Directed by Ian MacMillan

On June 4, 1989 the world's biggest, longest, and most famous pro-democracy demonstration was brought to a tragic end. This documentary tells the gripping narrative of a period of just seven weeks in which the whole future of China today was founded, and where at various crucial turning points the final outcome could have avoided massive bloodshed.


How, thirty years ago, did the Chinese Communist Party come to commit a mass crime whose exact number of victims is still unknown? Twelve years after the events, in 2001, the leak of thousands of secret documents tracing the internal struggles of Chinese power, the "Tiananmen Papers", revealed the sequence of events. Based on these exceptional documents, the film retraces the days from April to June 1989 through poignant archive footage commented on by China specialists and by the former leaders of the movement themselves, most of whom are now in exile. The ghosts of the "Beijing Spring" continue to haunt them, while a totalitarian regime still rules the country.

Part 1. The people versus the party

On 15 April 1989, Hu Yaobang, former General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, who had been dismissed from his post two years earlier following the student demonstrations of 1986, which he had supported in their demands for democracy, died of a heart attack. To pay their respects, thousands of students converged on Tiananmen, the largest square in the world and a symbol of Communist power, which for a decade had been confronted by the winds of freedom blowing through China and undermining the dictatorship of the Communist Party.The slogans demanded freedom of speech and government transparency. This first episode traces the start of the biggest movement for democratisation in Chinese history, and the showdown between some 200,000 demonstrators - soon supported by workers, Beijingers and the big cities - and the iron-fisted government led by Deng Xiaoping, Party General Secretary Zhao Ziyang and Premier Li Peng. On 20 May, after a farcical dialogue with student leaders, martial law was declared.

Part 2. The party versus the people

Two hundred thousand soldiers entered the capital, but were quickly stopped by the Pekingese, who fraternised with them. At the same time, dissension arose among the students, between the advocates of non-violence and the more radical. On 27 May, Wang Dan, one of the leaders, sensing an imminent tragedy, unsuccessfully urged his comrades to evacuate the square. On 3 June, soldiers more subservient to the regime, who had been ordered to shoot on sight, attacked the students. In just a few hours, thousands died. The day after the massacre, the image of a lone man facing a tank made the rounds of the world, while a gigantic repression machine was deployed throughout the country.

Directed by :
Ian MacMillan
Written by :
Audrey Maurion and Ian MacMillan
Produced by :
YAMI 2 - Christophe Nick and ALLEYCATS FILMS - Ed Stobart
Broadcast :
Year of broadcast :
Duration :
2×57 min

Under the cobblestones, the blood. Chilling and instructive, this documentary tells the story of how, thirty years ago, the Chinese regime suppressed the peaceful student movement that was demanding greater freedom - Le Figaro

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