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.

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