Tienanmen Square: The First Occupy Protest

It Happened in Tienamen Square

Al Jazeera (2009)

Film Review

What I found most remarkable about this documentary is the strong similarity between the Tienanmen Square protests and Occupy Wall Street. The Tienanmen Square protest appears to have started spontaneously in mid-May 1989, with students camping out in the square. They weren’t calling for change in the way China was governed – their pro-democracy demands were strictly limited to more control over their own lives. (ie human rights).

Following Chairman Mao’s death in 1976, the Chinese economy had undergone massive reform, with a shift away from strict government controlled industry to capitalist entrepreneurship dependent on western investment.

The Chinese government initially tried to suppress the protest by denouncing it in the media as “unsocialist.” This tactic backfired as hundreds of thousands of Beijing workers joined the students. In the last two Sundays in May, over one tenth of Beijing’s 10 million population turned out in Tienanmen Square.

What I find most amazing about this historic protest is that protesters refused to disperse even after the Red Army rolled in with their tanks and armored personnel carriers and began firing on them. It would take the army approximately 12 hours to clear the square. For me the most surprising footage is of injured protestors being rushed out in ambulances and pedicabs during the 12-hour confrontation.

In all 241 people (including solders) were killed in Tienanmen Square. Another 7,000 were injured.

 

2 thoughts on “Tienanmen Square: The First Occupy Protest

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