Jim Denison on Tiananmen Square Thirty Years Later: Persecution ‘the World Has Never Seen the Likes of’

Tiananmen Square consists of 109 acres in the heart of Beijing, China. Ironically, the name means “Gate of Heavenly Peace.” First constructed in 1420 during the Ming dynasty, it was the entrance to the Imperial City and the Forbidden City (the homes of emperors and their households for almost five hundred years).

When I visited several years ago, I was amazed by the massive size of the square. And by the fact that it displays no indication whatsoever that one of the most dramatic events of my lifetime took place there.


In 1989, weeks of pro-democracy protests led to demonstrations by more than a million people in Tiananmen Square. Thirty years ago today, the Chinese government ordered its military to reclaim the area.

Troops reached the square around 1 a.m. the following morning, June 4, leading to hundreds of deaths and thousands of arrests. An official death toll has never been released. Several dozen people were later executed for their parts in the demonstrations.

Mention of the massacre is banned in China still today.

Perhaps the most iconic moment came when an unidentified protester stood in front of a line of tanks, blocking their progress. The so-called “tank man” stood there for several minutes before he was pulled aside by onlookers.


The same day the Chinese government massacred hundreds of pro-democracy demonstrators, Communist Party leaders watched as pro-democracy candidates in Poland supplanted Communist rule. Pope John Paul II’s support was indispensable to their success.

Writing for the Wall Street Journal, Nina Shea and Bob Fu describe what happened to Christians in China after the Tiananmen massacre. Shea directs the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom. Dr. Fu was a student leader during the Tiananmen Square demonstrations and founded ChinaAid “to bring international attention to China’s gross human rights violations and to promote religious freedom and rule of law in China.”

It was my privilege to meet with Dr. Fu a few years ago; I have followed his courageous career with gratitude.

Shea and Fu state that Chinese Christianity experienced “spectacular growth” over the thirty years after Tiananmen and report that “there could be well over 100 million Chinese Christians.” They cite projections that China could have nearly 250 million Christians by 2030. By contrast, the Communist Party numbers ninety million.

To counter such tremendous growth, President Xi Jinping last year began enforcing religious regulations to bend the church to the party’s leadership.

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Source: Christian Headlines