Monday, May 26, 2008

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.

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