Sunday, May 4, 2008

NYT Archive 1989: Students' Ultimatum Rejected

Without much suspense, Beijing Students Autonomous Federation's ultimatum for dialog was rejected by the government, as reported by New York Times on May 4, 1989. But nonetheless the very fact that the government did respond was probably a hallow victory for the students.

The rejection came at a press conference by the Spokesman Yuan Mu, who was quickly making a name for himself in this movement. Yuan Mu also advanced on the conspiracy theory for the government side:
In an unusually harsh attack against the nation's best-known dissident, Mr. Yuan also suggested that Fang Lizhi, the astrophysicist, had played a role in the current unrest. When pressed, however, Mr. Yuan refused to give details on Mr. Fang's involvement.
Mr. Yuan accused a ''handful of people of manipulating the student unrest from behind the scenes,'' and he seemed to be saying that Mr. Fang was one of them. Mr. Yuan also asserted that the New York-based Chinese Alliance for Democracy, which publishes a magazine in support of greater democracy in China, was behind the student unrest. Fang Denies Any Role Mr. Yuan also criticized recently reported remarks by Mr. Fang that suggested foreign countries might exert pressure on China to improve its human-rights situation by withholding investments.
''His remarks and future facts will show what a role he is playing in the current unrest,'' Mr. Yuan said.
In a telephone interview Wednesday night, Mr. Fang denied any role in the student unrest. ''They should show some evidence that I am behind the scenes,'' he said.

In the same report, for the first time, NYT gained insights within the operation of the student organizations and "discovered" Wuer Kaixi:

At an outdoor news conference of their own, students declared their intention to march today, after a vote by 47 student delegates representing universities throughout the capital. The vote was not unanimous, but the delegates said 40 universities would take part. Student representatives who had traveled from Shanghai, Hefei, Sichuan and Tianjin also said they supported the demonstration.
Surrounded by a thick circle of students and journalists, Wuer Kaixi, the president of the independent student union, denied that the association was influenced by Mr. Fang or the Chinese Alliance for Democracy.
He also criticized the recent informal talks that had taken place between the Government and the students.
''I think that Mr. Yuan Mu and some of those he represents lack the sincerity with which to carry out a dialogue with us,'' said Mr. Wuer, who is from Xinjiang Province.
Perhaps due to a tight deadline, the march itself only got a brief mention in this edition of NYT:
Waving banners commemorating a similar demonstration 70 years earlier, thousands of university students marched through the capital this morning to press their demands for greater democracy.
The march followed the Government's rejection Wednesday of the students' conditions for formal talks to resolve their differences. Today, demonstrators shouted slogans criticizing the Government's recent meeting with student leaders as a sham, and demanded that students themselves pick their representatives to meet with the authorities.
By the middle of the day, thousands of students had swept past police lines and into Tiananmen Square, the center of the capital, and policemen who had ringed it were unable to hold back the columns of marchers from at least eight universities and thousands of onlookers who also rushed to the square. Other student groups, including several from out-of-town schools, had yet to arrive at the square.
Aside from some pushing, there was no serious confrontation with the police. The authorities seemed to want to avoid any violence, perhaps partly because it was the 70th anniversary of the nationalist demonstrations in Beijing that sparked the May Fourth movement, which had a major influence in China's political, economic and cultural modernization, and foreshadowed the rise of the Communist Party.

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