The Tiananmen Memorial
The Tiananmen Memorial is a stone tablet that was placed near the gates of Chinatown in downtown Boston on September 10, 1989. The memorial was placed there to honor the student protestors in Beijing who had been fighting for democracy in China, but were brutally suppressed by the Chinese government in what came to be known in the West as the Tiananmen Massacre.
Backstory and Context
The stone tablet states: "THIS PARK IS DEDICATED IN HONOR OF THE DEMOCRACY IN CHINA AND IN MEMORY OF THOSE WHO DIED IN THE STRUGGLE FOR FREEDOM IN TIANANMEN SQUARE IN JUNE 1989"
The protests were held in Tiananmen Square in Beijing. The meaning of “Tiananmen” actually means “Gate of Heavenly Peace.”
From April 15 to June 4, 1989 students and young laborers occupied Tiananmen Square in Beijing to demand freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and other democratic reforms that had been long suppressed by the ruling Communist government. On June 4 the Chinese military entered Tiananmen square in the middle of the night and began firing live rounds into the crowd of protestors. It is estimated that over 10,000 protestors had already been arrested during the three-month occupation, calculations of the death toll range from hundreds to thousands.
The protestors had mostly been students studying in Beijing where there were better employment opportunities and post-graduate work available in than other parts of China. At the time of the protests, China had been under communist rule for forty years and the many of the younger generation objected to what they regarded as the regime's oppressive ideology.
Chinese immigrants started coming to Massachusetts from California in the 1870's. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 restricted Chinese immigrants from coming into America. For a long time, only male Chinese immigrants were living and working in America without their families. In the 1930's, this act was changed to allow women and children to come to the United States. The growth of Chinatown happened in the 1950's, and was cultivated into what we know as modern day Chinatown. The population of Chinatown is mostly Chinese immigrants, and this memorial was to honor the people of China.
The Tiananmen Memorial was placed in Chinatown to give the Chinese people space and time to honor the fallen from their homeland. The community in Chinatown felt that it was very important to honor these students in their homeland by placing a memorial where Chinese culture and life is alive and well.
The Tiananmen Square massacre was not the first act of political violence by China, or any other country for that matter. The historical significance of this massacre is to illustrate that political violence as a means to control the masses has been utilized for quite some time. There are many events like this massacre in history that connect one idea: freedom. This goal of freedom has been sought after by so many, and even today people continue to fight. This memorial is a key piece to China’s history, and the lives lost will always be remembered and honored.
Schweisberg, David R.. "China Declares Martial Law." May 20th 1989.
Howard, Barbara. "Student Protest Leaders Remember Tiananmen, 30 Years Later." June 4th 2019.
Westcott, Ben. "Tiananmen Square massacre: How Beijing turned on its own people." June 3rd 2019