Year
1989
Month Day
June 03

Crackdown at Tiananmen begins

With protests for democratic reforms entering their seventh week, the Chinese government authorizes its soldiers and tanks to reclaim Beijing’s Tiananmen Square at all costs. By nightfall on June 4, Chinese troops had forcibly cleared the square, killing hundreds and arresting thousands of demonstrators and suspected dissidents

READ MORE: What Were the Tiananmen Square Protests?

On April 15, the death of Hu Yaobang, a former Communist Party head who supported democratic reforms, roused some 100,000 students to gather at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square to commemorate the leader and voice their discontent with China’s authoritative government. On April 22, an official memorial service for Hu Yaobang was held in Tiananmen’s Great Hall of the People, and student representatives carried a petition to the steps of the Great Hall, demanding to meet with Premier Li Peng. The Chinese government refused the meeting, leading to a general boycott of Chinese universities across the country and widespread calls for democratic reforms.

Ignoring government warnings of suppression of any mass demonstration, students from more than 40 universities began a march to Tiananmen on April 27. The students were joined by workers, intellectuals, and civil servants, and by mid-May more than a million people filled the square, the site of Mao Zedong’s proclamation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949.

On May 20, the government formally declared martial law in Beijing, and troops and tanks were called in to disperse the dissidents. However, large numbers of students and citizens blocked the army’s advance, and by May 23 government forces had pulled back to the outskirts of Beijing. On June 3, with negotiations to end the protests stalled and calls for democratic reforms escalating, the troops received orders from the Chinese government to seize control of Tiananmen Square and the streets of Beijing. Hundreds were killed and thousands arrested.

In the weeks after the government crackdown, an unknown number of dissidents were executed, and hard-liners in the government took firm control of the country. The international community was outraged by the incident, and economic sanctions imposed by the United States and other countries sent China’s economy into decline. By late 1990, however, international trade had resumed, thanks in part to China’s release of several hundred imprisoned dissidents.

READ MORE: China: A Timeline

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Zoot Suit Riots

Zoot Suit Riots begin in Los Angeles

On June 3, 1943, a group of U.S. sailors marches through downtown Los Angeles, carrying clubs and other makeshift weapons and attacking anyone wearing a “zoot suit”—the baggy wool pants, oversized coats and porkpie hats favored by many young men of color at the time. ...read more

Terrorists attack London Bridge

During one horrific 8-minute period on June 3, 2017, eight people were killed as a band of terrorists drove a van through a pedestrian walkway on the London Bridge. The men then exited, armed with pink steak knives, and proceeded to slash and stab people in a nearby market. The ...read more

Joran van der Sloot arrested for murder in South America

On June 3, 2010, Joran van der Sloot, a longtime suspect in the unsolved 2005 disappearance of American teen Natalee Holloway in Aruba, is arrested in Chile in connection with the slaying of 21-year-old Stephany Flores, in Lima, Peru. Flores was murdered on May 30, 2010, exactly ...read more

The Duke of Windsor with Wallis Simpson at the Chateau de Conde, France, on their wedding day. (Credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Duke of Windsor weds American socialite

In France, the duke of Windsor—formerly King Edward VIII of Great Britain and Northern Ireland—marries Wallis Warfield, a divorced American socialite for whom he abdicated the British throne in December 1936. Edward, born in 1896, was the eldest son of King George V, who became ...read more

President John Adams moves into a tavern in Washington, D.C.

John Adams, the second president of the United States, becomes the first president to reside in Washington, D.C., when he takes up residence at Union Tavern in Georgetown. The city of Washington was created to serve as the nation’s capital because of its geographical position in ...read more

NASA-Flickr-9457842193

First American astronaut walks in space

On June 3, 1965, 120 miles above the Earth, Major Edward H. White II opens the hatch of the Gemini 4 and steps out of the capsule, becoming the first American astronaut to walk in space. Attached to the craft by a 25-foot tether and controlling his movements with a hand-held ...read more

Western author Larry McMurtry is born

Larry McMurtry, one of the most well-known modern writers working in the western genre, is born in Wichita Falls, Texas. McMurtry’s family had been involved in Texas ranching for three generations, and he was exposed to ranching life from an early age. McMurtry, however, ...read more

This Day In History: Rock 'n' roll is banned in Santa Cruz, California, June 3, 1956

Rock 'n' roll is banned in Santa Cruz, California

Santa Cruz, California, a favorite early haunt of author Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters, was an established capital of the West Coast counterculture scene by the mid-1960s. Yet just 10 years earlier, the balance of power in this crunchy beach town 70 miles south of San ...read more

Union disaster at Cold Harbor

Union General Ulysses S. Grant makes what he later recognizes to be his greatest mistake by ordering a frontal assault on entrenched Confederates at Cold Harbor, Virginia. The result was some 7,000 Union casualties in less than an hour of fighting. Grant’s Army of the Potomac and ...read more

This Day In History: U.S. President Woodrow Wilson signs National Defense Act, June 3, 1916

U.S. President Woodrow Wilson signs National Defense Act

On June 3, 1916, United States President Woodrow Wilson signs into law the National Defense Act, which expanded the size and scope of the National Guard—the network of states’ militias that had been developing steadily since colonial times—and guaranteed its status as the ...read more

Germans bomb Paris, killing hundreds of civilians

On June 3, 1940, the German air force bombs Paris, killing 254 people, most of them civilians. Determined to wreck France’s economy and military, reduce its population, and in short, cripple its morale as well as its ability to rally support for other occupied nations, the ...read more