Tiananmen Square Protests, 4 June 1989

by Patrick Liew on August 20, 2019

Tiananmen Square Protests, 4 June 1989

The Tiananmen Square protests is also known by other names such as the June Fourth Incident (六四事件) in China, Tiananmen Square Massacre, and Tiananmen crackdown.

The choice of which name to use largely depends on your perspective of the event.

Whatever the case, the Tiananmen Square protests is one of the major tragedies in human history.

On 4 June 1989, it was said that more than one million demonstrators had gathered at Tiananmen Square to pressure the government of the day to make changes to its sociopolitical and economic systems.

A student-led hunger strike
galvanized greater support, and the protests snowballed and attracted other demonstrators from more than 400 cities nationwide.

The government declared martial law, and sent tanks and armed troops to put the protests to an end.

When the demonstrators tried to stop the armed troops, they were fired upon, resulting in a death toll ranging from several hundred to over thousands.

Sadly, until today, there was no complete report and accountability of the event.

The Chinese government has adopted various measures to block or censor information about the Tiananmen Square protests in school textbooks, books, films, newspaper and other mainstream sources of information.

Any discussion about the event has become a social taboo.

Many of Chinese who were born after 1980 are unaware of the event and apathetic about it.

The typical response from Chinese political leaders is similar to what the Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe said at the Shangri-la Dialogue, “That incident was a political turbulence and the central government took measures to stop the turbulence which is a correct policy,”

“The 30 years have proven that China has undergone major changes.

“China has enjoyed stability and development”.


I love China, the Chinese people, and the Chinese culture but I can’t help wondering;

Does the end justify the means?

If the Chinese government continues to suppress public record and memory of the Tiananmen Square protests, have they learned from the event?

Are current and future leaders better prepared to manage – God forbid – similar events in the future?

Will history itself?

There are many valuable lessons from the Tiananmen Square protests and other protests all over the world for us in Singapore.

In the final analysis, the motives, means and ends of any initiative by political leaders is to improve safety, security and quality of life for our people.

That should be the focus and basis for evaluating any political ideology or system.

Moving forward, we should catalyze our people to take a stronger ownership of our society and country.

Together, we should create more initiatives to build on the “one united people” spirit and strengthen families and communities.

Develop a home where we will have a deeper sense of rootedness and belonging.

Help to take care of each other and look after the last, the least, the lonely, and the lost among us.

We should hold on to a deeper belief that it’s in our Little Bright Red Dot that we can find purpose for living, happiness and fulfillment on individual, family and community levels.

The government should aim to build on such a “gotong royong” spirit by incentivizing more bottom-up and peer-to-peer initiatives.

It should encourage more partnerships between the public, private and people sectors and encourage key stakeholders to connect, collaborate and co-create solutions for our people.

As a people, we should not just rely on the government to lead the way.

We should do our part to make Singapore the best home for ourselves.

Foster more helping hands, including non-governmental organizations and volunteers to strengthen the bonding between families and communities.

These helping hands can also be deployed to help address challenges of an aging population and potential fault lines that can divide and polarize our people, including xenophobia, not-in-my-backyard syndrome, and even racial or religious misunderstandings.

As a people, we must have the self-efficacy to believe we can battle all odds as a country.

Every one of us carry equal responsibility to strengthen our social ecosystem and make Singapore a livable and lovable home.


I hope this message will find a place in your heart.

By the way, I have also recorded other reflections.

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