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.

No comments: