Saturday, May 31, 2008

NYT Archive 1989: The Beginning Of The End

The crackdown started several days before the massacre. Just as in the case of the massacre itself, it was not the students in the Tiananmen Square who bore the brunt of the hit. On May 31, 1989, New York Times reported the first aggressive move by the government:
The Government said today that it had arrested 11 workers involved in China's democracy movement, and official news programs bitterly condemned a copy of the Statue of Liberty that students put up in Tiananmen Square in central Beijing.
The arrests were apparently the first since the democracy movement began in mid-April and were the clearest sign so far of a crackdown against participants in the movement. Since the unrest began, the Government has been sternly announcing crackdowns, only to balk before the actions can be carried out.
The 11 people arrested were leaders of a motorcycle club that played an important role in the recent demonstrations. The official New China News Agency reported that they had been arrested for disturbing the public order. The Beijing Daily News said the club had been disbanded.
The "motorcycle club" was a band of several hundreds motorcycles who had roamed the streets of Beijing since the martial law. Paying homage to a group of dare-devil Americans who had helped China during the World War II, they called themselves the Flying Tigers.

They were not your average workers either, who would not be able to afford a motorcycle in China of the late 1980s. Most of them were young entrepreneurs who had answered Deng Xiaoping's call of reform and got rich first. They were not a well respected bunch, mostly because their semi-illiterate status and arrogance with money. But in 1989, they came out en force with their motorcycles, serving as the scouts and information carriers. They were instrumental in the success of blocking the martial law troops in the outskirt of city.

In the government's view, they were all just a bunch of "hooligans and rioters". They were also the easiest target to hit. For all they had done for the movement, they were still viewed as outsiders.

Other arrests were also being made, again targeting workers instead of students:
About 1,000 people today attended a rally in front of police offices called by an independent workers union to protest what it said was the arrest of three union leaders. The police would not confirm the arrests, which were in addition to the 11 acknowledged by the authorities.
''You snatch our people stealthily; you have been unmasked,'' read a banner held by the demonstrators in front of the State Security Bureau. The five-day-old union says it has thousands of supporters in the capital, and the Government seems to have been even more worried about the risks of worker protests than of student demonstrations.

Friday, May 30, 2008

NYT Archive 1989: Goddess of Democracy

May 30, 1989, was supposed to be the date that students withdrew from Tiananmen Square and back to their campuses. But that plan did not survive the day when it was made. On this day, New York Times reported the change of plan and a new symbol in the Square:
Reversing their earlier position, thousands of university students resolved on Monday to maintain pressure on the Government by continuing their round-the-clock occupation of Tiananmen Square for at least three more weeks.
In an emotional scene at the square in the heart of Beijing late Monday night, a crowd of nearly 100,000 workers and students cheered the arrival of a 27-foot sculpture modeled after the Statue of Liberty. The statue, made by local art students and dragged to the square in several pieces on tricycle carts, was called the Goddess of Democracy and Freedom, to distinguish it from the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor.
The exuberance was a reminder of some of the students' past triumphs in rallying large numbers of people around the nation to support their demands for a more democratic system and less corruption. In recent days, the movement seems to have slumped from a combination of weariness and uncertainty about how to respond to the rise of a hard-line faction in power struggles within the Communist Party leadership.
The statue was described to have distinct Caucasian features and a large Western nose.

Since the early days of the movement, students were very quick in setting up their own broadcasting stations, first in their campuses and then in the Tiananmen Square itself. Now, they got competition. The government started to use its own loudspeakers to broadcast, overpowering students' make-shift ones.

Despite the new statue, population and morale at the Square continued to dwindle, especially among non-students such as workers.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

NYT Archive 1989: Global Demonstration

Sunday, May 28, 1989, was designated for a global demonstration for democracy in China. Chinese students and other ethnic Chinese demonstrated all over the world to show their solidarity with compatriots in Tiananmen Square. The demonstration in Beijing itself on that day was, however, a low key event, as New York Times reported on May 29, 1989:
About 100,000 people on foot and on bicycles streamed through the capital today to demand more democracy and the resignation of Prime Minister Li Peng. The police and soldiers made no move to interfere despite martial law restrictions and the Government's strict warnings against demonstrations.
The students, who are increasingly aware of support from Chinese around the world, hailed the protest as part of an ''international Chinese people's demonstration day'' to put pressure on the Government. Other demonstrations were held in several Chinese cities, including the economic capital, Shanghai, as well as in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Australia and the United States.
One of the largest protests was in Hong Kong, which held a political rally with a crowd estimated at more than 300,000. Such protests are likely to put new pressure on the Chinese authorities, who are sensitive to turbulence in Hong Kong in the years before they inherit the British territory in 1997.
The main demonstration in the United States was at Washington DC. NYT reported that 1,200 people also protested in New York City.

Sheryl WuDunn continued to describe how life was like in the occupied Tiananmen Square, where the students were both in control and at a loss.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

NYT Archive 1989: Students Talk About Withdrawing

On May 28, 1989, ninth day of the martial law, New York Times reported that students seemed to be ready to withdraw from Tiananmen Square:
China's student leaders today called for an end to their two-week occupation of Tiananmen Square, in the center of the capital, but said that they would continue to hold large-scale demonstrations to press for greater democracy and the resignation of Prime Minister Li Peng.
The announcement represented a major success for Mr. Li. In effect, the Government will have evicted the students not by politically embarrassing means such as brute force, but by waiting until the square was so fetid as a result of lack of garbage collection and the students so malodorous that they chose to leave on their own.

''It is very difficult to continue our sit-in,'' a student leader, Wuer Kaixi, told a press conference. ''As leaders, we have responsibility for students' health, and the difficulties are obvious. Hygiene is extremely bad and the food is insufficient.'' The call to leave the square is only a proposal, and it must be voted on by the students who are occupying it. But most seemed ready to go, and some students are leaving even before the official pull-out date of Tuesday.
That "Tuesday" would be May 30, a date that had been seemingly agreed upon for withdrawing from the Square. The "lack of garbage collection" in the Square was getting so bad that an urgent call had been made to the United States for trash bags.

NYT also reported that most of the 15,000 students remaining in the Square were from outside Beijing. But even they, as two of them interviewed by the paper indicated, were ready to head back home.

In the government, the much anticipated return of Wan Li turned out to be a dud. He released a written statement today to support the martial law. Former President Li Xiannian went even further in his attack of Zhao Ziyang's faction.

Nichlas Kristof now found his connections in China were no longer willing to talk to him, or any foreigner for that matter. But one person did talk to his wife Sheryl WuDunn, which resulted a nice profile of a former Wall Street lawyer who was now spending nights in Tiananmen Square.

Meanwhile, large scale solidarity rally at Hong Kong continued. They had been consistently the strongest force backing the movement in Beijing. Even today, their annual memorials were by far the best attended.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Tiananmen Mothers Have Their Own Web Site

Just in time for the coming 19th anniversary of the Tiananmen Massacre, the Tiananmen Mothers finally have their own web presence at:

The web site is constructed and maintained by a group of anonymous volunteers. It has an ambitious plan as an archival and forum site. Most of the contents has yet to be added. Right now, the site contains the history of Tiananmen Mothers as a group, as well as a list of 188 names they had verified to be the victims of the massacre.

All the contents are in Chinese, for now. There is a link for English language, but no content is available yet.

NYT Archive 1989: Threat of a Crackdown

As the standoff at Tiananmen continued, New York Times reported on May 27, 1989, that signs of a coming crackdown was intensifying. There were rumors of arrests of prominent dissidents including professors Fang Lizhi and Li Shuxian, a rumor that was dispelled by their son Fang Ke. The official media, meanwhile, turned against Zhao Ziyang en force:
With Prime Minister Li Peng apparently winning China's power struggle, documents criticizing his rival, Zhao Ziyang, have been circulated among senior officials, evidently in preparation for a formal decision to dismiss Mr. Zhao as Communist Party leader.
The criticisms were unusually harsh, and many Chinese said they feared that they heralded a campaign of repression against those like Mr. Zhao who favor more rapid political and economic liberalization and more conciliation with pro-democracy demonstrators.
A speech to the Politburo by former President Li Xiannian particularly worried some party officials because it borrowed from the long unused vocabulary of the Cultural Revolution by calling this a ''struggle between two headquarters.''
On the other side, the occupation of Tiananmen Square continued to wane:
By day, about 20,000 student demonstrators continue to occupy Tiananmen Square, in the heart of Beijing, but the numbers are diminishing and many of the students are from other parts of the country. Somewhat fewer spend the night at the square.
The declining numbers seem to reflect mostly weariness after almost six weeks of nearly continuous protest, and disgust at the increasing filth on the square, rather than intimidation by the Government polemics.

The chaotic situation had many people think back of the turmoil of Cultural Revolution, not the least in how the government was behaving. An escalation of protests in Shanghai was also reported.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Wang Dan Graudates From Harvard

It took much longer than he thought, but Wang Dan finally graduates from Harvard University with a Ph. D. degree in History and East Asian Languages. The title of his thesis is A Comparative Study of the State Sponsored Violences Across the Taiwan Strait in the 1950s. He will receive his degree in a graduation ceremony to be held on June 5.

Wang Dan says that he plans to spend a year as a visiting scholar at the Oxford University while looking for job opportunities. He will continue to work on the efforts in reevaluating the 1989 movement, the democracy in China, as well as his research area of Taiwan history. He is still hopeful that he could return to China one day.

Congratulations Wang Dan!

NYT Archive 1989: Li Peng Appears on TV

After several days of behind-the-scene, mysterious power struggle, Premier Li Peng showed up on TV today to signal his victory, as reported by New York Times on May 26, 1989:
Prime Minister Li Peng appeared on television today, declaring that his Government was in control, and there were more signs that at least for now he is gaining in the power struggle that is racking China.
In an indication that a military solution to the political crisis remains a possibility, Mr. Li also sent a letter to troops encircling Beijing, expressing the hope that ''the troops will overcome the difficulties confronting them'' and ''successfully impose martial law.''
Mr. Li's public appearance was the first by any of China's top leaders since the Prime Minister made a speech Saturday morning calling for a military crackdown on the nation's democracy movement. Demonstrators in Beijing and other cities have been holding large rallies calling for Mr. Li's ouster, and there were hints in official news reports earlier in the week that he might be in political trouble.
Wan Li, who many thought as the hope to restore order and leadership, continued to stay in Shanghai, while his influence was clearly stripped:
The official said that at another meeting a party group in the National People's Congress Standing Committee had decided that it was ''premature'' to call a meeting of the full Standing Committee. While such a decision is not legally binding, it was seen as an attempt to block a committee meeting that some members are trying to convene to revoke martial law.
The head of the National People's Congress, Wan Li, arrived in Shanghai this morning after cutting short a trip to the United States. Mr. Wan has been regarded by many students as a heroic figure destined to return and convene a meeting of the congress to end martial law and oust Mr. Li.
But instead he remained in Shanghai, ostensibly for medical treatment, while the rest of his delegation continued to Beijing. It was not clear why Mr. Wan, who almost certainly is not ill, stopped in Shanghai or when he would proceed to the capital.

At Tiananmen Square, Li Jinjin, who had led a sit-in at the Great Hall of People in the early days of the protest, had become a leader in a new worker's union:

In a new challenge to the Government, an independent labor union announced its formation in the capital today. The group, calling itself the Workers Autonomous Association, set up a loudspeaker system in one corner of Tiananmen Square that it said was its headquarters, and its broadcasts promptly drew a large audience.
''Our old unions were welfare organizations,'' said Li Jinjin, a lawyer who is counsel to the new union. ''But now we will create a union that is not a welfare organization but one concerned with workers' rights.''
Mr. Li insisted that the new union was entirely legal, but it seemed likely that the authorities would take a dim view of its creation.
The constituents of the students who were continuing to occupy the Square after the martial law was also changing rapidly. Most of Beijing locals were leaving, after exhaustion. They were replaced by more and more new-comers from provinces, who vowed never to withdraw.

Another commentary by Nicholas Kristof tried to provide more historical perspective of democratic movements in China.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

NYT Archive 1989: Power Struggle Continues

A day after speculating that Zhao Ziyang might be making a comeback, The May 25, 1989 edition of New York Times reported that the power pendulum had swung back to Li Peng's side:
The first three reports on today's noon television news program were unmistakable in their support for the Prime Minister: a letter from the Army General Staff Headquarters warning of manipulation of the democracy movement; a report about Mr. Li sending a representative to express sympathy with the People's Armed Police; and continuing reports about letters from the provinces expressing support for Mr. Li and his declaration of a military crackdown on the democratic movement.
''In this serious political struggle which concerns the destiny of our nation, in the task of putting an end to disturbances and restoring normal order, the troops will meet with various difficulties and be faced with various tests,'' read the army letter, which also was printed on the front page of most newspapers.
''The turmoil created by a tiny number of people still has not been quelled. If their scheme succeeds, then the last decade of hard struggle for reform, and the work of establishing and modernizing socialism, will be destroyed in a moment.''
The letter was significant not only for its tone, suggesting a harsher crackdown, but also because it indicated support from the military for martial law. There had been contradictory signs - including a letter by seven senior military figures - that some in the military were not happy with the prospect of crushing a popular uprising. China's foremost leader, Deng Xiaoping, is believed to have been traveling around the country, rallying military support, and the letter could be read as meaning both that he has been successful and that he is backing Mr. Li.
The report went on to detail how Li Peng had gained control within the official media, including People's Daily, which had also become a renegade press in the last couple of weeks. Meanwhile, Wan Li, who had cut short his trip to the United States to return and restore order, ran into trouble upon touching down:
From the competing signals, it seemed that neither side was fully in control. Help in breaking the deadlock may come from Wan Li, the head of China's National People's Congress, who arrived back in China early today after cutting short a visit to the United States for ''health reasons.''
The consensus had been that Mr. Wan would try to call an emergency meeting of the standing committee of the Congress to debate the situation and perhaps revoke martial law. It could even then summon the full Congress and dismiss Mr. Li.
The Chinese Government encouraged Mr. Wan to continue his trip, but he decided to come back anyway, according to Chinese familiar with his plans. However, Mr. Wan has landed in Shanghai, rather than Beijing, and it is not known when he will proceed to the capital or if he will be allowed to.
At least one acquaintance is worried that the situation is so delicate that Mr. Wan will be put in house arrest upon his arrival, to prevent him from calling the meeting.
In Beijing, some students began to worry about their academics, especially the graduating seniors whose school work had been cut off by the movement. Supporting rallies were reported in Canton and Hong Kong, where it had continued for five straight days.

Also one day after the government unexpectedly allowed foreign TV broadcasting, it was cut off again. Nevertheless, CNN's 24-hour non-stop coverage of this dramatic event was receiving tremendous attention in the US.

In New York, 7 editors of a Chinese language newspaper, Center Daily (中报), resigned after the owner wanted to publish an editorial to support the martial law. That newspaper did not survive long after.

An American professor who had spent time in Beijing's People's University speculated that this movement was actually led by students in that school. But he did not provide any student leader names to support his claim. Although People's University was an eager participant, it was not on par with Beida and the University of Political Sciences and Law as far as leadership was concerned.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

NYT Archive 1989: Reading The Tea Leaves

By May 24, 1989, it was entering the fifth day of martial law. People in Beijing were getting used to have hundreds of thousands troops blocked at their gates. The troops even showed signs of retreating, when they could. New York Times reported increasing struggles at the top:
As hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated in Beijing and Shanghai for the ouster of Prime Minister Li Peng, China's top leaders met in secret in the capital on Tuesday and appeared to make significant progress in breaking the political deadlock.
Early this morning, there were signs that Zhao Ziyang, the Communist Party leader, who was stripped of his powers late last week after he urged a moderate line toward students demonstrating for democracy, might be making a comeback.
There were also hints in official news reports that Mr. Li might be in political trouble, and military troops began to withdraw from some of their positions in the capital.

The most striking sign of a change in the power struggle came early this morning when news organizations for the first time in several days referred to Mr. Zhao and identified him as still being the General Secretary of the Communist Party.

After meeting with President George H. W. Bush, Wan Li cut short of his trip in the United States and was on his way home. He had become the unexpected hope for restoring leadership in China.

The official newspapers in Beijing, who had enjoyed unprecedented freedom of press in the last few weeks, continued to push limits in their own defiance to the martial law. As oversea Chinese students tried to piece together what was happening, foreign broadcast were suddenly allowed to resume.

In the middle of all, three men threw eggs and paints to deface the giant portrait of Mao Zedong on Tiananmen. Student detained and handed them over to police, thinking they could be acting on government's behalf to create pretext for a crackdown. The portrait was replaced in late afternoon, to the cheers of 20,000 people there.

Friday, May 23, 2008

NYT Archive 1989: Rumors Are Flying

One of the most curious happenings during the 1989 movement was why the martial law troops waited so long in the outskirts of Beijing. They were blocked by students and residents and then they just sat there for days, without taking any pro-active action. Even today, we do not know much more about it than back then, as everything was still a state secret in China.

On May 23, 1989, New York Times took a letter by ex-military leaders as evidence that the army might not be obeying its orders:
In a major blow to the authority of Prime Minister Li Peng, seven senior military figures formally objected on Monday to the Government's plan to bring troops into the capital and suppress China's democracy movement.
The signers of the strongly worded letter, among them a former Defense Minister and a former army Chief of Staff, command great prestige and influence, although they are no longer on active duty.
''In view of the extremely serious situation, we as veteran soldiers demand that the People's Liberation Army not confront the population, nor quell the people,'' the letter said. ''The army must absolutely not shoot the people. In order to prevent the situation from worsening, the army must not enter the city of Beijing.''

The letter was the clearest indication yet of the opposition within the military to the crackdown begun early Saturday by Prime Minister Li and Deng Xiaoping, China's senior leader.
While the army might be trying to avoid a crisis, the report went on to say that Li Peng was solidifying his power by taking over the propaganda work himself, replacing Hu Qili. There were so many rumors going around that some had to make it into NYT pages too. Beijing had also become a city under siege.

Meanwhile, the Chairman of the National People's Congress, Wan Li, suddenly became a major figure. He had been on a state visit in North America and met with American officials this day. Back home, Wan Li had become the last hope to restore order into national leadership, now that Zhao Ziyang was gone and Li Peng and Deng Xiaoping were popularly denounced. In the US, Wan Li said there would not be bloodshed in Beijing.

As the upheaval spread over the entire country, the uncertainty was hampering China's neighbors. Market fell in Hong Kong, with people there selling off gold for the American dollars.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

NYT Archive 1989: Second Day of Martial Law

The much extended coverage of the "Upheaval in China" continued in New York Times on May 22, 1989. It included a cautious call by President George H. W. Bush for Chinese to "stand up for what you believe in". The journalist Liu Binyan(刘宾雁), who was in the States, spread a few rumors. Oversea Chinese students continued their own demonstrations to support their compatriots at home, in Hong Kong and New York.

There was also a pro-democratic demonstration at Muscow, led Boris Yeltsin and Andrei Sakharov. But it was unrelated to what was happening in China.

Meanwhile, in Beijing:
Workers and students blocked new advances by army convoys today, preventing a military crackdown on China's democracy movement from taking effect, and several dozen top legislators quietly began preparing a strategy to revoke martial law.
There was exhilaration as well as exhaustion on central Tiananmen Square as dawn broke this morning, for many of the tens of thousands of students occupying the square had earlier written their wills after widespread rumors that brutal repression would begin during the night.
While many still fear that there will be violence, there is a sense of triumph in the capital that ordinary citizens have been able to prevent the Government from carrying out martial law more than two days after Prime Minister Li Peng ordered it.
The optimism had obviously strengthened students' resolve,

'Tiananmen Square has become a holy spot for Chinese democracy,'' a student leader, Wang Dan, told the crowd today. ''If we stay here longer, we will contribute more to China's democratization and increase our influence. If we withdraw, we will let down the citizens who have defended us. We will stay until our victory.''
As the movement turned against Li Peng and Deng Xiaoping, NYT also profiled "eight elders", senior retired or semi-retired leaders, who were much closer with Deng Xiaoping in age than either Zhao Ziyang or Li Peng, who might ultimately decide the outcome of this crisis.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

NYT Archive 1989: Residents Block Troops

With martial law declared in Beijing but troops blocked at the gates of the city, New York Times started much expanded coverage on May 21, 1989, under the collective headline "Upheaval in China". The leading story described how the troops were halted:

Huge throngs, possibly amounting to more than one million Chinese, took to the streets today to defy martial law and block troops from reaching the center of the capital, effectively delaying or preventing the planned crackdown on China's democracy movement.

Troops approaching Beijing on at least five major roads were halted or turned back by the largest crowds to have gathered so far in a month of almost continuous protests. Students and ordinary citizens erected roadblocks or lay in the path of army trucks, while others let the air out of their tires.

... ...

A few clashes were reported, but the confrontations seemed to be mostly peaceful. More troops were reported to be making their way toward Beijing, however, and it was not clear that the people could continue to keep the soldiers out. So far, the troops have not tried very hard to enter Beijing, and a more concerted effort backed by the use of tear gas would almost certainly succeed. But after a full day of confrontation, questions were increasingly raised about the army's readiness to quell the protests.
... ...

While proposals in the predawn hours for a general strike seem to have been little heeded, it was clear that even if workers did not call formal strikes, they did not do much work. Beijing residents today had other things to preoccupy them, like how to keep the army out.

As rumors spread about where troops might be arriving, citizens rushed by car, bicycle and foot to do their part to turn the troops back. The crowds were larger than those last Wednesday and Thursday that the official New China News Agency had estimated at more than one million.

Truck drivers drove their vehicles in front of military convoys to block their way, and ordinary citizens lay down on the ground in front of army trucks. Many seemed to remember these tactics from the Philippine military coup that ousted President Ferdinand E. Marcos. Television footage of the ''people power'' revolution of the Philippines was widely shown in China at the time and now workers delight in saying that people power will defeat Prime Minister Li.

The most serious of the scattered clashes reported today occurred on a road in western Beijing, according to students, who said about 150 police officers used cattle prods to beat about 45 students blocking military trucks.

Meanwhile, at the Tiananmen Square,

In Beijing, nearly 100,000 people seemed prepared this evening to wait all night in central Tiananmen Square to protect student protesters from attack by troops. Even though there was no evidence of hostile troops within miles, many waited expectantly with clothes over their faces for the clouds of tear gas they have been told to expect.

The readiness to help has taken other forms. The Government today cut off the water supply to Tiananmen Square, but as word spread that the water fountains and taps in the area were no longer working, private business people from all over the capital contributed their motorcycles to carry buckets of water to the students.

More descriptions of the actions by the brave residents can be read here. A series of other articles trying to put the "upheaval" into historical context, with reactions from the American and British governments. Oversea Chinese continued to rally in the US and Hong Kong.

Based on the early actions, most of the commentaries, as seen here, here, here, and here, carried an optimistic tone, believing that China may be opening a new chapter.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

NYT Archive 1989: Martial Law

The demonstration and power struggle at the top finally came to its head, as New York Times reported on May 20, 1989:
The Government called troops into the capital this morning and imposed martial law in parts of the city to crack down on China's growing democracy movement. But tens of thousands of people rushed out of their homes to block troops from reaching student demonstrators in the central square.
''We must adopt firm and resolute measures to end the turmoil swiftly,'' Prime Minister Li Peng said in a speech broadcast shortly after midnight. ''If we fail to put an end to such chaos immediately and let it go unchecked, it will very likely lead to a situation which none of us want to see.''
Chinese with access to information at the highest level said the Communist Party leader, Zhao Ziyang, had been stripped of all power but retained his title of General Secretary of the party.
Mr. Zhao was apparently deprived of his authority because he was too conciliatory toward the demonstrators and because he lost a power struggle with Mr. Li. Chinese said the nation's senior leader, Deng Xiaoping, removed Mr. Zhao and put Mr. Li in charge of the party as well as the Government.
As part of the martial law measure, live broadcasting by foreign TV networks were immediately halted, causing some dramatic last-minute footages being aired in the United States.

But the biggest news was that, to the shock of students, government, and everybody, martial law troops were blocked at the outskirt of the city by spontaneous but defiant students, workers, and residents:
The 1,000 troops looked out in bewilderment from their immobilized convoy of 21 trucks in western Beijing today to find that their world had been turned upside down.
Rather than dispersing student demonstrators, as they had apparently been sent to do, they found themselves protected by students from throngs of residents who wanted to climb on the vehicles and let air out of the tires. The students linked arms and refused to let people through, except a handful who were assigned the task of making speeches imploring the soldiers to join the cause.
''You are our army,'' said a Chinese businesswoman who gave her name as Linda Liu and seemed near tears as she went from truck to truck pleading with the soldiers. ''You are our brothers and sisters. You are Chinese. Our interests are the same as yours. We believe you have a conscience. You must not crush the movement.''
In the midst of chaos, NYT neglected to report that students had called off their hunger strike and turned it into a sit-in at Tiananmen Square, just an hour before the announcement of the martial law. They had received the leaked news beforehand.

The United States expressed its regret with President George H. W. Bush calling for restraints. Chinese students in the US have also started to mobilize in support of their compatriots at home.

Official Media Calling Oversea Dissidents Scum

On the web site of the official Xinhua news agency, many articles praise honorable and nice behaviors of the Chinese mass since the devastating earthquake. However, one article, titled The Metrics Measuring Huaminty's Good And Evil, goes a step further. To contrast with the good, it also makes a list of evil Chinese overseas who allegedly have been celebrating the disaster. The list includes Li Hongzhi, the founder of the controversial Falun Gong, as well as Wei Jingsheng, Wang Dan, Wang Juntao, Wu Fan (伍凡), and Sheng Xue (盛雪). All of them were oversea dissidents who, the article claimed, had become Falun Gong followers. The article also accused them for working with Falun Gong to sabotage the Beijing Olympics.

Wang Dan released a statement today to rebuke the accusations. He denied to have any relationship with Falun Gong. He has also been working on donation drives for earthquake victims and had postponed his own protest for the respect of victims. Finally, he has always been a supporter of Beijing Olympics, since when Beijing made its bid as a host city.

Separately, Wang Juntao also released his own statement rebuking the charges. He also disclosed that his father has been seriously ill in Beijing and he was denied the right to visit.

It's not uncommon for the official press in China slander people they consider to be enemies. It is interesting though that names such as Wei Jingsheng, Wang Dan, and Wang Juntao were mentioned at all. For many years the official media has been careful not to mention anything that could conjure up memories of 1989. Was this an oversight or signs that things are changing?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Thousands Rally At Tiananmen Square For Earthquake Victims

China just started its three days of mourning for earthquake victims, during which the Olympic torch relay was also halted. On the first day, thousands gathered at Tiananmen Square to observe the three minutes silence with the national flag flying at half-staff.

The gathering appeared to be entirely spontaneous. After the silence, the crowd burst into rhythmical chants of "Go China", "Long live China", as seen in the CCTV broadcast:

NYT Archive 1989: Focus On The Hunger Strikers

On May 19, 1989, New York Times finally focused its attention to the hunger striker students, calling them the heart of China protest:
The hunger strikers have become the focus of a growing nationwide movement for democracy, and while they are bold young people who dared to rebel against the authorities, they are also inexperienced not only in fasting but also in leading a movement that has risen to dimensions beyond what many of them had imagined.
Their fasting has weakened almost all of them to the point that they spend most of their time sleeping. And yet they are still looked upon by their fellow students as leaders. They are still deciding what strategy and tactics the rest of the students will follow in the struggle with the Government.
A group of seven or eight strikers is the driving force behind the movement, working out the policy options that will be put to the hunger-striking students, although they work closely with many other student leaders who are not fasting. Some of them have been catapulted into prominence in the last month: Wang Dan, a Beijing University history student, and Wuer Kaixi, a freshman at Beijing Normal University, are the movement's most conspicuous leaders.
Mr. Wang, like some other student organizers, initially took part in the hunger strike but then was persuaded to start eating again so that he could negotiate more effectively. Mr. Wuer has continued the hunger strike, and its effects on him are showing. In a nationally televised meeting today with Prime Minister Li Peng, he fainted from hunger and exhaustion.
For the record, Wang Dan had denied NYT's assertion and insisted that he had been faithful to his hunger strike oath throughout the entire time. It's likely that NYT had based the report on the rampant rumors and hearsay in the Square.

The story was more about a 21-year-old student by the name of Xie Wanjun, who had by now ended his own hunger strike:

But if Mr. Xie is willing to take on the Government, he is more cautious in dealing with his family. He has still not told his parents that he joined the hunger strike in the capital and kept with it for 84 hours. After he lost consciousness and was rushed to the hospital for the second time, the medical authorities in his school persuaded him to drop the fast, and now he is eating once more and helping the other hunger strikers.
In the meantime, the Premier Li Peng finally met with a few hunger strike leaders, with the meeting broadcast on TV:
The televised discussion on Thursday, while almost universally regarded by students as unsatisfactory, would have been unthinkable just a week or two ago. Prime Minister Li, who is usually shown on television suffused in dignity, had scarcely sat down in the Great Hall of the People when a student leader named Wuer Kaixi - a freshman from the northwestern Xinjiang Province - rebuked him for being late.
Mr. Wuer and another student leader, Wang Dan, also called on the Prime Minister to stop evading the issues and begin a serious conversation, and they warned that the Government would bear the responsibility for any disturbances.
''In the last few days, Beijing has fallen into a kind of anarchy,'' Mr. Li declared angrily. ''I hope you will think it over. What will result from the situation? China's Government is responsible to the people. We will not sit idly by, doing nothing. We have to safeguard people's property and our students' lives. We have to safeguard our factories. We have to defend our socialist system.''
The sharp exchanges marked perhaps the first time that a Chinese leader has been subjected to the public humiliations that politicians regularly endure in the West.
It also reported that the situation was deteriorating all over China. There had been general strikes in a few factories and blockade of railway traffic in a few cities. In his last-ditch gesture and very last public appearance, Zhao Ziyang went to the Square in a surreal manner:
In another gesture of conciliation, Mr. Li and the Communist Party leader, Zhao Ziyang, went to Tiananmen Square in central Beijing before dawn today to visit some of the 3,000 hunger strikers whose protest has galvanized the nation into mass demonstrations of support.
''We've come too late,'' Mr. Zhao told the students, according to the official New China News Agency. ''You have good intentions. You want our country to become better. The problems you have raised will eventually be resolved. But things are complicated, and there must be a process to resolve these problems.''
Mr. Zhao added that ''the whole of Beijing'' was discussing the hunger strike, and he called on the students to end the fast.

Meanwhile, Mr. Gorbachev wrapped up his much-disrupted visit in Beijing and headed for Shanghai, where demonstrations were also brewing.

NYT Archive 1989: Millions Are In The Square

On May 18, 1989, New York Times' Sheryl WuDunn took a little break from the ongoing hunger strike to look into the problem of "billions of bad teeth" in China. But she came back in time to show that a million Chinese marched in sympathy and support of the student hunger strikers.

Indeed, May 17 was one of the climax date during the 1989 movement. The hunger strike was entering its fifth day and it had finally caught the attention and imagination of the normal folks in Beijing. If the students had indeed hoped their action would ignite a popular uprising, they came closet on this day, as Nicholas Kristof reported separately:
More than a million Chinese took to the streets of Beijing Wednesday in an extraordinary outpouring of support for more democracy.
The protests, amounting almost to a general strike, continued this morning and greatly increased the pressure on the Government to sacrifice one or more top officials and speed political liberalization.
In an attempt to defuse the situation, several of the nation's top leaders visited hospitalized students on a hunger strike early this morning to show their concern. But the crowds this morning seemed at least as militant as those on Wednesday, and many people said they would be satisfied only with the removal of the country's senior leader, Deng Xiaoping, or Prime Miniser Li Peng.
On this same day, after Zhao Ziyang's disclosure, the leading intellectual and Zhao Ziyang's adviser Yan Jiaqi published a strong statement that denounced Deng Xiaoping by name. The movement was now rallying behind Zhao Ziyang and targeting Deng Xiaoping, or Li Peng, who was considered a surrogate of the conservatives.

The report also mentioned hunger strike Wang Wen (王文), who was one of the people who made the initial decision to go on hunger strike. In many occasions he had tried to wrestle its leadership role from Chai Ling, including a kidnap attempt later on.
It was the 3,000 hunger strikers -like Wang Wen, a young man who turned 21 years old Wednesday and pledged to maintain the strike until death if necessary - who galvanized the support and often tears of people all over the city. On Wednesday, the fifth day of their strike, the students were visibly weakened as they lay on the ground sheltered from the hot sun by sheets and tents. But they saw their cause provoke a political crisis in China. Party Leaders Visit Strikers
The Government televised this morning's hospital visit, in which Prime Minister Li and the Communist Party leader, Zhao Ziyang, met with hunger strikers, and some of the television scenes included students making strong criticisms of Communist Party rule.
''Everybody thinks the nation has no hope, the Communist Party has no hope,'' a disheveled young man shown on national television told his visitors. ''We should do things the way they do them in the United States, and thus restore people's confidence.''
The hospital visit seemed to have no impact in placating the hundreds of thousands of demonstrators who gathering again this morning in the center of the city to join the protests. More and more were high-school students and people from other cities who have poured into Beijing on trains and buses.
Meanwhile, the protest spread:
More and more prominent individuals and organizations also called on the Government to bend to the students' demands, in a sign of weakening support for the official party line. Among those appealing to the Government to heed the students were the presidents of eight universities and the central committees of the Chinese Communist Youth League, the All-China Youth Federation and the All-China Students Federation.
On Wednesday, the protest campaign seemed to complete its transformation from a student movement into a broad-based democracy movement that will be very difficult to squelch. The New China News Agency reported that the number of protesters in Beijing exceeded 1 million, corroborating Western estimates and making it by far the biggest demonstration in China since the organized rallies of Red Guards more than two decades ago, early in the Cultural Revolution.
Students and workers reported that small strikes were beginning at a number of offices and factories to show support for the students. The strikes compounded the urgency of the crisis and narrowed the options for top leaders.
Meanwhile, Mr. Gorbachev backed away from his "hothead" comment and addressed the student movement as a "painful but necessary" process during reform.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

NYT Archive 1989: Zhao Ziyang's Disclosure

On May 17, 1989, New York Times continued its coverage of the Sino-Soviet summit, focusing on Gorbachev's talks with Premier Li Peng and General Secretary Zhao Ziyang. It was not until the last three paragraph of the lengthy report did NYT mention "mysterious remarks" made by Zhao Ziyang:
Some of the more mysterious remarks made in the meetings today came when Mr. Zhao launched into a major defense of Mr. Deng and stressed his importance to the nation. The comments, which were repeated on China's television news program to guarantee a wide audience, may have been intended as a response to growing criticism of Mr. Deng and to accompanying suggestions that he should retire from public life.
Mr. Zhao also mentioned a previously undisclosed resolution of the Central Committee calling for Mr. Deng's guidance in dealing with most important issues. There have been widespread rumors here that Mr. Deng may retire after Mr. Gorbachev's visit ends, and Mr. Zhao's remarks could be seen either as a denial of the rumors or as a confirmation of them by giving Mr. Deng praise before he retires.
In a rare admission of the disaffection amoung Chinese youth, Mr. Zhao also said, ''Some people, especially young people, frequently raise doubts about the superiority of socialism.''
This disclosure, while appeared to be made in passing, was a critical turning-point of the 1989 movement. Rumor had it that Deng Xiaoping's daughter immediately called Zhao Ziyang's office accusing him for "selling out Old Deng". The next day, Yan Jiaqi, an adviser of Zhao Ziyang's led a group of intellectuals with a harsh statement targeting Deng Xiaoping as the "last emperor". From then on, the movement turned on Deng Xiaoping himself.

But first thing first. NYT appeared to be more impressed with Li Peng than Zhao Ziyang in their respective meetings with Gorbachev:
The Chinese were more reticent in discussing how normalization might be achieved, but they were happy to discuss their ideas about democracy. The most remarkable statements came from Prime Minister Li Peng, a target of the student demonstrators because of his previous wariness about rapid political and economic liberalization.
''We don't think that capitalist countries have a monopoly on freedom, democracy and human rights,'' Mr. Li said today in his meeting with Mr. Gorbachev. ''People in socialist countries should also enjoy freedom, democracy and human rights. China is prepared to improve these aspects of its political reform.''
Mr. Li also said China had ''taken note of the new thinking'' that Mr. Gorbachev has fostered in the Soviet Union, in what appeared to be a signal of China's interest in following the Soviet example in some areas.
Prime Minister Li's remarks appeared to represent the first time that a Chinese leader has mentioned respect for ''human rights'' as a goal for the nation. Until an article in the official People's Daily on Friday, which quoted unidentified scholars as calling for human rights, the term was used dismissively, as a bourgeois concept that had little or no meaning in China.

The Chinese Communist Party leader, Zhao Ziyang, also called for more openness - it was his aide, Bao Tong, who arranged for publication of the People's Daily article, party officials said - but his comments were slightly less forceful and less surprising because he has long been associated with a policy of greater liberalization.
On the other hand, just three weeks ago Mr. Li reportedly was involved in plans for an abortive crackdown on the democracy movement, and he said early last month that China would not copy Soviet political reforms.
While students and residents in Tiananmen Square were welcoming Mr. Gorbachev as a symbol of political reform, Gorbachev himself was less impressed:
''As a great political reformer, we urge Mikhail Gorbachev to talk to the Government on our behalf, for humanitarian reasons,'' Wang Dan, a student leader from Beijing University, said at a news conference today.
Mr. Gorbachev, walking on eggs to seal his historic raprochement with China, has avoided contact with the students. Today, after inviting senior Soviet journalists to brief him on the unrest in Beijing, he firmly distanced himself from his admirers. He consoled his Chinese counterparts that in the Soviet Union, ''We have our hotheads, too.''

After making his fateful disclosure to Mr. Gorbachev and the public, Zhao Ziyang tried to reach out to the students at night:
Late tonight, Mr. Zhao sent a message to the students calling on them to end their hunger strike and - in a major concession - declared that the highest levels of the Government and Communist Party ''affirmed the students' patriotic spirit in calling for democracy and law, opposing corruption and striving to further reform.''
The written message, which Mr. Zhao said represented all five members of the standing committee of the Politburo, amounted to a retreat from the party's previous position that the demonstrators were trying to cause trouble and sabotage the economy. Mr. Zhao also promised that the authorities would not punish the students after calm was restored. Biggest Protest of Year
It was not clear what effect the message would have on the democracy movement, which has been gaining momentum in the last few days.

In fact, this statement of his did not receive any real attention at all.

Last but not least, the last paragraph of Sheryl WuDunn's report was a breif quote from Professor Jiang Peikun (蒋培坤):

Jiang Peikun, a 54-year-old philosophy professor at People's University, said: ''We can no longer tolerate the Government. The students are bleeding over there. We will continue to support them until they win.''
Half month later, Professor Jiang's youngest son, then a high schooler, would be killed during the massacre. His wife, Ding Zilin, eventually became the leader of a group known as Tiananmen Mothers.

NYT Archive 1989: Sino-Soviet Summit

On May 16, 1989, New York Times reported the long-awaited Sino-Soviet summit in a matter-of-fact manner:
Deng Xiaoping and Mikhail S. Gorbachev shook hands today to signal the formal end of three decades of hostility between China and the Soviet Union.
The two leaders then met for two and a half hours. Afterward, Mr. Deng was the host at a banquet for the Soviet President.

Just as any other media at the time, both domestic and foreign, it did not occur to NYT that it might need to explain why Deng Xiaoping, whose only official title was the Chairman of the Military Committee, was considered the supreme leader of China and warranted the summit statue.

If one would follow a strict protocol, there should be two separate summits for Mr. Gorbachev: one with Zhao Ziyang, who as the General Secretary was the top leader of the Chinese Communist Party; and another with Yang Shangkun, who held the symbolic title of the President of the country.

While nobody questioned the summit at the time, when Zhao Ziyang unexpectedly made it public, during his meeting with Gorbachev later, that Deng Xiaoping was indeed the supreme leader of China, it actually created a huge event that marked a turning-point of the 1989 movement.

Zhao Ziyang's meeting with Gorbachev probably missed the deadline for NYT on this day, as it was not mentioned. Apparently shadowing Gorbachev's entourage all day, NYT detailed how much the guest's itinerary had to be changed due to the interruptions caused by students in the Tiananmen Square. Not only had the welcoming ceremony be moved to the airport, they had to scrap a planed wreath-laying at the Monument of People's Heroes and have Mr. Gorbachev enter the Great Hall of People through a back door.

In a separate report, Sheryl WuDunn described how Beijing residents gathered at Tiananmen Square to stage their own welcoming for Mr. Gorbachev:
One after another today, groups of teachers, professors, museum workers, factory workers, writers, artists, scholars, entrepreneurs, low-level officials, middle-school students, and even journalists from the official People's Daily paraded into Tiananmen Square behind their own wide, colorful banners.
They sang the ''Internationale'' and chanted anti-Government slogans, while inside in the adjacent Great Hall of the People, President Yang Shangkun held a banquet this evening for the Soviet leader, Mikhail S. Gorbachev.
The ebullient crowd of about 150,000 protesters and spectators rallied to show support for a hunger strike on the opening day of the first Chinese-Soviet summit meeting in 30 years.
The crowd was significant not only for its size and the shadow it cast over the summit meeting, but also because it marked the first time that intellectuals and workers organized themselves to join the students in a demonstration. Previously, workers frequently took part in demonstrations, but not in any organized way.
Later in the story, a female leader by the name Wang Chao was mentioned. Although it can't be certain, but it is very likely the leader is actually Wang Chaohua (王超华), who by now was left in charge of the Beijing Students Autonomous Union:
A team of medical students dispersed salt tablets and glucose. But by late this evening more than 100 strikers who had fainted or lost consciousness had been taken to hospitals.
''Tomorrow, we will continue with our hunger strike as we did today, until we have a real dialogue with the Government,'' said Wang Chao, a once-fiery student leader who spoke in faltering whispers as she hunched under a jacket to escape the blazing sun.
Miss Wang continued to give orders on the students' next moves. Some of the movement's other leaders have not taken part in the hunger strike so that they can continue to act as negotiators with the Government.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

NYT Archive 1989: Hunger Strike Took The Center Stage

On May 15, 1989, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev arrived in Beijing. The welcoming ceremony had to be moved off the Tiananmen Square, as reported by New York Times that day,
Thousands of university students occupied Beijing's central square through the night, defying Government plans to seal off the area. They said they wanted to hold their own welcoming ceremony for Mikhail S. Gorbachev, the Soviet leader, who arrived today for the first Chinese-Soviet summit meeting in 30 years.
Unable to seal off the square and embarrassed by the presence of the demonstrators, the Government canceled plans to hold the official welcoming ceremony there and moved it to the Beijing airport.

By then, the hunger strikers had been on the Square for two days. But the NYT still did not regard it as the prominent story of the day. It was mentioned in passing:
About 2,200 hunger strikers sat huddled in the center of the square, and more than 10,000 students from other universities spent the night crowded around to support them.
By this morning, the hunger strikers had drawn crowds of 80,000 or more, mostly supportive. Students from campuses all over the capital had marched to Tiananmen Square on Sunday to press demands for democracy and for a dialogue with the Government.
''Welcome, Mr. Gorbachev, the true reformer,'' read a banner that the students held aloft in a rebuke to China's own leadership.
Also in passing, NYT mentioned a dialog that happened a day earlier:

Senior Government officials, including the Minister of Education, Li Tieying, met with student leaders on Sunday, but students said the talks were disrupted when the Government said it was unable to meet student demands to broadcast the discussion live. On Sunday night, the television news carried a brief report on the dialogue.
That was actually a dialog led by Party official Yan Mingfu and the students' own Dialog Delegation. It was the most promising and dramatic, but yet unsuccessful, event during the 1989 movement.

The Gorbachev visit was billed as one of the most important diplomatic action of the nation, sealing the reconciliation of the two largest Communist nations. The students had hoped to use the occasion to voice their concerns by launching the hunger strike. They thought that the government had to resolve the issue, and therefore they could stop the hunger strike, before the welcoming ceremony.

Now that the government had essentially called their bluff, students had lost their biggest bargaining chip of the time. The hunger strike had to continue, with no end in sight:

Chen Subin, a 22-year-old student from Beijing University, said that he had not eaten since Saturday afternoon but that he would stay on the square indefinitely. ''I will stay as long as I can,'' said Mr. Chen.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

NYT Archive 1989: The Eve Of Gorbachev's Visit

Beijing students had launched their hunger strike in Tiananmen Square two days before the state visit of Soviet leader Gorbachev. Their action had not been reported in New York Times until the eve of the summit. Quite ironically, even then, they only got a brief mention in a story about Zhao Ziyang winning the power struggle on May 14, 1989:

More than 20,000 spectators watched in Beijing's Tiananmen Square as more than 1,000 university students staged the strike in the middle of the square. Some students said they would remain until Mikhail S. Gorbachev, the Soviet leader, arrives on Monday for the first Chinese-Soviet summit meeting in 30 years.

But the story was about Zhao Ziyang:
An unannounced Politburo meeting has endorsed the moderate line of the Communist Party leader, Zhao Ziyang, toward student demonstrators, including more discussions with the students and limited steps toward greater democracy, Chinese with high party connections say.
The situation remains extremely unsettled, as the debate over recent student demonstrations continues to reverberate through the leadership and exacerbate the power struggle here. However, three Chinese familiar with the Politburo proceedings say that the result of a tense meeting held on Wednesday and Thursday in the capital was to strengthen Mr. Zhao's faction, favoring more rapid economic and political change over one preferring a more cautious path.
The result, at least for now, is a reversal in the fortunes of Mr. Zhao, whose influence had slipped greatly over the last year and reached its nadir at the beginning of the student protests last month. Many of the students had worried that their demonstrations might lead to his dismissal.
There was also a hint of the softening in government's stand:
Mr. Deng did not attend the Politburo meeting, but he did send a statement in which he seemed to support the moderate approach. He also indicated that his earlier warning on April 25, calling for a crackdown on student demonstrators, was based on misleading information apparently supplied by the Beijing City Communist Party authorities, a party official said.
The support of Mr. Deng and the Politburo - actually an enlarged meeting of the Politburo, including some provincial leaders - is a crucial respite for Mr. Zhao. But party officials said that the struggle continues and noted that there are rumors that Mr. Deng will make major personnel shifts after the Chinese-Soviet meeting next week.
In a separate story, Nicholas Kristof observed that Gorbachev had become the unlikely hero of democracy in China:
When Mikhail S. Gorbachev arrives on Monday for four days of talks designed to restore normal relations between China and the Soviet Union, he will be cast in the unusual role of champion of democracy.
It is the role that American Presidents like to fill, but there is much more anticipation in China's democratic movement today than there was on the eve of President Bush's visit in February. Almost everybody seems to think that the Soviet leader's visit will do more for democracy in China than Mr. Bush's trip did, and some believe that the Soviet Union will do more than the United States to inspire political liberalization in China.

Wang Dan Postpones His Protest Because Of Earthquake

Wang Dan and Wang Juntao announced today that they will indefinitely postpone their planed protest for citizenship rights because of the earthquake disaster in China. While expressing their sympathy and pledging for donation, they also appealed the Chinese government to halt the Olympic torch relay and other ceremonial activities in this period of struggle.

The Olympic torch relay, currently in its domestic legs, has already been scaled down, but not halted.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

NYT Archive 1989: Protesting Against "Satanic Verses" of China

The student movement of 1989 was inspiring and emboldening people of different sectors, who, in the mid-May, started to find their own voices. On May 13, 1989, New York Times reported that a group of Muslim students held their own march:
In the first demonstration by a Chinese minority group since a wave of student protests began last month, about 2,500 Muslim students marched to the city's central square today to protest the publication of a book they say blasphemes Islam.
''This book has defaced Islam and the Koran,'' said a student. ''It is like 'The Satanic Verses.' ''
The students said the book they were protesting, ''Sexual Customs,'' has a section that refers to the architecture of a mosque as a phallic symbol, and other sexual references. They demanded that the Government punish the authors, who wrote the book under pen names, and the Shanghai publishing company that first released the book in March. Students said the book was not widely circulated in Beijing.

Apparently, Mr. Gorbachev was not the only head of a foreign state visiting Beijing at the time. Iranian President, Hojatolislam Ali Khamenei, had just concluded his visit, which might have helped in triggering this protest.

In a clear indication that the authority was loosing up controls in the midst of the student movement, NYT reported that these Muslim demonstrators were able to obtain a permission ahead of time.

Meanwhile, the waiting for Gorbachev continued. The momentum of hunger strike was building on campuses and would show up in Tiananmen Square in that very evening. But NYT failed to pick up any hint of this coming storm. In an afterthought, it only mentioned that,

The Government spokesman today called on Chinese university students not to demonstrate during the Chinese-Soviet summit meeting next week.

Monday, May 12, 2008

NYT Archive 1989: Waiting For Gorbachev

The Soviet leader Gorbachev would be in China in a few days. On May 12, 1998, New York Times found a slight hint that his visit might not be a complete victory of the communist bloc:
When Mikhail S. Gorbachev strolls on Chinese streets during the summit meeting planned next week to end three decades of hostility between China and the Soviet Union, he is expected to face a snub so blunt as to remind him that there is still a chill in the air.
Mr. Gorbachev will have company when he visits Shanghai on Thursday, the final day of his four-day visit to China: three American warships are scheduled to sail through the city that afternoon and then dock for a port call.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry announced today that the warships would make ''a friendly and courteous visit.'' But the timing seemed carefully calculated to slight Mr. Gorbachev with a demonstration of Chinese-American friendship. Only once before, in 1986, has an American naval ship made a port call in China since the Communists came to power.
The arrival of the ships is just one sign of the lack of enthusiasm some Chinese officials seem to feel for the first Chinese-Soviet summit meeting in 30 years. Their wariness of the meeting, and of the normalization of relations that both sides say will follow, may reassure those Americans who have been concerned by the prospect of renewed ties between the two neighbors. Certainly, it seems to be the Soviets who are chafing at the moment.
In a separate commentary, Richard Holbrooke attempted to put the summit into historical perspectives:
They didn't plan it this way. The first Chinese-Soviet summit meeting in 30 years was originally designed to put the long-strained relations between the two largest Communist nations on a stable and more friendly basis, address disagreements accumulated over many acrimonious years and gain an advantage in the triangular relationship involving China, the Soviet Union and the United States.
Ten, or even five years ago, such a meeting could have rocked the world, and might have had a profound effect on the global balance of power.
Instead, with the greatest possible historical irony, Mikhail Gorbachev and Deng Xiaoping will meet in Beijing next week at a time when both of them, trying to reform Communism in order to save it, must focus on unprecedented internal upheavals.

Neither of them directly mentioned the on-going, but already calmed student movement. But in fact, the upcoming visit by Gorbachev had inspired students the most. Besides the fact that Gorbachev was regarded as a reformer who was transforming the rigid Communist system in his own country, the summit was expected to attract much international attention. It would be an attractive occasion for more protests.

At this moment, the decision to hunger strike had already been made, albeit in a manner that was disagreeable to many of the existing leaders. Chai Ling had delivered an emotional and personal speech that inspired dozens in Beida to sign up for hunger strike. Preparation was under way.

In the days to come, the rest of the world would be shocked.

Earthquake And Arrests At Chengdu

A powerful earthquake hit near Chengdu. At this time, CNN reports that death toll had already jumped past 7,600. It is certainly expected to climb much higher as more reports came in. The quake was felt in most areas in China including Beijing, although there were also reports that there was a separate, much smaller scaled, earthquake in Beijing suburb.

Chengdu is the site of a "strolling protest" just a week ago. Before the earthquake hit, it was reported that four people had been arrested for the protest, under charges of "fabricating and spreading rumors, distortion, incitement to riot and illegal demonstration."

Sunday, May 11, 2008

NYT Archive 1989: Students Bike To Support Journalists

After more than 1,000 journalists submitted a petition of their own demanding an official dialog, the hibernating student movement came back alive, briefly, to support the journalists. On May 11, 1989, New York Times reported that more than 5,000 students paraded on their bicycles to show support for journalists:
The cycling parade drew tens of thousands of spectators along the 30-mile journey. The students wove their way past the Central People's Broadcasting Station, the Central Television Station, the New China News Agency, the People's Daily and the Guangming Daily, whose name is translated Brightness Daily. At each of the headquarters, they stopped and chanted slogans.
''People's Daily, you cheat the people!'' they shouted. ''Brightness Daily, you bring forth no light! Central Television Station, you turn white into black!''
There were no run-ins with the police, and no streets were cordoned off as they have been during previous protests. Even the traffic police seemed to defer to the students. The result was that there were numerous traffic jams, as waves of bicycles blanketed the streets or threaded their way among cars and pedestrians.
The parade surprised a lot of people, including many commuters who were not pleased. As NYT reported, Beijing residents appeared to have had enough of the demonstrations already:
In the first sign that the students may be annoying workers more than inspiring them, some pedestrians on their way home appeared irritated at the traffic tie-ups caused by the tangle of bicycles, buses and people.
''They should announce beforehand when they plan to march, so that we can avoid them,'' one bystander said in exasperation.
A young man said angrily: ''Another demonstration? I think one or two is enough. Is there no end?''
Some students brushed aside such complaints, saying the traffic jams were one way to attract the Government's attention. As night fell, the crowds poured out from their homes to the roadsides where they cheered on the students. Some pedestrians directed traffic to help maintain order, as they shouted their support for the students.
''We can't lose the support from the people because we are voicing their opinions, too,'' said Zheng Zhi, a 20-year-old aerospace design student.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

NYT Archive 1989: Journalists Speak Up

In a clear sign that the student movement had appeared to run its cause, New York Times did not have any news on the movement for the two days of May 8 and 9, 1989. On May 10, NYT resumed reporting from Beijing, but it was about journalists' call for press freedom:
In the strongest appeal so far for freedom of the press in China, more than 1,000 journalists from official news organizations signed a petition that was presented to the Government today calling for talks with China's leaders.
The goal of the talks would be to discuss independence of the press, broader coverage of major events like the recent student demonstrations, and the dismissal of the editor in chief of a Shanghai newspaper.
''The reason we are calling for such a dialogue is that our press coverage has attracted criticism at home and abroad,'' said Li Datong, an editor at the China Youth News. ''We think that the press in Beijing has failed to be comprehensive and fair in its coverage. And we think this is the direct result of our current press system.''
The petition, which was presented to the All-China Journalists Association by about 100 journalists, criticized press censorship in coverage of the recent student demonstrations and demanded a change in the Communist Party's role in press coverage.
Among the non-students, journalists were the first group who had organized their protests, joining the demonstration on May 4, 1989. It was no coincidence. Journalists had been witnessing the movement first-hand, yet they could not faithfully report any of it until several days ago. The banning of the World Economic Herald in Shanghai touched them in the core.

Li Datong (李大同), the leader of this journalist petition, was later persecuted and suspended from his editor job for five years. In 1995, he was allowed back to his job and established Freezing Point (冰点), a regular supplementary issue within the China Youth News. It became very popular for its daring commentary on issues of China's history and culture.

In 2005, Freezing Point was sharply criticized by the Party Propaganda Department and shut down. Li Datong was also fired. Today, Li Datong appeared to a free-lance writer, writing columns for newspapers in Hong Kong. He also managed to publish a couple of memoirs about Freezing Point in China.

Friday, May 9, 2008

How To Become The President Of China

On his visit to Japan, President Hu Jintao visited a school for children of Chinese expatriates there. As a grandpa-like leader, he answered a few questions from the children, as reported by the New China Press:
An eight year old boy eagerly stood up: "Grandpa Hu, why did you want to become the President?" His question caused loud laughter in the room. "I want to tell you, I never wanted to be the President myself. It's the people of the whole China, they elected me, and wanted me to be the President. I can't let them down."

President Hu Jintao's answer got another child very interested: "I wanted to become the President too. How could I become the President?" In the laughter, Hu Jintao said: "No matter what you want to do when you grow up, you need to study hard when you are young, build strong morals and a strong body. Then, you can succeed in whatever you do in the future."

Mother's Day In Tiananmen Square

The Amnesty International UK is calling for people to send a mother's day card to the Tiananmen Mothers. You can enter your card here and they promise to deliver it to the Tiananmen Mothers by mother's day this Sunday.

Mother's day is not really observed in China. But as many other western customs, it has gained more and more popularity in recent years.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Activist Calls For An Olympic Pardon

The noted American human rights activist John Kamm, who had been working to track and release political prisoners in China, called for a pardon before the Beijing Olympics through his Dui Hua Foundation.

A Writer Arrested For Subversion

The charge of subversion, which had sent dissident Hu Jia to jail, strike again. This time it is writer Zhou Yuanzhi (周远志), who, together with his wife, was arrested over the past weekend.