Butcher of Beijing Li Peng dies at 90


File photo: Former Chinese Premier Li Peng attends the opening session of the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China November 8, 2012.Image copyright

Image caption

Li Peng in 2012

Former Chinese Premier Li Peng, who ordered martial law during the 1989 Tiananmen protests, has died at the age of 90, state media have announced.

Mr Li died on Monday evening in Beijing of an unspecified illness.

He served in several top positions in China in the 1980s and 1990s.

But he was best known as the “Butcher of Beijing” for his role in the Tiananmen Square crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in 1989. Soldiers killed hundreds of unarmed civilians.

Mr Li later defended his actions as a “necessary” step.

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Media captionTiananmen’s tank man: The image that China forgot

In its obituary, the official Xinhua news agency says Mr Li “took decisive measures to stop the unrest and quell counter-revolutionary violence” during the Tiananmen protests.

China has consistently censored the massacre for the last three decades, and avoids making reference to any atrocities that occurred during it.

Wu’er Kaixi, one of the leaders of the protests, now living in exile, told the BBC he was glad Li Peng had died. Those who lost loved ones in June 1989 were still waiting for justice, he said.

“Li Peng was the butcher of the 4 June massacre, and that’s how he should be remembered, by the world, and by history. Hopefully one day, by the text book of China.”

What happened in 1989?

Pro-democracy protesters occupied Tiananmen Square in April 1989 and began the largest political demonstrations in communist China’s history. They lasted six weeks.

On the night of 3 June tanks moved in and troops opened fire, killing and injuring many unarmed people in and around Tiananmen Square.

Afterwards the authorities said no-one had been shot dead in the square itself.

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Media captionWang Dan one of the leaders of the Tiananmen Square protests

China has never given an official figure for how many people died, but estimates begin in the hundreds. Rights groups and witnesses say the number of dead could run to several thousands.

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