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The Tiananmen Square self-immolation incident took place in Tiananmen Square in central Beijing on 23 January 2001. The incident is disputed: the official Chinese press agency, Xinhua News Agency, stated that five members of Falun Gong, a banned spiritual movement, set themselves on fire to protest the unfair treatment of Falun Gong by the Chinese government. The Falun Dafa Information Center stated the incident was a hoax staged by the Chinese government to turn public opinion against the group and to justify the torture and imprisonment of its practitioners. The incident received international news coverage, and video footage was broadcast later in the People's Republic of China by China Central Television. A wide variety of opinions and interpretations of what may have happened emerged: the event may have been set up by the government, it may have been an authentic protest, or the self-immolators may have been "new or unschooled" practitioners, among others. The campaign of state propaganda that followed the event eroded public sympathy for Falun Gong, and the government began sanctioning "systematic use of violence" against the group.

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The Temple of Heaven in 1900
Credit: German Federal Archives

An historic picture of the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, taken in 1900.

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Represented (top): Matthieu Ricci, Adam Schaal, Ferdinand Verbiest Bottom: Paul Siu (Xu Guangqi), colao or Prime Minister of State; Candide Hiu, granddaughter of Colao Paul Siu.

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Selected biography

The Shunzhi Emperor

The Shunzhi Emperor (1638–61) was the third emperor of the Qing dynasty and the first Qing emperor to rule over China, which he did from 1644 to 1661. He was chosen to succeed his father Hong Taiji (1592–1643) by a committee of Manchu princes in September 1643, when he was five years old. Two co-regents were also appointed: Dorgon (1612–50), fourteenth son of Qing founder Nurhaci, and Jirgalang (1599–1655), one of Nurhaci's nephews. Political power lay mostly in the hands of Dorgon. Under his leadership, the Qing conquered most of the territory of the fallen Ming dynasty (1368–1644), chased Ming loyalist regimes deep into the southwestern provinces, and established the basis of Qing rule over China. After Dorgon's death, the young monarch started to rule personally. He tried, with mixed success, to fight corruption and reduce the Manchu nobility's political influence. In the 1650s he faced a resurgence of Ming loyalist resistance, but by 1661 his armies had defeated the Qing's last enemies. He died at the age of 22 of smallpox, against which the Manchus had no immunity. He was succeeded by his third son, Xuanye, who subsequently reigned for sixty years under the name of Kangxi.

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