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.

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