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Tiananmen Square 25th Anniversary: Ominous Pictures That Show Countdown To Massacre

03/06/2014 18:20 BST | Updated 04/06/2014 16:59 BST

Smiling faces and dancing children – the images below present a very different picture of the brutal Tiananmen Square massacre in China.

25 years ago this week, one of the world's most infamous demonstrations was taking place in Beijing.

With a hazy hippie vibe permeating from every shot, the stunning photographs show a poignant side to a tragedy that unravelled rapidly in front of the world's media – and was even more quickly hidden away.

After weeks of peaceful protests, the authorities responded on 4 June 1989 with a bloody and ruthless massacre of hundreds in the streets of Beijing.

China's People's Liberation Army marched on its own people, guns blazing, and retook Tiananmen Square from the students pictured below.

Tiananmen Square

At the time, the Chinese government characterised the protests as counter-revolutionary riots. Beijing still does not acknowledge the event with any kind of memorial.

Estimates of deaths range from the hundreds well into the thousands, with many more injured.

While international audiences may recall well the searing image of "Tank Man" standing his ground in front of a column of armoured oppression, it's an event that China is desperate to erase from the history books.

Now, in the lead up to the 25th anniversary of the crackdown, China has enthusiastically tightened security and widened an even tighter clampdown on dissent.

Chillingly, analysts say repression for the anniversary of the protests is even more intense than in previous years.

Lawyers, journalists and activists have been detained as the Chinese authorities attempt to suppress those that seek to commemorate the victims of 4 June 1989.

In Hong Kong, however, hundreds marched through the streets in a pro-democracy rally on Sunday in a remarkable act of defiance by people who are these days Chinese citizens.

A team carried a massive banner demanding Chinese leaders formally acknowledge what happened on June 4th, 1989, while others carried signs demanding the release of political prisoners such as Nobel Prize-winning dissident Liu Xiaobo.

Thousands more are expected to take part in a Tiananmen remembrance rally on Wednesday.

The human rights organisation Amnesty International said the past few days have seen the Chinese authorities "ratchet up the repression."

"They appear willing to stop at nothing in their attempts to prevent people from marking the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown," William Nee, China Researcher said.

He demanded the authorities "cease this campaign of severe persecution."

"The authorities’ suffocating grip on freedom of expression will not stop people in China and around the world from remembering the victims of 4 June 1989.”