Friday, June 13, 2008

NYT Archive 1989: Fang Lizhi's Status

As the Chinese and American governments continued to haggle on Fang Lizhi, New York Times on June 13, 1989, reported how Fang Lizhi got into the American embassy:
Western diplomats said the controversy over the couple began on June 4, hours after the military crackdown in Beijing. A friend of the couple telephoned the embassy, saying that Mr. Fang and Miss Li felt that their lives were in danger and that the couple wanted to take refuge in the American diplomatic compound.
Initially, an American diplomat told the couple to go to a Beijing hotel while the embassy contacted the State Department for instructions. The embassy hesitated because it is against standing rules for an American embassy to grant refuge to a foreign national on the national's own territory.
On June 5, the matter was brought to Secretary Baker at the regular morning staff meeting, during which the major topic at hand was the violence in Beijing. The diplomats said Secretary Baker's position was that the United States should ''not deny refuge or sanctuary'' if the couple was ''in personal danger.''
Since the embassy had concluded that the couple were indeed in such danger, they were granted sanctuary within the American compound, the diplomats said. The couple had no trouble entering the embassy, and no Chinese authorities were in ''hot pursuit'' when they arrived, the diplomats said.
At no time did the couple ask for political asylum, in the sense of seeking to flee to the United States and acquire American citizenship, Administration officials said. Rather, Mr. Fang asked for physical protection, and it was on that basis that he was allowed into the embassy under the diplomatic principle of ''temporary refuge.''
Administration officials said Mr. Fang was very sensitive about the question of asylum and has reiterated to his embassy hosts that he considers himself a Chinese patriot who wants, if at all possible, to remain in his country.
Meanwhile, several Zhao Ziyang's allies made public appearances, saving their jobs:
The television showed a series of senior officials making public appearances to praise the crackdown and visit wounded soldiers. Among those shown was Qiao Shi, a member of the standing committee of the Politburo who is mentioned as candidate to be the next party leader.
The most surprising appearance was by Tian Jiyun, a Politburo member who is closely associated with the Communist Party General Secretary, Zhao Ziyang. Mr. Zhao has been stripped of his powers, and perhaps of his formal position, and at least one associate on the Politburo, Hu Qili, has also disappeared and has presumably been purged. A picture of Mr. Tian had previously been published in a newspaper, indicating that his career might be saved, but his television appearance was the clearest sign so far that members of Mr. Zhao's faction will not automatically lose their posts.
In his televised remarks, Mr. Tian did not mention the ''counterrevolutionary rebellion,'' but simply visited wounded soldiers and thanked them for doing their duty while carrying out martial law.
Two other senior Communist Party officials who have been associated with the moderate point of view also made brief appearances on television. They were Yan Mingfu, an official in the party headquarters who argued for conciliation with the students, and Wen Jiabao, director of the General Office of the Central Committee. Both were shown visiting wounded soldiers, and neither said anything in front of the cameras.
Yan Mingfu, who had played a pivotal role in trying to have a real dialogue with student leaders, did not actually save his job. He held a couple of unremarkable posts and generally faded out of national politics.

Wen Jiabao, however, fared much better. He is currently the Premier of the country.

Meanwhile, NYT realized that the eyewitness account it had published a day earlier was not entirely factual.

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