Secretary of State's Morning Summary for June 5 and 6, 1989

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Secretary of State's Morning Summary for June 5 and 6, 1989

Government record

By: James A. Baker III

Date: June 5-6, 1989

Source: Baker, James. "Secretary of State's Morning Summary for June, 1989" and "Secretary of State's Morning Summary for June 6, 1989." Department of State. Washington, D.C., 1989.

About the Author: Texan-born James A. Baker III served as Secretary of State from January 1989 to August 1992 under President George H.W. Bush. Baker now serves as Chair of the James A. Baker III Institute of Public Policy at Rice University in Houston, Texas.


In June 1989, the world watched as the China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) forcibly removed thousands of demonstrators from Tiananmen Square in Beijing. An estimated 1,000-2,600 people were killed at the hands of the military in the events that unfolded beginning in April of that year. By 1991, the Chinese government confirmed that 2,578 demonstrators from the events in Tiananmen Square in 1989 had been arrested. The circumstances which led to the unprecedented suppression of the protests in June of 1989 actually began in 1985 and 1986. During this time, students and workers began to demonstrate in support of broad democratic reforms in China. These protests originated on university campuses as students opposed the presence of the PLA in the schools. In addition, protesters demonstrated against nuclear testing that occurred in the Xinjiang province. The movement became a pro-democracy demonstration and adopted slogans of "Law, not authoritarianism" and "Long live democracy." As these demonstrations escalated to nationwide protests, members of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) supported a harsh government response. However, party chairman Hu Yaobang was sympathetic to the reformers and refused to respond with military force. As a result, in 1987 he lost his position as party chairman.

On April 15, 1989, Hu Yaobang died. People began to gather in Tiananmen Square in his remembrance and in support for his political stand. On April 26, however, an editorial appeared in the People's Daily newspaper discrediting the gathering of Hu Yaobang's supporters. As a result, the mood shifted from an expression of grief to a political stand for democratic reforms. According to Chinese government figures, the demonstrations that began in Tiananmen Square began to spread to twenty-nine provinces and eighty-four cities. On May 13, students began a hunger strike and by May 17, approximately one million demonstrators had converged on Tiananmen Square. Many of these protesters were students. However, unlike demonstrations in the past, this gathering became a cross-class protest that included students, urban workers, party and government employees, and others. In all, over seven hundred organizations participated.

On May 20, the party leadership, under the control of Deng Xiaoping (1904–1997), declared martial law. Initial attempts on the part of the PLA to dispel the demonstrators failed. By May 30, the protesters erected a ten-meter-high (about 33.5-feet-tall) plaster statue called the "Goddess of Democracy." The statue, inspired partly by the Statue of Liberty, was raised to face the portrait of China's historical Communist Party leader Mao Zedong (1893–1976) hanging in Tiananmen Square. As a result, the Chinese government began to implement a policy of forceful removal and disbursement of the protesters. This policy began on June 1, 1989, by removing the access of foreign journalists to the events. The next day, convoys of tanks and soldiers began to move into central Beijing. By June 3, the military began to use tear gas and rubber bullets to force the demonstrators' eviction of the square. The PLA's tanks entered Tiananmen Square by midnight on June 3, at which time many demonstrators agreed to leave the square. However, the army began to open fire on the protesters in the early morning of June 4.

In a cable written to the U.S. State Department from the American Embassy in Beijing, approximately 10,000 troops surrounded the 3,000 remaining protesters resulting in violent clashes along Changan Boulevard, the main thoroughfare in Tiananmen Square. The military used automatic weapons, tanks, and armored personnel carriers to suppress the demonstration, which until this point had been peaceful. According to reports, the military opened fire on unarmed civilians, to include members of the press. The U.S. Embassy reported that journalists for CBS had been beaten by the PLA, and their equipment, especially cameras, had been smashed.

As is customary with all pressing situations overseas, the U.S. Secretary of State, then James A. Baker III, kept the president, then George H. W. Bush, aware of developments through frequent updates. The following reports, initially labeled "top secret" were excised of still-sensitive material and made available to the American public in 1993.


Secretary of State's Morning Summary for June 5, 1989, China: After the Bloodbath 1. China

A. After the bloodbath

Yesterday and this morning troops continued to fire indiscriminately at citizens in the area near Tianamen [sic] Square. Citizens tried to block streets and burned armored vehicles and army trucks. Hundreds of military vehicles including at least 34 tanks and numerous armored personnel carriers have been destroyed over the last two days, according to [unidentified source] and press reports.

Secured a university campus where students had captured an armored personnel carrier, and issued a warning that executions of students will begin tonight, according to [unidentified source] units are poised outside several other colleges, and the military said troops will move against the campuses if resistance does not cease. Some students have seized weapons and are vowing to resist. Non-violent protests have occurred in half a dozen other cities….

Press have reported that more than 1,000 soldiers and police were killed or wounded and that some civilians were killed. Foreign estimates range from hundreds to as many as 2,600 civilians killed and thousands injured. But the severity of the assault on Tianamen Square is clear. Troops shot indiscriminately into crowds of unarmed civilians, including women and children, often with automatic weapons. In one case, students attempting to parlay with troops were gunned down. Foreign journalists report seeing fleeting protesters shot in the back. Enraged protesters burned personnel carriers and killed some security personnel.

Secretary of State's Morning Summary for June 6, 1989, China: Descent into Chaos In the western edge of the city, according to press reports, elements of the 28th army clashed with the 27th army, which is being blamed for the worst atrocities against civilians during Saturday night's attack on Tiananmen Square. Told [unidentified source] that Chinese troops are out of control.

That at least some of the troops still entering Beijing are arriving without authorization and are intent upon attacking the 27the army. An unconfirmed Hong Kong television broadcast today reported fighting at Nanyuan military airport, where several thousand fresh troops may have arrived today from the Nanjing military region.

The Nanijng commander is believed to be personally loyal to Deng. A security guard in the great hall of the people shot Premier Li Peng in the thigh yesterday, according to press reports. The would-be assassin was immediately killed by security forces. The report, from a reliable Hong Kong newspaper, will gain wide dissemination.

Sporadic gunfire continued in the center of Beijing yesterday, with some civilian casualties, according to press reports. Troops, supported by tanks, have taken up defensive positions near the US embassy.

Strikes and protests are spreading to other cities; martial law has been declared in Chengdu where violent clashes between troops and demonstrators have left at least 300 dead. According to the consulate general, on Monday night an angry mob tried to break into the hotel where the consulate is housed, although looting, rather than attacks on foreigners, was believed to be the purpose.

Unconfirmed accounts suggest that troops are poised outside Shanghai to intervene if ordered, and the city is paralyzed by strikes and roadblocks erected by protesters. Demonstrations have also occurred in Guanghzhou and other cities.

Leaders and army commanders who have ordered or conducted atrocities now feel they are fighting for their lives. They have ringed the Zhongnanhai leadership compound with armored vehicles and troops.

Convoy of limousines like mini-buses, escorted by tanks, left Zhongnanhai Sunday night for a wartime command center in the suburbs, according to unconfirmed press reports.


The U.S. Embassy in Beijing reported that relative calm had been restored to the region by June 8, 1989. Human rights organizations assert that approximately 1,000-2,600 people were killed during the events. By 1991, the Chinese government had confirmed 2,578 arrests of those involved in participating and organizing the protests. Unlike the gentle handling of the 1985–1986 pro-democracy protests, the CCP leadership enacted sweeping responses to prevent future demonstrations from occurring. In addition to jailing protesters, many of the demonstration's leadership were exiled. Policy changes also occurred. The CCP intensified the political education of students through programs such as an eight-week university program that teaches party principles. Many schools adopted state written curriculum that focuses on China's achievements and the excesses of the West.



Casserly, Jack. The Triumph at Tiananmen Square. Lincoln, Neb.: ASJA Press, 2005.


Mason, T. David., Clements, Jonathan. "Tiananmen Square 13 Years After: The Prospects for Civil Unrest in China." Asian Affairs: An American Review. 29 (2002): 159.

Web sites

The Guardian Unlimited. "Tiananmen: Ten Years On." 1999. 〈,2759,193066,00.html〉 (accessed April 30, 2006).

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No.16. "Tiananmen Square, 1989." 〈∼nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB16/〉 (accessed April 30, 2006).

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Secretary of State's Morning Summary for June 5 and 6, 1989

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