The official gained international notoriety following his defence of the crackdown on pro-democracy protests in the Chinese capital in June 1989.
A pro-democracy movement in Beijing in 1989, triggered by the death of reformist ex-leader Hu Yaobang on April 15 that year, developed into large-scale street protests and weeks-long sit-ins and hunger strikes at the city's Tiananmen Square by students and residents. They demonstrated against China's central government and called for greater freedoms. In the early hours of June 4, the military moved in to remove them. An unconfirmed number of unarmed civilians were killed in the crackdown.