30+ Years of Freedom of Information Action

Tiananmen Massacre 30th Anniversary

Tiananmen Square
Published: Jun 4, 2019

Edited by William Burr

For more information, contact:
202-994-7000 or nsarchiv@gwu.edu

Declassified Records Describe Attacks by Chinese Troops, Internal Official Debates, and U.S. Attempts to Keep U.S.-China Relations on Track

Tiananmen Massacre 30th Anniversary

Today the National Security Archive publishes a special exhibit on the 30th anniversary of the massacre at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, 4 June 1989.  To mark an event that decisively shaped contemporary China, the National Security Archive is republishing three documentary E-books that appeared on previous anniversaries, in 1999, 2001, and 2014.  The declassified documents demonstrate that U.S. embassy officials realized very quickly that the Chinese military had carried out a massacre ordered by top officials who feared the public expression of dissent could threaten Communist Party rule.

During the years after the massacre, National Security Archive fellow Jeffrey Richelson and analyst Michael Evans filed declassification requests to find out how U.S. government officials monitored the events and what they learned from intelligence sources, including eye witnesses. The requests, some of which took years for the agencies to process, yielded high-quality documents that shed light on the events, including the background, the armed attacks on the protestors, and the internal debates among top Chinese officials.  They also document the mixed U.S. response to the massacre, on the one hand, sheltering a protestor, and on the other, trying to keep open lines of communication with Chinese authorities and to maintain flows of U.S. investment.

As part of an ongoing brutal crackdown of internal dissent, Chinese authorities have carried out a harsh policy of history suppression, forbidding on-line or other discussions of the events at Tiananmen Square. In light of that it is worth recalling what U.S.  government officials learned at the time and how they assessed Beijing’s response to internal dissent.


Read our previous postings



June 3, 2014
Chinese Military Was Split over Bloody Suppression of 1989 Student Protests, DIA Reported

Chinese Military Was Split over Bloody Suppression of 1989 Student Protests, DIA Reported

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 473


June 4, 2001
The U.S. "Tiananmen Papers"

New Documents Reveal U.S. Perceptions of 1989 Chinese Political Crisis

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 47

Tiananmen Square

June 1, 1999
Tiananmen Square, 1989: The Declassified History

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 16