Sunday, April 27, 2008

NYT Archive 1989: Gathering Storm

April 26, 1989, the day between the infamous People's Daily editorial and the biggest defiance showing in the history of the People's Republic was a very tense day. In the April 27th edition, New York Times captured the mood of the previous day rather well from several perspectives.

First, the banning of Shanghai's World Economic Herald escalated:

In a clear move to clamp down on criticism, the Communist Party dismissed the editor of the nation's boldest newspaper today and announced that the paper would be reorganized.
The decision to dismiss Qin Benli, editor of the World Economic Herald, and reorganize the newspaper seemed certain to send shock waves throughout the country. Mr. Qin, 70 years old, is a Communist Party member whose newspaper, which is based in Shanghai, has for several years been regarded as the most outspoken and perhaps the best newspaper in the country.
The decision was announced in the middle of the night, and so there was no immediate reaction.
A little more than two years ago, in the last crackdown on ''bourgeois liberalization,'' or Western influences, the Government shut down a few local publications, including a newspaper in the southern city of Shenzhen that had urged the retirement of the senior leader, Deng Xiaoping. But the Herald, a weekly with a circulation of 300,000, is far better known and respected than any of the publications that have faced ''reorganization'' in the past.
The newspaper has enjoyed strong support from those in the Communist Party who favor more rapid political and economic change. Such prominent Communist Party members as the theorist Wu Jiaxiang and the economist Li Yining frequently write for the Herald. In the past, the Communist Party leader, Zhao Ziyang, is said to have intervened to save Mr. Qin from dismissal, but Mr. Zhao is now on a trip to North Korea, and in any case his influence is widely regarded as waning. 'Violations of Discipline'
The official New China News Agency reported that the Shanghai city government had decided to dismiss Mr. Qin ''on account of his serious violations of discipline.'' This probably referred to the present issue, which the Government banned after discovering that it quoted a range of prominent people criticizing the Government and supporting the student demonstrations.

Then, there are signs of the looming confrontation:

The party also summoned urgent meetings of 20,000 Communist Party officers in Beijing and Shanghai to press what it called a ''grave political struggle'' against student unrest.
Despite widespread fears that a crackdown is beginning, university students today planned a march for Thursday that could lead to a direct confrontation with the authorities.
The Government also declared three student organizing committees illegal, and residents of the northwestern district of Beijing, where several universities are, reported that they had seen soldiers moving in the area. There were widespread but unconfirmed reports that at least 10,000 troops from the 38th Army Corps have been moved from Hebei Province to Beijing.
If the troops were indeed moved to Beijing, they were not directly used until early June. For now, the students only had the regular police forces to contend with.

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