Monday, May 5, 2008

NYT Archive 1989: Recapping The Wide-Spread Demonstration

On May 5, New York Times provided a recap of the demonstration one day earlier, showing how much it had spread by this time:
A defiant and enthusiastic crowd of more than 100,000 workers and students forced its way through police cordons in the capital today to demand more democracy, and smaller demonstrations were held in many other cities around China.
The occasion for the marches today was the 70th anniversary of famous nationalist demonstrations in Beijing that led to the May 4 Movement, which led a generation of Chinese intellectuals to seek a major re-examination of Chinese society. The movement also foreshadowed the rise of the Communist Party.

Outside of Beijing, the report said that 20,000 or more marched in Shanghai, 8,000 to 10,000 showed up in Changchun, and numerous demonstrated in other cities.

But more importantly, Nicholas Kristof observed in Beijing that workers were joining en mass. In fact, he claimed that workers had outnumbered students on this day:
While the nucleus of the crowd was still students, they were easily outnumbered by the young workers who came to express dissatisfaction with the inflation, corruption and other frustrations that most bother them. Inflation is running at a rate of about 27 percent a year.
''I hope student demonstrations will make the Government do something about inflation,'' said Yuan Jun, an iron worker who came from out of town to join in the demonstration. ''But even if the students don't bring up the inflation problem, I'll still support them. They demand press freedom, which is something we need, too. Now we have no freedom at all.''
Worker participation in the recent unrest has been one of the Government's greatest fears, but today the workers still seemed to be coalescing around the students rather than forming their own organizations. This is likely to give the Government some reprieve, particularly as most of the students seem to be planning to end their class boycott and focus their attention once more on their books.
In an accompanying report, Sheryl WuDunn interviewed several of these workers, who were much more concerned with inflation and corruption than democracy.

Among the non-students who had joined in, a group of journalists' action was captured in the NYT:
Several hundred journalists for official publications gathered today in front of the official New China News Agency to protest false and biased reporting and to call for the reinstatement of Qin Benli, the editor of a Shanghai newspaper and one of the boldest journalists in the country. Mr. Qin was dismissed last week after insisting on publishing comments that supported student demonstrators.
Students were delighted to receive support from the journalists, and as they marched by they shouted, ''Long live journalists with a conscience!''
The journalists shouted back: ''We support you! Long live the students!''
The leader of these journalists had contacted Shen Tong's media center at Beida beforehand, whose volunteers helped making flags and banners for them.

Meanwhile, the student movement itself appeared to be near its end. NYT failed to mention the harshly made decision to end the class boycott. The decision was announced in Tiananmen Square by the President of Beijing Students Autonomous Federation, who would soon pay the price of being expelled from BSAF for doing so. But the resuming class call was cheered and applauded by the crowd, who had grown wary of the weeks of continuous protests:

Wuer Kaixi, a student leader, told the crowd that the students reserved the right to hold further demonstrations, but for now there was no clear issue that seemed likely to send large numbers of them into the streets.
By Monday, May 8, students in all colleges had resumed class except for Beida and Beijing Normal University, which decided to continue their boycotts to keep the pressure on for a meaningful dialog with the government.

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