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AP WAS THERE: Troops storm Tiananmen Square

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 4, 2014 at 6:24 am •  Published: June 3, 2014

BEIJING (AP) — EDITOR'S NOTE — On June 4, 1989, AP reporter John Pomfret was in central Beijing when Chinese soldiers attacked pro-democracy protesters on Tiananmen Square.

Demonstrators had occupied the square, China's symbolic political heart, for three weeks demanding greater social freedoms and an end to corruption. The crackdown ended a period of relative political openness, led to the downfall of Communist Party leader Zhao Ziyang and plunged Beijing into diplomatic isolation that lasted until the late 1990s.

Little was known in the early hours of the crackdown about the extent of deaths but later estimates of the number of people killed in Beijing and attacks on similar protests elsewhere in China range from hundreds into the thousands.

Twenty-five years after its original publication, the AP is making this story available.


Chinese troops fired on protesters and smashed through barricades with tanks to reach Tiananmen Square early Sunday. At least 13 people were reported killed and scores injured.

A doctor at a small hospital near where the clashes occurred said about 100 people were treated for injuries and that 12 had died. A soldier was killed in another part of the city when he was run over by a tank racing to the square.

Thousands of troops armed with rifles marched up the east side of the vast square, which has been occupied by pro-democracy protesters for three weeks. Until Saturday, the tense standoff had been generally peaceful, even though the students were repeatedly ordered to leave the square and end the protest.

Students threw bottles and other objects at soldiers who advanced Saturday night, while troops beat those who obstructed their path with sticks.

Another group of more than 1,000 troops gained a foothold on the southwest corner of the vast square, while throngs of students and supporters tried to block their movement.

A tank pulled up next to the Great Hall of the People, on the western side of the square, but it was besieged by crowds pelting it with rocks.

Another tank roared down Changan Avenue, the main street, from the east, followed by thousands of shouting people on bicycles. Other tanks crashed through barricades in the west.

The street where the gunfire took place was speckled with blood. Crowds broke up the pavement to throw stones at the troops and set one military bus on fire.

Late Saturday, a convoy of at least 40 trucks with several thousand troops broke through the barricades set up by people and began moving slowly down Changan Avenue toward the square.

Shortly after 1 a.m. Sunday (noon EDT Saturday) troops broke through a flaming barricade at the Xidan intersection, about one mile west of the square.

A man at the intersection about a mile west of the square received a gunshot wound in the chest as truckloads of troops rammed through barricades set up by citizens. A medical student on the scene said the man's heart had stopped beating and there was little hope for his survival.

About 6,000 people trying to block the path of the troops were beaten by riot police and troops and attacked with tear gas. Citizens had set fire to public buses parked across the road, but the army trucks slammed through.

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