Tiananmen Square is arguably best known outside China as center of the student-led pro-democracy demonstration of 1989 that was brutally crushed in televised scenes watched around the globe. The protests were first triggered by the death of former Communist Party General Secretary Hu Yaobang, a liberal who lost a power struggle with hardliners over the implementation of political and economic reforms. Students gathered in Tiananmen Square to mourn Hu and voice grievances regarding inflation, limited career prospects and rampant corruption within the Communist Party. At the height of the protests, about one million people gathered to show their support.
Martial law was soon declared and up to 250,000 troops were dispatched to the capital to quell the unrest. On June 4, 1989, amid turmoil across the city, tanks rolled into the historic square to confront peaceful protesters and the iconic footage (below) of a single man blocking their advance was filmed. Several hundred or possibly thousands of civilians lost their lives in the crackdown.