China puts down protests for democracy

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Summary


The beginnings of the 1989 protests for democracy began in April, after the death of the former General Secretary of the Communist Party, Hu Yoabang. Thousands of college students began gathering in Tiananmen Square in order to mourn the loss of Hu, whom had been a symbol of anti-corruption and political reform to the students. The students then begin to appeal for reforms within the country, including press freedom. Throughout the rest of the month, demonstrations continued, much to the disdain of the government.

On April 22nd, 100,000-plus students gather outside the Great Hall of the People, where Hu's memorial service was being held, and 3 students try to get a moment to speak with Chinese Premier Li Peng and give him a petition of demands. Li refuses to meet with them. Over continuing days, students begin to create unofficial student unions, an illegal deed. On the 25th, Li Peng calls a meeting of the Politburo, a meeting influenced by Party members who opposed the students' actions. These persons convince Party elder Deng Xiaoping, the makeshift head of state, that the students plan to remove him from power, as well as the Communist Party. Deng decides that the Party has been "tolerant and restrained," but the time had come for decisive action and retaliation. "We must explain to the whole Party and nation that we are facing a most serious political struggle. … We've got to be explicit and clear in opposing this turmoil." The next day, an editorial ran in the state-run newspaper, the People's Daily, denouncing the students' deeds. It states "This is a well-planned plot … to confuse the people and throw the country into turmoil… Its real aim is to reject the Chinese Communist Party and the socialist system at the most fundamental level." The editorial only serves to begin a chain of more protests and demonstrations in other cities, as well as it becoming the prerogative of more than just the students, it expands to others, including the Chinese Navy...

Throughout May, the problems with the Party and the students only worsens. Marital law is planned to be declared by the Party, after a hunger strike is begun in protest. The students, upon hearing about the marital law, call off their hunger strike and instead begin a mass sit-in in Tiananmen Square that draws in 1.2 million supporters. The Party attempts once more for compromise, but then declare marital law. This leads to troops being sent to Beijing, although they are not permitted to shoot at civilians, even if provoked. On June 2nd, the Party decides to have the troops force the demonstrators out of Tiananmen Square with military force, hoping there will not be many casualties. Unaware of this, another hunger strike is begun and their sit-in is continued with their calls for reform.

As soon as people found out about the many troops coming in, Beijing citizens flood the streets to block them, setting up barricades up at every major intersection. Later in the evening, citizens become combative towards the soldiers trying to break past their barricades. They berate and throw rocks at the soldiers, someone even sets a bus on fire. Soldiers begin firing at the unarmed citizens. The massacre continues until the morning of June 4th, where the student leaders take a vote: to stay and take the consquences or leave. They make the decision to leave. Later, some protesters try to return, but are shot at.
No one knows the real numbers of how many died in the two days, the Chinese government figure that was officially stated was 241 dead, including soldiers, and 7,000 wounded.

A video of a BBC New broadcast concerning the massacre

Beijing was quiet on June 5th. It lacked the rebellion and air of revolution that had held it for three months. All defiance was gone. Except for one moment.
Around midday, a column of tanks moved slowly down a road leading into Tiananmen Square, only to be stopped by a young man carrying shopping bags that stepped in front of them. Initially, the tanks try to move around him, only for him to step in front of them again. This repeats several times before the tank turns its motor off and the young man climbs up onto the tank and has a brief conversation with the driver before jumping down. The young man is then whisked off into the crowd by a group of unidentified people. Concerning who he was or what happened to him is still a mystery today.

A video of the "Tank Man" set to John Lennon's song "Imagine" and encouraging people to stand up for what they believe in.

Connection to the Cold War


This connects to the Cold War by it shows rebellion that is crushed by the government. It is different from what history has seen of rebellion and revolt: Usually, the revolutionaries win and the antagonists get overthrown. The university students were right in trying to get a change to happen. Change is how the world progresses, and although the fight for democracy in China continues on today, it sometimes takes awhile. Also, it involved Communism, which was still influential in Russia [then known as the U.S.S.R. and the Soviet Union] and China. Communism was a key influence in both World Wars and the Cold War.


Poland becomes independent


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Summary


1989 was rich with revolutions and was the year where many countries with Communism as a main government system fell. Poland was no different.
In the 1980's, Poland began an independent trade union that slowly developed into a mass campaign for political change and helped to inspire the popular opposition to communist regimes in Eastern Europe. This trade union was called Solidarity. Solidarity was made legal in April 1989 and allowed to help influence parliamentary elections on June 4th (coincidently the same day of the massacre in China.) The victory of Solidarity was surprising to everyone, since Solidarity candidates took seats in both Sejm [lower house of Polish parliament] and Senate. This new, non-Communist government was sworn into office in September of 1989.

Connection to the Cold War


This connects to the Cold War by telling a positive version of how Communism fell and how a new Party took control. This loss of Communism also helped Poland establish itself as a country, once and for all. This event helped it become a free and independent country.

Bibliography

Solidarity in Poland
A History of Poland and Judaism

Timeline of Events In Tiananmen Square
PBS Documentary on Tank Man and the Events in Tiananmen Square