2,800 or 10,000 dead? Dispute over Tiananmen death toll rages on 28 years later.

Global Times says the Western media is keen on any materials that attack the Chinese government.

Kayla Wong | December 28, 2017, 11:51 AM

Recently, the news that at least 10,000 people were killed in Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989 was circulated on multiple Western media outlets, such as BBC and AFP.

The news reports were based on a report by Hong Kong media HK01 published on Dec. 20.

A reporter from the news site had cited the number after reading declassified UK diplomatic documents found in the UK National Archives in London.

Newest claim of 10,000 deaths

The reports claimed that the figure was stated in a secret diplomatic cable from then British ambassador to China, Alan Donald sent on Jun 5, 1989.

He said that the original source was "member of State Council", who "previously proved reliable and was careful to separate fact from speculation and rumour".

According to the report, the name of the confidential source has been redacted in the declassified documents, reflecting the highly-sensitive nature of his identity.

The council is effectively China's ruling cabinet and is chaired by the premier.

Refuting the claim

Global Times, China's state tabloid, refuted the claim, saying that the Western media is "keen on any materials that attack the Chinese government".

They cited the figure of 188 from an investigation by a student's mother.

Anthony Tao, the Asia managing editor of online media SupChina, also rejected the 10,000 figure, arguing that no 5-digit number has ever been in serious discussion since the incident took place.

Furthermore, he questioned the 10,454 figure that was cited by Hong Kong Free Press, saying that the figure was reported by NTDTV, one of the propaganda arms of the Falun Gong, a spiritual practice that was deemed illegal and persecuted by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).


Figures still disputed to this day

Here's a list of different numbers from various sources on the death toll of that fateful day in 1989:

Official death toll: More than 200, including 36 students

The only public Government document is vague on casualties.

Titled "Report on Checking the Turmoil and Quelling the Counterrevolutionary Rebellion," it was released on Jul 6, 1989, by Mayor Chen Xitong of Beijing.

"More than 3,000 civilians were wounded and more than 200, including 36 students, died in the riot", he wrote.

Chinese Red Cross: 2,600

One of the most widely cited (and highest) death toll counts is 2,600.

The figure is allegedly given by the Chinese Red Cross.

This was supported by former student leader Feng Congde in the AFP report. He also mentioned that Donald had sent another cable 3 weeks later putting the death toll at between 2,700 and 3,400.

However, the Chinese Red Cross was reported to have denied giving such an estimation.


Students of the movement: at least 500

Students reportedly said on the morning of June 5, 1989, that "at least 500 people may have been killed in the crackdown".

United States (U.S.) Embassy in Beijing: 500 to 2,600

According to Tiananmen Square, 1989: The Declassified History, published by the George Washington University's National Security Archive, the crackdown left 500 to 2,600 dead.

The National Security Archive is the largest repository of declassified U.S. documents outside the federal government.

cable sent from the U.S Embassy in Beijing to Washington D.C. on June 22, 1989 said that while "civilian deaths probably did not reach the figure of 3,000 used in some press reports", 2,600 military and civilian deaths with 7,000 wounded is “not an unreasonable estimate.”

Human Rights Watch (HRW): 2000

HRW, an international non-governmental organisation, cites a death toll of 2,000.

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