Starting on April 15, 1989, students and other protesters gathered in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, calling for freedom of speech and democracy. Scholars believe the students involved were roughly one million, as parallel protests also developed in hundreds of Chinese cities. The CCP got extremely scared of the protests, particularly because parallel movements in Europe were destroying the Soviet Union and other Communist regimes.
Although often hailed in the West as a “moderate,” CCP leader Deng Xiaoping (1904–1997) ordered the military suppression of the protest. Tension escalated until, on June 3-4, 1989, the troops opened fire on the students. How many of the latter died is a matter of contention among historians. The U.S. government’s estimate was about 10,000, while the CCP maintains that only a few hundred students died, together with 23 police officers and soldiers.