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Estimated Deaths at Tiananmen Square

The number of dead and wounded remains unclear because of the large discrepancies between the different estimates. Some Beijinger and journalists reported that troops burned the bodies of many citizens to destroy the evidence of the killings.

Some of the early estimates were based on reports of a figure of 2,600 from the Chinese Red Cross. The Chinese Red Cross has denied ever providing such a figure. According to a PBS Frontline report, this figure was quickly retracted under intense pressure from the government. The official Chinese government figure is 241 dead, including soldiers, and 7,000 wounded.

According to an analysis by Nicholas D. Kristof of The New York Times, “The true number of deaths will probably never be known, and it is possible that thousands of people were killed without leaving evidence behind. But based on the evidence that is now available, it seems plausible that about fifty soldiers and policemen were killed, along with 400 to 800 civilians.”

The Chinese government has maintained that there were no deaths within the square itself, although videos taken there at the time recorded the sound of gunshots. Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and State Council claimed that the basic statistics were: “Five thousand PLA soldiers and officers wounded, and more than two thousand local people (counting students, city people, and rioters together) also wounded.” They also said no one died on Tiananmen Square itself. Yuan Mu, the spokesman of the State Council, said that a total of 23 people died, most of them students, along with a number of people he described as “ruffians”. According to Chen Xitong, Beijing mayor, 200 civilians and several dozen soldiers died. Other sources stated that 3,000 civilians and 6,000 soldiers were injured. In May 2007, CPPCC member from Hong Kong, Chang Ka-mun said 300 to 600 people were killed in Tiananmen Square. He echoed that “there were armed thugs who weren’t students.”

According to Jay Mathews who was The Washington Post’s first Beijing bureau chief, “A few people may have been killed by random shooting on streets near the square, but all verified eyewitness accounts say that the students who remained in the square when troops arrived were allowed to leave peacefully. Hundreds of people, most of them workers and passersby, did die that night, but in a different place and under different circumstances.”

US ambassador James Lilley’s account of the massacre notes that US State Department diplomats witnessed Chinese troops opening fire on unarmed people and based on visits to hospitals around Beijing a minimum of hundreds had been killed.

A strict focus on the number of deaths within Tiananmen Square itself does not give an accurate picture of the carnage and overall death count, since Chinese civilians were fired on in the streets surrounding Tiananmen Square. In addition, students are reported to have been fired on after they left the Square, especially in the area near the Beijing concert hall.

Estimates of deaths from different sources, in descending order:

10,000 dead (including civilians and soldiers) – Soviet Union.
7,000 deaths – NATO intelligence.
4,000 to 6,000 civilians killed, but no one really knows – Edward Timperlake.
Over 3700 killed, excluding disappearance or secret deaths and those denied medical treatment – PLA defector citing a document circulating among officers.
2600 had officially died by the morning of 4 June (later denied) – the Chinese Red Cross. An unnamed Chinese Red Cross official estimated that, in total, 5,000 people were killed and 30,000 injured.

Closer to 1,000 deaths, according to Amnesty International and some of the protest participants, as reported in a Time article. Other statements by Amnesty International have characterized the number of deaths as hundreds.

300 to 1,000 according to a Western diplomat that compiled estimates.

400 to 800 plausible according to the New York Times’ Nicholas D. Kristof. He developed this estimate using information from hospital staff and doctors, and from “a medical official with links to most hospitals”.

180-500 casualties, according to a declassified NSA document which referred to early casualty estimates.

241 dead, including soldiers, and 7,000 wounded, according to the Chinese government.

186 named individuals confirmed dead at the end of June 2006 – Professor Ding Zilin of the Tiananmen Mothers. The Tiananmen Mothers’ list includes some people whose deaths were not directly at the hands of the army, such as a person who committed suicide after the 4 June incident

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  1. [...] 1989 the government engaged in the methodical murder of an estimated 2,000-3,000 demonstrators in Tiananmen Square. Others have put the number at over 12,000. However, the murderous zeal of Mao has waned in China. [...]

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  3. [...] In 1989 the government engaged in the methodical murder of an estimated 2,000-3,000 demonstrators inTiananmen Square. Others have put the number at  over 12,000. However, the murderous zeal of Mao has waned in [...]

  4. [...] 1989 the government engaged in the methodical murder of an estimated 2,000-3,000 demonstrators in Tiananmen Square. Others have put the number at  over 12,000. However, the murderous zeal of Mao has waned in [...]

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