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Tiananmen Square, Then and Now

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Twenty-three years ago today, the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) violently cleared Beijing's Tiananmen Square of protesters, ending a six-week demonstration that had called for democracy and widespread political reform. The protests began in April of 1989, gaining support as initial government reactions included concessions. Martial law was declared on May 20, troops were mobilized, and from the night of June 3 through the early morning of June 4, the PLA pushed into Tiananmen Square, crushing some protesters and firing on many others. The exact number killed may never be known, but estimates range from several hundred to several thousand. Today, China's censors are blocking Internet access to the terms "six four," "23," "candle," and "never forget," broadening extensive efforts to silence talk about the 23rd anniversary of China's bloody June 4 crackdown. Here is that story, in images and words, Please share it widely. [50 photos]

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A Chinese man stands alone to block a line of tanks heading east on Beijing's Cangan Boulevard in Tiananmen Square, on on June 5, 1989. The man, calling for an end to violence and bloodshed against pro-democracy demonstrators, was pulled away by bystanders, and the tanks continued on their way. More on this iconic image and the still-anonymous "tank man" here. (AP Photo/Jeff Widener)
A Chinese man stands alone to block a line of tanks heading east on Beijing's Cangan Boulevard in Tiananmen Square, on on June 5, 1989. The man, calling for an end to violence and bloodshed against pro-democracy demonstrators, was pulled away by bystanders, and the tanks continued on their way. More on this iconic image and the still-anonymous "tank man" here. (AP Photo/Jeff Widener)
A student displays a banner with one of the slogans chanted by the crowd of some 200,000 pouring into Tiananmen Square, on April 22, 1989 in Beijing. They were attempting to participate in the funeral ceremony of former Chinese Communist Party leader and liberal reformer Hu Yaobang, during an unauthorized demonstration to mourn his death. His death in April triggered an unprecedented wave of pro-democracy demonstrations. (Catherine Henriette/AFP/Getty Images) #
Thousands of students from local colleges and universities march to Tiananmen Square, Beijing, on May 4, 1989, to demonstrate for government reform. (AP Photo/Mikami) #
Students from Beijing University stage a huge demonstration in Tiananmen Square as they start an unlimited hunger strike as the part of mass pro-democracy protest against the Chinese government, on May 18, 1989. (Catherine Henriette/AFP/Getty Images) #
A striking Beijing University student is given first aid by medics at a field hospital in Tiananmen Square, on May 17, 1989, the fourth day of their hunger strike for democracy. (AP Photo/Sadayuki Mikami) #
A truck is almost buried in people as it makes its way through the crowd of thousands gathered in Tiananmen Square in a pro-democracy rally, on May 17, 1989. (AP Photo/Sadayuki Mikami) #
Unidentified Beijing youths chant as they drive to Tiananmen Square to lend their enthusiastic support to striking university students, on May 19, 1989. (AP Photo/Sadayuki Mikami) #
Enthusiastic demonstrators are cheered by bystanders as they arrive at Tiananmen Square to show support for the student hunger strike, on May 18, 1989. (AP Photo/Sadayuki Mikami) #
Beijing police parade through Tiananmen Square carrying banners in support of striking University students, on May 19, 1989. The students were in the sixth day of their hunger strike for political reform. (AP Photo/Sadayuki Mikami) #
Pro-democracy demonstrators raise their fists and flash the victory sign in Beijing while stopping a military truck filled with soldiers on its way to Tiananmen Square on the day when then Prime Minister Li Peng declared Martial Law, May 20, 1989. (Catherine Henriette/AFP/Getty Images) #
An unidentified mother introduces her son to a soldier on an army truck, 8 kilometers west of Tiananmen Square, in Beijing, on May 20, 1989. Citizens had surrounded and stopped the force. (AP Photo/Sadayuki Mikami) #
A military helicopter drops leaflets above Tiananmen Square which state that the student protesters should leave the Square as soon as possible, on May 22, 1989. (Reuters/Shunsuke Akatsuka) #
Workmen try to drape the portrait of Mao Tse-tung in Beijing's Tiananmen Square after it was pelted with paint, on May 23, 1989. (Reuters/Ed Nachtrieb) #
Beijing University students listen as a strike spokesman details plans for a rally in Tiananmen Square, which they have occupied for the last two weeks, on May 28, 1989. (AP Photo/Jeff Widener) #
A student from an art institute plasters the neck of a "Goddess of Democracy", a 10-meter-tall statue erected in Tiananmen Square on May 30, 1989. The statue was unveiled in front of the Great Hall of the People (right) and the monument to the People's Heroes (center) to promote the pro-democracy protest against the Chinese government. From a statement released by the art students who created the statue: "Today, here in the People's Square, the people's Goddess stands tall and announces to the whole world: A consciousness of democracy has awakened among the Chinese people! The new era has begun!" (Catherine Henriette/AFP/Getty Images) #
A plainclothes policeman tells students protesting in front of Beijing police headquarters that their activities violate martial law, on May 30, 1989, in Beijing. (AP Photo/Mark Avery) #
Beijing University students put the finishing touches on the Goddess of Democracy in Tiananmen Square, on May 30, 1989. (AP Photo/Jeff Widener) #
A huge crowd gathers to watch as student protestors burn copies of the Beijing Daily in retaliation for anti-student articles in front of the newspaper's offices, on June 2, 1989. (AP Photo/Jeff Widener) #
A senior citizen airs her views on democracy in a discussion with striking students, on May 31, 1989 in Tiananmen Square. (AP Photo/Jeff Widener) #
A dissident student asks soldiers to go back home as crowds flooded into the central Beijing, on June 3, 1989. (Catherine Henriette/AFP/Getty Images) #
A young woman is caught between civilians and Chinese soldiers, who were trying to remove her from an assembly near the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, on June 3, 1989. (AP Photo/Jeff Widener) #
Pro-democracy protesters link arms to hold back angry crowds, preventing them from chasing a retreating group of soldiers near the Great Hall of the People, on June 3, 1989 in Beijing. Protesters were angered by an earlier attack upon students and citizens using tear gas and truncheons. People in the background stand atop buses used as a roadblock. (AP Photo/Mark Avary) #
Exhausted, humiliated soldiers are hustled away by protesters in central Beijing, on June 3, 1989. (Catherine Henriette/AFP/Getty Images) #
A huge crowd gathers at a Beijing intersection where residents used a bus as a roadblock to keep troops from advancing toward Tiananmen Square in this June 3, 1989 photo. (AP Photo/Jeff Widener) #
People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers leap over a barrier on Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989, during heavy clashes with people and dissident students. The PLA was reportedly under orders to clear the square by 6:00 am, with no exceptions. (Catherine Henriette/AFP/Getty Images) #
An armored personnel carrier, in flames after students set it on fire near Tiananmen Square, on June 4, 1989. (Tommy Cheng/AFP/Getty Images) #
Bodies of dead civilians lie among crushed bicycles near Beijing's Tiananmen Square, on June 4, 1989. (AP Photo) #
A girl wounded during the clash between the army and students near Tiananmen Square is carried out by a cart, on June 4, 1989. (Manuel Ceneta/AFP/Getty Images) #
The driver of an armored personnel carrier that rammed through student lines, injuring many, lies dead after being beaten by students who set his vehicle on fire during an army attack on Tiananmen Square, on June 4, 1989. (AP Photo/Jeff Widener) #
A captured tank driver is helped to safety by students as the crowd beats him, on June 4, 1989, in Tiananmen Square. (Reuters) #
Civilians hold rocks as they stand on a government armored vehicle near Chang'an Boulevard in Beijing, early on June 4, 1989. Violence escalated between pro-democracy protesters and Chinese troops, leaving hundreds dead overnight. (AP Photo/Jeff Widener) #
Taken care by others, an unidentified foreign journalist (2nd from right) is carried away from the clash between the army and students near Tiananmen Square, on June 4, 1989. (Tommy Cheng/AFP/Getty Images) #
A rickshaw driver fiercely pedals wounded people to a nearby hospital, with the help of bystanders, on June 4, 1989. PLA soldiers again fired hundreds of rounds towards angry crowds gathered outside Tiananmen Square at noon. (AP Photo/Liu Heung Shing) #
A handcuffed man is led by Chinese soldiers on a street in Beijing, in June of 1989, as police and soldiers searched for people involved in the April-June pro-democracy protests. (Manuel Ceneta/AFP/Getty Images) #
(1 of 2) Three unidentified men flee as a Chinese man, background left, stands alone to block a line of approaching tanks, in Beijing's Tiananmen Square, on June 5, 1989. The man in the background stood his ground and blocked the column of tanks when they came closer, an image captured on film by numerous other photographers and one that ultimately became a widely reproduced symbol of events there. (AP Photo/Terril Jones) #
(2 of 2) A citizen stands passively in front of Chinese tanks in this June 5, 1989, photo taken during the crushing of the Tiananmen Square uprising. (Reuters/Arthur Tsang) #
A crowd of Chinese clears a path to give a busload of foreign tourists a view of a dead body of victim of the first night of violence as People's Liberation Army troops shot their way into Tiananmen Square to crush pro-democracy protests, on Monday morning, June 5, 1989. (AP Photo/Mark Avery) #
A truck drives Chinese soldiers down Chang'an Boulevard in Beijing, on June 5, 1989, one day after violence between government troops and pro-democracy protesters left hundreds dead. (AP Photo/Jeff Widener) #
Chinese onlookers run away as a soldier threatens them with a gun on June 5, 1989 as tanks took position at Beijing's key intersections next to the diplomatic compound. (Catherine Henriette/AFP/Getty Images) #
A Beijing resident on the west side of Tiananmen Square shows a slug from the automatic rifle fired by the army that went through his flat's window in central Beijing. (Manuel Ceneta/AFP/Getty Images) #
People on Chang'an Boulevard in Beijing hold up a photo that they described as dead victims of the violence against pro-democracy protesters on Tiananmen Square, on June 5, 1989. (AP Photo/Jeff Widener) #
A Chinese couple on a bicycle take cover beneath an underpass as tanks deploy overhead in eastern Beijing, on June 5, 1989. (AP Photo/Liu Heung Shing) #
Beijing residents inspect the interior of more than 20 armored personnel carriers burned by demonstrators to prevent the troops from moving into Tiananmen Square, on June 4, 1989. (Manuel Ceneta/AFP/Getty Images) #
A wall of tanks and APCs greet bicycle commuters near Tiananmen Square, on June 13, 1989, in Beijing. (AP Photo/Sadayuki Mikami) #
Today, on June 4, 2012, paramilitary police officers march in front of Duanmen Gate of the Forbidden City, north of Tiananmen Square. (Reuters/Jason Lee) #
Crowds of tourists and security personnel gather on Beijing's Tiananmen Square, on June 4, 2012. Multiple security cameras are visible on each of the lamp posts. (Reuters/David Gray) #
Police officers check photos taken by a man on Tiananmen Square, on June 4, 2012, on the 23rd anniversary of China's crackdown of democracy protests. (Ed Jones/AFP/GettyImages) #
Zhang Xianling holds a photo of her late son, Wang Nan, who was killed in the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, during an interview in Beijing, on May 28, 2012. Zhang said her friend Ya Weilin, a father of a man killed in the 1989 crackdown had committed suicide on May 25, 2012, out of despair and to protest the government's long-standing refusal to address the grievances of the victims' relatives. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan) #
Tens of thousands of protesters take part in a candlelight vigil in Hong Kong's Victoria Park to mark the 23rd anniversary of the military crackdown on the pro-democracy movement at Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989. Photo taken on June 4, 2012. (Reuters/Tyrone Siu) #
People take part in a candlelight vigil in Hong Kong on June 4, 2012, held to mark the crackdown on the pro-democracy movement in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, are believed to have died when the government sent in tanks and soldiers to clear Tiananmen Square, bringing a violent end to six weeks of pro-democracy protests. (Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images) #

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