye witnesses so it’s good to have the facts set out correctly by someone other than myself, who has never set foot in China.
    Have reblogged this version on my WordPress blog.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. It’s ironic on what’s happening today in US and Hong Kong! While I respect the right of any country leadership to protect the well being of their own citizens, but that should not come at the expense of other countries well being. The American government has been stepping on the heads of other countries for its sole benefits under threat disguise of democracy. What is the difference between their behavior versus that of Nazi Germany and Japanese warlords during the second World War? The Americans are waging the Third world war, albeit under a different format, strong arm tactic, bio warfare, sabotage……… where is your conscious?

      The beginning of an end……. to this cowboy culture!


  2. The day-to-day Americans are blindsided by the Government and their media hacks – there is no free speech. US government is doing what it can ti silence media like World News, RT etc

    Liked by 4 people

    1. The same could be said of our so-called democratic and free society in the UK and much of Europe. As I told one of my Chinese contacts, democracy and a free press is a myth and he was no worse off under Communist rule – everything that China is accused of also happens here in the UK, our state owned apparatus just hides it better.

      Liked by 5 people

  3. Was the Tiananmen Square massacre manufactured in 1989 by some deep state for global consumption saved China? How come the Chinese have not even heard of Tank Man?


    1. @roger5201.
      Certainly Washington helped promote the unrest and much of the weaponry used by the fanatics was US made. The reporting was indeed for Global consumption and the Tank Man IS known in China by many, but because he was not harmed it went largely unreported in China itself. I doubt the Chinese press realised how easily the matter could be misrepresented and misreported by the corrupt western media. The best eye witnesses of the Tiananmen Square propaganda misrepresentation were the citizens who lived around it who had to suffer the vandalism(windows smashed and damage to property)and gun toting extremists firing their weapons with the Chinese army seemingly powerless to stop them. The Chinese govt. itself was split as to whether or not to deploy the army and only when it became apparent that the extremists were foreign backed did they actually send in the troops and tanks, but with no orders initially to open fire. For this reason the seige went on longer than it should have and gave the likes of the BBC the opportunity to make free with any and all wrong reporting. What miffs me is the fact that the worthless **** reporting for the BBC was under the protection of both riot police and army who were the ones being shot at – but that is not what he reported.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. The first time I heard about Tank Man when I was 8 on 1998. My Dad brought a Chinese Newspapers from Vancouver and tell me that this man is a hero who sacrifice himself for freedom. He even say that we are lucky that we have freedom in Canada. Till I saw this video yesterday.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. It’s not just you, those of us who got educated in the west all believed that lie about that tank man fought and died die freedom bullshits. When in reality it was just the reaction caused by CIA in trying to overthrow the legit Chinese gov

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I want to point that you can find more information on tiananmen square incident by checking out Deng Xiao Ping’s excerpts notably “Address To Officers At the Rank of General and Above In Command of the Troops Enforcing Martial Law In Beijing” dated 9th June 1989 and “The United States Should Take the Initiative In Putting An End To the Strains In Sino-American Relations” dated 31st October 1989.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. @DownWithTheCCP: I tried to watch that video, but right off the bat it has that over-dramatized presentation and narration, then the claim that the “Chinese authorities murdered *tens of thousands* of *unarmed* men, women, and children”. That number is so far above any other reported even by Western media that it’s already enough to demonstrate lack of credibility. So I won’t even bother watching the rest of it unless you can give me the exact timestamps where it shows Chinese soldiers actually mowing down peaceful protesters with machine guns, or tanks indiscriminately crushing people, or whatever else constitutes actual *massacre* as opposed to defense and enforcement of those violating martial law.

    The fact is that the CIA-supported and ARMED terrorist faction SHOT FIRST and brutally murdered unarmed soldiers. This is supported, for example, by NYC based ThoughtCo who present a much more nuanced analysis than the usual war-profiteer-funded Western media. I start with them because you cannot claim that such a corporation has Communist sympathies. See their About page if you don’t believe me.

    “Not only the student protesters but also tens of thousands of workers and ordinary citizens of Beijing joined together to repel the Army. They used burned-out buses to create barricades, threw rocks and bricks at the soldiers, and even burned some tank crews alive inside their tanks. Thus, the first casualties of the Tiananmen Square Incident were actually soldiers.”

    How do you expect any gov’t to react to such horror?

    They do claim this: “Throughout the night of June 3 and early hours of June 4, the troops beat, bayoneted, and shot protesters. Tanks drove straight into crowds, crushing people and bicycles under their treads.”

    But they provide zero actual evidence for that claim, only hearsay from inherently biased U.S. gov’t citations.

    And they left out the part about CIA involvement as well as the full extent of the brutality against unarmed soldiers. See the gory images in the Voltaire Network link below.

    The fact that the agents provocateur drew first blood is further confirmed by an anti-Chinese Hong Kong politician and curator of Hong Kong’s Tian’anmen Square Museum. He tried to justify their actions, but the fact remains that the gov’t *reacted* to extreme violence, not the other way around.

    It was not a massacre. It was at most a civil war and an attempted coup aided by foreign involvement. You know damn well how the U.S. gov’t would respond if al Qaeda or ISIS … or China … tried to do the same within the United States.




    Liked by 3 people

  6. But there was certainly a heavy handed response on the part of China at that point of time, and they did end up killing 2-300 people (I heard military casualties far lower around 12 maybe)

    So yes, the TianAnMen narrative peddled by Western media largely invention but does not detract that there was a crackdown to restore order.

    The bigger picture of course lost to Western media is that Deng was a giant.

    Small in stature but survived cultural revolution (twice I believe) and seen far greater death and destruction from chaos of the civil war to be fazed by having to do the hard thing in 1989 and get China back on course…

    which he did and China thankfully avoided the pill Russia swallowed putting political reform first…the Chinese people the biggest beneficiaries with 800m out of poverty in following decades.

    That the Western Media will never acknowledge this is much an indictment of the Democracy above all dogma they have entrapped themselves with in the ironic interest of freedom.


    Liked by 2 people

    1. well said. some ones just hardly learn to contain a different culture and ideology exist on the earth planet though they are selling the sugercoat concept so called :freedom democratic all the time. dont like those disgusting hypocrisy

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Looks Greek to me. I need a translation, as this site is in English. Still, I have always known that it was all a western lie.


  7. On may11, student went on hunger strike demanded to have dialogue with government. Government had 2 meetings with them. One on may14, the other on May 18. The students walked out from both meetings without reason. What dp they demand the meetings for. No country’s leaders did ever held any meeting with student then and now. Chinese was the most open country in the world.
    On may 28 chai ling had a video with cunningham. In the video chai long said she wants to overthrow this insane country. What did Chinese government do. They had dialogue with student and tell them to go back to school. That’s all. The students were intended to overthrow the country, that force the government to use force. And also on June 6, Hunan planned to declare autonomy. This is why the government needed to Clear the site on June 4.

    This are the facts from the Chai Ling’s video and the book tian’anmen Memoir by Feng Cong De.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. June 4 1989 Tiananmen Incident, has anyone have a thought about whether things would have been different is the Incident was to occur say 20 years later, say in 2009 ?
    In my work I met hundreds of Chinese who were here in Melbourne before & after the Tiananmen Incident, some were directly involved in the demonstration. In my 30 years dealing with them, the consensus were the June 4 Incident should not have occurred, China then was not ready for any radical change, China in 1989 was just emerging & developing its economy, she was not ready for the radical political & social changes as demanded by the students then.

    I know my above comments will draw many critical responses but I am just stating what I observed & from my first hand dealing with hundreds of Ex Chinese students who now permanently reside here in Melbourne. Many of whom have benefitted from the vast economic development China enjoy in the past 30 years !

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Saw, my thoughts about this tragedy is that it slowed down the process of China to be more “democratic”. This incident has profoundly affect CPC’s policymaking directions. And you are right, things will be totally different if the pro-democratic movement were taken place like in 2009. But, here is a but, this incident was among the big picture of the fall of the communist countries, this can not be avoided. BTW, this is also the reason that I hate the student leader so much. They hijacked the whole democratic movement and ruined everything. They will go to the 18-layer hell!


      1. Yup I agree with you. A country’s gov is determined by their own ppl not some outsider who want to forcibly change the gov just so that they can install puppets to control this country. Hence China could have been a lot more open by now from its own natural courses but they are hampered by the history of color revolution that’s caused by CIA trying to overthrow their government.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you for telling us the other side of stories.
    US is heavily influenced Australians’ Policitians mind, is now leading our country the wrong way, promote hetred, damaged our economy and reputation.
    The world should learn more and the real China, China is the country that maintaining world peace.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Why not bring back the hypocrisy of the British during The Opium War… Also World War 1 and 2….Nazi and Japanese occupation


  11. Thanks for debunking this “Lie of the Century”. I noticed that it didn’t mention a video taken by a Spanish Video Team. It was released world-wide a few years after 1989, and ATV(Asia TV Co.) of Hong Kong had shown the clip in 1994. It recorded how the students had left the Square, no gun-shot, no tanks charging over people, just marched in peace back to their University Area. Unfortunately there’s no English subtitle.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I was visiting Hong Kong during the period when the Tiananmen incident took place in June 1989.

    I stayed at the Marriott Hotel and I watched it as it unfolded on Live TV. I was mainly on CNN as CNN was very good at live coverages of major news events. Every night I watch on TV the protest especially happenings at Tiananmen Square. I also watched the meeting between Li Peng and the student leaders. Both sides stand their ground. But what struck me of the arrogance of the student leaders in making their demands. Other than that most of the nights were more or less the same hunger strike, sit-in, large crowds of protesters chanting and singing except on the night of June 3 and early morning of June 4 when the troops were clearing the square which was taken over by the protesters for over one month even during the visit of Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. On that night what I saw was movement of troops clashes with the demonstrators. Two scenes that stuck in my mind to this day were the firebombing of a tank with soldiers on fire running out the tank. Students managed to open the hatch and threw Molotov cocktail inside. The second scene was even more gruesome. The protesters were shown tying two soldiers to the side of a military bus and set them both slight burning them alive. I vouch I saw both incidents with my own eyes. Today after 30 years these images are still fresh in my mind.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. But nice writing and there were a lot of sources. I mean for all I know that what I actually knew was propaganda. No government has never used propaganda and both the USA and Britain could have benefitted from making China seem worse.


  14. Hello!

    As a 24-year old mainland Chinese I’ve never been educated about what happened at Tian’anmen square, since this topic is strictly taboo in the Chinese public space.

    The CPC is simply too cautious to leave any room for instability, so they basicly erased this issue frome the society, which unfortunately leaves the battleground to western medias who create anti-China propaganda BS.

    Desperate for information, I watched plenty of reports on Tian’anmen of western medias, even documentaries. Only thanks to this piece of yours, I’ve gained a brand new perspective. Thank you!

    I was sad about your sudden “hibernation” due to unknown reasons (not that hard to imagine though) and am glad for your return. But I’ve noticed that a large portion of your previous articles about China are now gone. So I’m just wondering if they are gone for good or still retrievable some day. Because il would be a pity to not able to recover these reports given their fine quality.

    Thanks again and keep your good work!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Wow dude thanks for putting together all these researches. I’m putting this on bookmark so that anytime some idiot who parrots about “Tianenment massacre” can see this! It’s all fake part of CIA propaganda campaign to cause uprising in China

    Liked by 1 person

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