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Anger had been simmering since 1976. After the death of dictator Mao Zedong, China’s new leader – Dao Xiaoping – began privatising production in industries such as agriculture. However, he ensured that party allies benefited from this, giving them advantages in the markets. Beijing set up a new market-based pricing system, but u-turned on it within weeks, causing chaos.

Inflation soared, angering the population and provoking protests. China’s leaders responded violently. On June 3 and 4, Chinese forces moved towards Tiananmen Square, opening fire on unarmed demonstrators. Others were arrested while some were crushed by vehicles.

The death toll remains unknown, but UK documents released in 2017 suggest some 10,000 protestors were killed. Beijing immediately set about covering up what had happened at Tiananmen Square, using propaganda to claim the massacre never happened. 

Even today, any mention of the massacre remains taboo in China. As a result, the younger generations have little awareness of what happened in 1989.

While the events at Tiananmen Square were especially violent, recent years have caused concern that such a tragedy could occur again. In 2019 and 2020, protests in Hong Kong – a Chinese ‘special administration’ with widespread calls for autonomy – saw security forces unleash brutal crackdowns on demonstrators. 

Hong Kong residents previously demonstrated in 2014 and again in 2017 against Beijing’s interference in the territory’s affairs.

Then, in 2019, Amnesty International produced a report that said Hong Kong’s police showed a pattern of “deploying reckless and indiscriminate tactics”. They found evidence that arrested protestors were tortured in detention.

One notable example of police misconduct came in September 2020 when footage emerged of Hong Kong police tackling a 12-year-old girl to the ground. Another came a year before this in September 2019. A 21-year-old man was left in critical condition after being shot in the stomach by police.

Just days before these incidents, a protestor died after falling from a car park as police tried to disperse protestors.

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