On 15 April 1989, students in China began demonstrations that called for government accountability, constitutional due process, democracy, freedom of the press and freedom of speech. As protests continued a month later, the government responded by declaring martial law: imposing military control on normal civil functions by sending the People’s Liberation Army to occupy central parts of Beijing.
However protests continued. So on the evening of 3 June 1989, two months into their protest action, state-operated television networks warned residents to stay indoors the next day. However the next day, students rose early to gather at their established protest site: the Tiananmen Square. There, their efforts were forcibly suppressed by troops who advanced into central parts of Beijing with live fire arms, killing both demonstrators and bystanders in the process.
Six years thereafter, directors Richard Gordon and Carma Hinton premiered The Gate of Heavenly Peace: a documentary that both chronicles events leading up to the massacre and explores the square’s significance as a stronghold for political dissent.