Tuesday, May 27, 2008

NYT Archive 1989: Threat of a Crackdown

As the standoff at Tiananmen continued, New York Times reported on May 27, 1989, that signs of a coming crackdown was intensifying. There were rumors of arrests of prominent dissidents including professors Fang Lizhi and Li Shuxian, a rumor that was dispelled by their son Fang Ke. The official media, meanwhile, turned against Zhao Ziyang en force:
With Prime Minister Li Peng apparently winning China's power struggle, documents criticizing his rival, Zhao Ziyang, have been circulated among senior officials, evidently in preparation for a formal decision to dismiss Mr. Zhao as Communist Party leader.
The criticisms were unusually harsh, and many Chinese said they feared that they heralded a campaign of repression against those like Mr. Zhao who favor more rapid political and economic liberalization and more conciliation with pro-democracy demonstrators.
A speech to the Politburo by former President Li Xiannian particularly worried some party officials because it borrowed from the long unused vocabulary of the Cultural Revolution by calling this a ''struggle between two headquarters.''
On the other side, the occupation of Tiananmen Square continued to wane:
By day, about 20,000 student demonstrators continue to occupy Tiananmen Square, in the heart of Beijing, but the numbers are diminishing and many of the students are from other parts of the country. Somewhat fewer spend the night at the square.
The declining numbers seem to reflect mostly weariness after almost six weeks of nearly continuous protest, and disgust at the increasing filth on the square, rather than intimidation by the Government polemics.

The chaotic situation had many people think back of the turmoil of Cultural Revolution, not the least in how the government was behaving. An escalation of protests in Shanghai was also reported.

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