Thursday, April 30, 2009

This Day in 1989: April 30

On the last day of April, 1989, General Secretary Zhao Ziyang returned to Beijing from a state visit to North Korea. He had been away for a week.

The charged atmosphere of the new student movement calmed somewhat. Beijing Students Autonomous Federation busied itself in its own organizational matters. With Wuer Kaixi's absence, they elected Feng Congde to be the new president.

A decision was also made to form a new Dialogue Delegation to seek and prepare for a formal dialogue with the government. During the staged dialogue the day before, Yuan Mu had adamantly asserted that Beijing Students Autonomous Federation was an illegal organization and would never become part of the dialogue. Students hoped that a separate and somewhat moderate Dialogue Delegation could become more acceptable to the government.

Meanwhile, officials from the city government, such as the Mayor Chen Xitong, continued to hold dialogue sessions with hand-picked students, side-stepping the independent organizations such as Beijing Students Autonomous Federation. Big Posters on campuses denounced them as unacceptable to students.


Days of 1989


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

This Day in 1989: April 29, First Dialog between Leaders and Students

One of the biggest demands by students in their demonstration was to have an equal dialogue with the government. Indeed, dialogue with the masses was a pronounced policy by the government advocated by General Secretary Zhao Ziyang during a Party Congress a year and half earlier. on April 27, as the biggest demonstration was going on, students had heard the announcement that government welcomed opportunities to dialogue with them.

On April 29, 1989, a dialogue did take place, hosted by the State Council Spokesman Yuan Mu. However, it felt more of a press conference than a dialogue as Yuan Mu controlled the scene by dishing out partly-line answers. Students were not allowed to follow up. Most of the attendees were hand-selected delegates from official student union leaders anyway, they were not ready to provide much of a real challenge. Wuer Kaixi had received an invitation but refused to enter when his request as a representative of the Beijing Students Autonomous Federation was denied. A couple of emerging leaders of the independent movement did attend.

But the one who got the most attention was a graduate student by the name of Xiang Xiaoji from University of Political Science and Law. Xiang Xiaoji raised sharp questions and protested the format of the dialogue. With a live broadcast, his performance impressed many students.

Also on this day, a lonely student leader from Nanking University showed up at Peking University. Li Lu had arrived at Beijing a couple of days ago and was working his way into the leadership circle. With much difficulty, he finally hooked up with Chai Ling, then in charge of the secretarial work of the Preparatory Committee at Peking University. The two became trusted friends immediately.


Days of 1989


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

People of 1989: Zhou Yongjun (周勇军)


In the very early days of the 1989 student movement, the tiny and conservative University of Political Science and Law became the first school to march into Tiananmen Square and lay a wreath for Hu Yaobang. Zhou Yongjun, an undergraduate student from the school, participated in the march. He soon became a visible leader in the emerging movement. At the end of Hu Yaobang's funeral, he was one of the three students who staged an emotional kneeling petition on the stairs of the Great Hall of People.

When Liu Gang called a clandestine meeting to form the Beijing Students Autonomous Federation, the school sent the largest group of students in attendance. Largely based on that strength, Zhou Yongjun narrowly beat out Wuer Kaixi to become the first president for this new organization.

Zhou Yongjun's reign did not last long. He was immediately thrown under the unbelievable pressure on whether to persist on with the demonstration on April 27, when he finally succumbed and canceled the event in the wee hours of April 27. It did not matter. The most glorious demonstration happened anyway. Zhou Yongjun was left behind and lost his position as the president of Beijing Autonomous Federation.

He continued to work for the organization and helped organize another big demonstration on May 4. However, he made another mistake that day when he announced the end of class strike without a clear resolution within the leadership. In that aftermath, he was expelled from the organization altogether. But he stayed involved in the movement and participated in the student hunger strike.

In the latter stages of the movement, Zhou Yongjun drifted away from students and helped to establish the Workers Autonomous Federation in which he played a significant role in its propaganda work and media operation. During the night of the massacre, he was at Tiananmen Square and helped organize what resistance they could manage.

Zhou Yongjun was arrested in mid-June and stayed in jail for almost two years. After his release, he escaped the country and made his way to exile in Hong Kong and then the US. In 1998, he went back to China apparently for underground activities and was jailed for another three years.

In 2002, Zhou Yongjun managed to return to US. He then became deeply involved in a cult-ish sect practicing Qigong (中功), perhaps attempting to forge an unusual alliance.

There had been persistent rumors that he had disappeared during a personal trip to Hong Kong in late 2008. Most recently, the China Support Network reported that they had confirmed Zhou Yongjun's arrest for "financial fraud" by the Chinese government. The details of his current situation is however still lacking.

Update: on May 13, 2009, Reuters confirmed Zhou Yongjun's arrest in China.

Update: on January19, 2010, Zhou Yongjun was sentenced to nine years in prison.

Update: in January, 2011, Hong Kong Journal described Zhou Yongjun's legal case in detail.

Update: on December 6, 2015, Zhou Yongjun was released from prison early. He returned to his hometown in Sichuan.

This Day in 1989: April 28, First Major Change in BSAF Leadership

April 28, 1989, was a quiet day after the dramatic demonstration the day before. Most students slept in and rested. It was not until the afternoon when campuses came back alive with more Big Posters recounting the excitement. In the official media, a couple of small newspapers broke ranks and reported the demonstration.

In the late afternoon, delegates of the Beijing Students Autonomous Federation convened for a general meeting. They deposed Zhou Yongjun, who as the president had canceled the demonstration in the last minute, and elected the charismatic Wuer Kaixi as the new president. There were other personnel changes in its standing committee as well. Ma Shaofang resigned. Several more were elected into the committee, including Wang Chaohua, a thirty-seven year old female graduate student from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. She would eventually play a critical role in the leadership of this organization.

That night, Wang Dan and Wuer Kaixi held a surprise private press conference of their own at the Shangri-la Hotel in downtown, attended mostly by foreign reporters. They declared that their lives were in danger and would go underground.

At Peking University, the graduate students held a formal meeting and disbanded the official Graduate Student Union following legal procedures. It was one of the rare occasions during the movement that an action such as this was taken in orderly fashion. Feng Congde briefed Beijing Students Autonomous Federation on the development and encouraged other schools to follow suit. Privately, he was upset with Wang Dan and Wuer Kaixi for their behavior in seeking personal publicity.


Days of 1989


Monday, April 27, 2009

Pictures of 1989: April 27 Demonstration


This Day in 1989: April 27, the Day of Glorious Protest March

April 27, 1989 is arguably the most glorious day of the 1989 student movement. On this day, hundreds of thousands of college students in Beijing walked out of their campuses, despite that the demonstration was canceled at the last minute under the pressure and in the face of the new People's Daily editorial which accused their movement as a deadly turmoil.

Throughout of years, many people had expressed that this was the date that they remembered most when looking back of the days twenty years ago.

The event of that day is detailed in my book excerpt.

Also on the heels of this demonstration, Liu Xiaobo returned to Beijing from his academic stay in New York. He had heard the editorial while changing planes at Tokyo but decided to carry forward with his plan. Li Lu was on his way to Beijing from his school at Nanjing. Both of them would play significant roles in the latter stage of the movement.

At Shanghai, the outspoken newspaper World Economics Herald was finally shutdown on this day. At Beijing, while the demonstration was still in progress, news broadcast indicated that the government was ready to hold dialogues with students.


Days of 1989

Book Excerpt: April 27 Demonstration

The following is an excerpt from my book Standoff at Tiananmen, chapter 6, on the perhaps most glorious day of the entire 1989 student movement:

The next morning, an anxious Ma Shaofang went over to People's University to observe how the march was coming together. Before he even reached that campus, he heard loudspeakers announcing that the planned demonstration had been canceled by Beijing Students Autonomous Federation. At the front gate, a few hundred students were still gathering together with flags and banners. They were as confused as he was.

People's University was located a few blocks south of Peking and Tsinghua universities, on the way downtown. The plan was for students at People's University to wait for and join in the contingent when they came down the street. Now they were not sure if anyone would ever come. Many impatient students got on the roofs to watch northward. They only saw empty streets.

It was about midnight the night before, just after Ma Shaofang and Wang Dan reached their decision to keep on with the march, that Zhou Yongjun finally cracked under intense pressure of a day-long isolated persuasion. At the end, he simply had no answer to the question, repeatedly asked by his handlers, "would you be willing to be personally responsible for the safety of thousands of students?" At about the same time, Wuer Kaixi also capitulated under a similar circumstance. A hand-written message was rushed from Beijing Normal University to the University of Political Science and Law. On it, Wuer Kaixi suggested that Zhou Yongjun cancel the march.

Zhou Yongjun was still grabbing for his last straw. He insisted that he had no authority to overturn a decision made by Beijing Students Autonomous Federation. His handlers were not interested in technicalities. "Just write a message," they demanded. Zhou Yongjun relented. He wrote up a simple sentence canceling the march, signed his own name, and stamped with the official seal of the organization which had been hastily made during that same day. What he did not know was that his action immediately set off an operation of military efficiency. Phone calls were made to the city government which in turn notified all colleges to be on standby and assist a certain vehicle with an urgent message. Therefore, student leaders in all campuses were able to receive Zhou Yongjun's decree before daybreak. Wuer Kaixi was even chauffeured to Peking University to tell leaders there that everything would be fine as long as they remained inside the campus.

The big iron gate at the southern entrance of Peking University was once again shut down. Guards were diligently checking everyone's identification card before allowing them to pass through a side door. Loudspeakers mounted on surrounding buildings were repeating stern warnings for marching out of the campus.

At The Triangle, Shen Tong's own loudspeakers countered with a repeated reading of their Seven-Point Petition. Slowly, a few hundred students lined up in formation to march toward the gate. Wang Dan and Shen Tong were at the front, each with a megaphone on hand. A giant red flag followed right behind them, on which were four big, black characters: Peking University. Two white banners flanked the red flag on each side. They read "Support the Correct Leadership of the Chinese Communist Party" and "Support the Socialism," respectively.

They walked slowly toward the south gate, hoping to pick up more students along the way. But it was still a small contingent of a couple thousand when they slowly exited the campus through the side door. It was a quarter to nine in the morning. The tentative march halted as soon as it was out of the gate. Wang Dan and Shen Tong found their route blocked by a human barrier. But it was not the police or soldiers as they had expected. It was a thick line of reporters aiming their cameras right in their faces. They also heard loud applause and cheers erupting behind the reporters. People were getting on their bicycles and fanning out. They shouted excitedly that "Peking University has come out!" "Peking University has come out!"

Only Wang Dan, Shen Tong, and a handful of their Preparatory Committee members knew that this march of theirs was supposed to be only a symbolic one.

Peking University's Preparatory Committee had adopted a relatively independent stance in regard to Beijing Students Autonomous Federation. From the very beginning, they had doubts about that organization's legitimacy. During an earlier meeting of their own, Wang Dan and Feng Congde voted for the demonstration. But the other three standing committee members including Shen Tong voted against it. On his own initiative, Shen Tong had reached an initial agreement with the school authority. If students did not march out of the campus, they could start a formal dialogue with the school president. Shen Tong saw it as a prelude for bigger things and thought it a worthwhile bargain. Based on the vote, a decision not to participate in the march was adopted.

Feng Congde, on the other hand, was very concerned about this decision. He sensed that students, fueled by the People's Daily editorial, would probably march out one way or another. If the leaders chose to stand in the way, they would simply lose whatever credibility they possessed. So he engineered a general meeting of department representatives and overturned the standing committee's decision by a majority vote. That was how Wang Dan was able to readily agree with Ma Shaofang to persist with the march.

Zhou Yongjun's cancellation message and Wuer Kaixi's personal visit before dawn had much less of an impact at Peking University than on other campuses. If anything, the leaders here saw an opportunity to demonstrate their own independence from Beijing Students Autonomous Federation. But now they were keenly aware that, if they did indeed march, they could be alone in the city, which was not a promising prospect. Shen Tong once again pushed for a more conservative approach. After much discussion, they reached a compromise for a symbolic march of only a few miles. As soon as they reached the Third Ring Road, just before entering the city, they would turn back. As long as they had marched outside of the campus, they figured, they would already have fulfilled the purpose of challenging the People's Daily editorial.

Even with that decision made, Shen Tong was nevertheless worried that Wang Dan and Feng Congde could get carried away during the march. They made Wang Dan promise that he would not deviate from this plan no matter what happened and asked Feng Congde to remain on campus for logistical support, effectively taking him out of the scene. Feng Congde, ever the team player, agreed without a second thought.

Soon after exiting their campus, the Peking University march found a similarly sized troop from Tsinghua University catching up on them. Joining together, they headed south toward People's University. It was right then that they spotted the very first police line. There were only a few hundred unarmed policemen blocking the way with their arms linked tightly together. As planned, the students stopped and sat down on the road. The student leaders at the forefront engaged the police in a heated but civil negotiation for ten minutes. Neither side was yielding.

This time it was the spectators who lost their patience first. Surrounding the student formation, these young city residents also outnumbered the meager police line. Taking matters into their own hands, they rushed forward and inserted themselves between the students and police. With a thunderous chant, "Get Away! Get Away," they surged forward. The police line was no match for such forces and gave way easily.

Students marched on. Their numbers started to swell. More and more students were rushing out of both Peking and Tsinghua universities to catch up with the march. Student marshals linked up their arms on the side in haste, both to keep their troop in formation and to prevent the excited residents from mixing into their rank. Although they had joined into the protest by clearing the way for the march, residents were still not accepted by the students. The "purity" of the movement was too important to give up.

Students at People's University had received the news from messengers on bicycles minutes after Peking University students exited their campus. The exciting news spread across the campus and a march formation was quickly formed at their front gate. As students on the roof spotted the approaching flags, they decided not to wait. Instead, they marched out and headed south on their own, ahead of the thousands from Peking and Tsinghua universities. No longer at the forefront of the march, Shen Tong found himself the only person still thinking about turning around. He knew that their compromise had been hopelessly lost. He marched on, alongside of Wang Dan, toward downtown. Far ahead of them, the red flags of People's University were leading the way.

When the news of Peking University coming out of its campus reached the University of Political Science and Law, students there were having a standoff of their own. They were not facing police either. A row of old professors led by the school president lined across the gate and begged for students not to proceed with their march. With tears running down his face, the school president repeated hopelessly, "If you go out today, there will be bloodshed. I will be personally culpable to you, to our school, and to your parents."

His plea was falling on deaf ears. Almost in his face was a huge banner held up high by a few students. It declared, "Defend the Honor of the Constitution to Death!" The character "death" was overlaid with red ink as if blood was dripping from it. With their adrenaline boiling, it was easy for the students to brush aside the sincere advice from their president and professors.

As they marched out, a gigantic wooden board, carried by a dozen people, elegantly glided in the middle of the formation. On it, printed in neat calligraphy, were some of the most significant articles from the Constitution of the People's Republic of China pertaining to the rights of citizens to free expression and assembly. The board was the handy work of Chen Xiaoping and Wu Renhua with monetary support from Chen Ziming. Chen Ziming and Wang Juntao had also spent the previous day on campus. They reviewed slogans and plans for the march behind the scenes.

Pu Zhiqiang, who at six feet and three inches was taller than most, was waving the school flag at the forefront of the formation. He noticed that students in the nearby College of Posts and Telecommunications were still confined within its campus. He led the march in a detour over to that campus and drew in more students with the momentum of his troops. Soon, they found the contingent from the College of Aviation merging into their formation. They headed toward Beijing Normal University.

At Beijing College of Chinese Medicine, students were particularly angry that their school had just been singled out by People's Daily, which praised them as the only college in the city not boycotting classes. With their campus gates locked, students scaled the walls to join the march.

Over thirty colleges of various sizes covered in a wide area of the northwestern suburb of Beijing. In many smaller colleges, students were more confused than ever. Their only news came from runners on bicycles who were crisscrossing the area with different and often conflicting reports of what was happening. Without strong organizations, these students chose to sit along streets and wait. They were more than ready to join in as soon as any marching troops arrived nearby. This same scene repeated again and again in many intersections, like numerous streams merging into a roaring river. A flash flood was fast developing.

At Xizhimen intersection, or Gate of Straight West, on the northwest corner of the Second Ring Road, two main rivers of students merged. Students led by Peking, Tshinghua, and People's universities from the west met up with those led by the University of Political Science and Law and Beijing Normal University from the east. Expressions of joy appeared on students' faces for the first time as they spotted friends all around. As they proceeded along the perimeter of the city, they had become much better organized. Banners and flags indicated each school in succession. The main troop marched in the middle of the street in a formation of about a dozen people across. Each block of the formation was led by a couple of students with whistles and megaphones. They repeatedly led their block in shouting slogans in unison. On each side was a picket line, linking hand in hand, to make sure nobody could get into the formation. As the procession advanced in a random pattern of stop and go, the students on the picket lines had to alternate in standing still and running like crazy to keep their lines from breaking up. When it did, however, students in the march immediately stepped in to fill the gap.

There were also occasional non-students in the march. At the front of the Tsinghua University block, several old professors marched with a particular display of dignity. Their silver hair danced in the sunshine as they proudly held up a sign: "[We have been] kneeling for too long, [now we] stand up and walk a little." The sign was referring both to the students' kneeling petition and the sufferings these professors had endured under the decades of communist rule.

There were many police barriers along the way. At each major intersection, police forces, still unarmed, stubbornly stood across the street. They linked their arms together in extremely tight formation, sometimes as deep as a dozen rows. To spectators, this looked familiar. In many movies and television broadcasts of the people's army rushing to help in flood disasters, they had seen soldiers jumping into surging water and linking their arms in the same way to block the torrent with their bodies so that breached dams could be repaired behind them. On this day, however, they were facing a flood of a different kind.

As students marched on, they were able to talk police lines into relenting on some occasions. At other places, they sat down and rested. City residents, who had been following along the students, swirled in. From all sides, they pushed and shoved police lines into oblivion. The police did not put up a serious fight either. As their lines were broken up, many smiled with a sense of relief. Some saluted the students as they streamed by. Others flashed V-for-victory signs discreetly. Just like that, the march pushed through six major blockades to reach the main boulevard ringing the city, the Second Ring Road. It had been a glorious, non-violent day for everybody.

The Chinese phrase "You Xing" was used for either a protest march or a celebration parade depending on its context. For generations who grew up in communist China, this was a very familiar activity. In the heyday of the Cultural Revolution, large-scale "You Xing" became a frequent affair, held all over the country whenever the central government felt the need to celebrate the publication of a new quotation from Mao Zedong or to protest against "bad elements" both international and domestic. As such, a "You Xing" could be organized and staged within the matter of minutes, typically with flags, banners, slogans, drums, firecrackers, cymbals, and gongs. For kids, "Let's go You Xing" was one of the most exciting rallying cries.

As the students turned the corner at the northwest of the city onto the Second Ring Road, their "You Xing" transformed from a protest march into a celebration parade completely. On the night before, with rumors of a military crackdown stirring, hundreds of them had written up their wills in anticipation of bloodshed. When they marched out of their campuses, ignoring teary pleas from their professors and even parents, they were solemn, apprehensive, but determined. All that anxiety, however, evaporated as soon as they saw what was ahead of them.

Residents of Beijing had come out in millions. They lined sidewalks and crowded onto overpasses. They were out there with their own banners, shouting their own slogans, laughing and cheering as if they were welcoming a liberating army. As students passed under the overpasses, loaves of bread, bottles of water, and packets of popsicles rained down on them. At one intersection, the text of a giant billboard advertising traffic safety was altered to wish the students "get back home safely." By now, the student procession had stretched over six miles in length. It was a steady current that seemed to have no end.

Residents were also rewarded by the presence of a myriad of new banners in the march which addressed issues closer to home: inflation, graft, corruption, bureaucracy, etc. Students were no longer just making abstract and empty cries for freedom and democracy. They were, as it seemed to residents, voicing the concerns of common people.

It was at Chang'an Avenue when the advancing students caught sight of regular army troops. Military trucks could be seen along the wide boulevard, carrying soldiers toward Tiananmen Square. Some of the soldiers were carrying automatic assault rifles. On the street itself, unarmed soldiers were forming ever bigger human barriers just as the policemen had tried before. Students were no longer afraid. They had come to realize that, on this day, nothing could stop them. They were also aware that the possibility of a violent confrontation had already diminished.

The march slowed down and finally came to a halt in front of a wall of soldiers. The number of soldiers here was so overwhelming that the students were not sure if they could push through this time. Yet they saw the faces in front of them and knew the young soldiers were much more anxious and afraid than they were. Happily and mischievously, students sang familiar army songs and shouted "The People Love the Army! The Army Loves the People!"

Around them, spectators were in action again. They slammed their fists onto traffic signs, fences, and anything that could make noise and launched into a rhythmic chant: "Go Away! Go Away!" It was deafening. As the masses converged into the soldiers from all directions, the human barrier melted away.

Far ahead of the march, however, Tiananmen Square resembled a war zone. Thousands of soldiers had assembled there and appeared ready to defend this historic landmark from an invasion. Wreaths and flowers at the Monument to People's Heroes had been cleared after the funeral. There were no tourists or even residents. The air was tense as the students approached from the west. Soldiers and policemen flooded toward the north edge where they would make a last stand blocking the march into the Square.

The disciplined student marshals appeared first. They came in advance of the main troop and set up their own picket lines just in front of the wall of soldiers. With their guidance and under the intense stares of curious soldiers, the main troop of students marched on along Chang'an Avenue to the east. They marched past Tiananmen and bypassed the Square altogether, leaving the soldiers in a state of complete amazement and relief.

Just five short years earlier, during that National Day celebration in 1984, college students had paraded under Tiananmen waving the endearing "Hello Xiaoping" banner. As a high school student in Beijing, Shen Tong was dressed as a Taiwanese national and paraded in a dance formation for that celebration. This time around, Shen Tong and his fellow students were marching on their own. As they passed Tiananmen, the Gate of Heavenly Peace, its reviewing stand high above was ghostly empty. There were no leaders up there waving at them in larger-than-life poses.

It was already getting dark when they reached the Jianguomen intersection east of Tiananmen, Wang Dan ran up the overpass himself to get a full view of his troops. In the twilight, it was a scene that would be burnt into his memory for the rest of his life. From Jianguomen, the Gate of Founding the Nation, the entire Chang'an Avenue extended into the far horizon. For as far as he could see, the boulevard was filled with people. It was a sea of flags and banners. It was as joyous and glorious as anything his young mind could have ever imagined.

Jianguomen was the eastern end of Chang'an Avenue near the Beijing Railway Station. For the numerous "You Xing" organized by the government, this was the assembling spot. Millions and millions of people had gathered here and either marched or paraded, in strict formations and with fancy floats, down Chang'an Avenue toward Tiananmen Square and beyond. Today, the new generation of students were marching in the opposite direction, literally, with nothing but their sincerity and enthusiasm.

And what a force this was. It took the entire student procession an hour and forty-five minutes to pass through Tiananmen Square. An estimated two hundred thousand marched with more than a million citizens cheering and supporting them.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Chai Ling Sues "Gate of Heavenly Peace" Producer

This does not appear to be a most recent development but was made public only this month. Chai Ling, the former leader of the 1989 student movement, and her husband are suing the producers of the documentary Gate of Heavenly Peace for deformation and trademark infringement. China Beat carried a lengthy interview with Geremie R. Barme on the details of the case.

On the web site for the documentary itself, there are new pages spelling out an appeal on the ground of freedom of speech on this issue. The appeal takes the form of an open letter and is cosigned by the producers as well as more than a hundred supporting signatories, most of them are faculty members specializing in China affairs. The author is calling for more signatures of support.

Mr. Barme believes the lawsuit, which started a couple of years ago, is an attempt to silence the documentary and its web site, which contains material which could be viewed as negative to Chai Ling's reputation. He indicates that the deformation suit has already been thrown out of the court but the trademark infringement suit was allowed to continue. Under the pressure of mounting legal fees, the non-profit organization behind the documentary and the web site might be forced to close.

The documentary Gate of Heavenly Peace has caused great controversy since its release in 1995. Most of the dispute centered on its highlighted use of Chai Ling's videotaped "Last Word" speech in which she indicated that she was "hoping for bloodshed" ("期待流血") while she was planning to survive herself. There have been different accounts on the circumstances of the taping as the recorder Phillip Cunningham and Chai Ling's ex-husband and fellow student leader Feng Congde each provided conflicting background information.

Chai Ling's videotape has also been extensively described in my own book, Standoff at Tiananmen.

This Day in 1989: April 26

In the morning of April 26, 1989, the newly formed Beijing Students Autonomous Federation held its first public press conference at University of Political Science and Law. In front of some fifty most foreign reporters, they announced that a mass demonstration would be held next morning to protest the People's Daily editorial. Announcements with assembly instructions appeared in numerous campuses.

In the afternoon, thousands of bureaucrats within the government apparatus and college leadership gathered in the Great Hall of People for an emergency meeting on the developing situation. They were instructed to do everything they could in persuading and preventing students from going out of campus the next day. The tension was building.

That evening, Zhou Yongjun, the first president of Beijing Students Autonomous Federation was holed up in a room by a few handlers from the school. They pressured him to cancel the demonstration. Zhou Yongjun resisted the best he could, but finally cracked in the early morning hours of April 27. He could not be held responsible for the safety of the thousands of students. His handlers obtained a signed decree of cancellation and immediately dispatched vehicles to deliver it to other campuses.

At Beijing Normal University, Wuer Kaixi experienced the same pressure and came to the same conclusion almost at the same time. His handlers sent him to Peking University in person to advice the students there of the cancellation.

In the meantime, student leader Ma Shaofang had heard of rumors of a military crackdown. He
was shuffling through campuses in an attempt to gather enough Federation delegates for an emergency meeting to make a formal go-no-go decision. He failed in that mission. Near midnight, at Peking University, he and Wang Dan agreed to let the demonstration go ahead as scheduled.


Days of 1989

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Document of 1989: People's Daily Editorial

In the evening of April 25, 1989, a People's Daily editorial was widely broadcast in all official media in China. The editorial was then published in the morning edition of April 26 and became known as the April 26 People's Daily editorial.
It was only the very early days of the student movement when students were trying hard to maintain their stance as "pure", democratic, and patriotic. Yet the editorial had already characterized the movement as turmoil, a planned conspiracy, and other familiar terms aimed at enemies of the state.

The content of the editorial was based on an unpublished speech by Deng Xiaoping himself. While away in North Korea on a state visit, General Secretary Zhao Ziyang approved its publication by telegram.

The harsh wording of the editorial had an immediate and devastating effect on students, who, after much dramatic struggle, responded with the biggest demonstration on April 27. In the following weeks, recalling the editorial became a focal point in students' demands. There were credible hints from Zhao Ziyang and his camp within the leadership, and arguably from Deng Xiaoping himself, that they were willing to yield from the tough stance of the editorial. But none of them could make that decision formal and official. The deadlock on the editorial eventually triggered a hunger strike by students, martial law by the government, and drove the standoff into a tragic massacre.

The following English translation of the editorial was from the official Foreign Broadcast Information Service and taken from the Gate of Heavenly Peace website:

IT IS NECESSARY TO TAKE A CLEAR-CUT STAND AGAINST DISTURBANCES

In their activities to mourn the death of Comrade Hu Yaobang, communists, workers, peasants, intellectuals, cadres, members of the People's Liberation Army and young students have expressed their grief in various ways. They have also expressed their determination to turn grief into strength to make contributions in realizing the four modernizations and invigorating the Chinese nation.

Some abnormal phenomena have also occurred during the mourning activities. Taking advantage of the situation, an extremely small number of people spread rumors, attacked party and state leaders by name, and instigated the masses to break into the Xinhua Gate at Zhongnanhai, where the party Central Committee and the State Council are located. Some people even shouted such reactionary slogans as, Down with the Communist Party. In Xi'an and Changsha, there have been serious incidents in which some lawbreakers carried out beating, smashing, looting, and burning.

Taking into consideration the feelings of grief suffered by the masses, the party and government have adopted an attitude of tolerance and restraint toward some improper words uttered and actions carried out by the young students when they were emotionally agitated. On April 22, before the memorial meeting was held, some students had already showed up at Tiananmen Square, but they were not asked to leave, as they normally would have been. Instead, they were asked to observe discipline and join in the mourning for Comrade Hu Yaobang. The students on the square were themselves able to consciously maintain order. Owing to the joint efforts by all concerned, it was possible for the memorial meeting to proceed in a solemn and respectful manner.

However, after the memorial meeting, an extremely small number of people with ulterior purposes continued to take advantage of the young students' feelings of grief for Comrade Hu Yaobang to spread all kinds of rumors to poison and confuse people's minds. Using both big- and small-character posters, they vilified, hurled invectives at, and attacked party and state leaders. Blatantly violating the Constitution, they called for opposition to the leadership by the Communist Party and the socialist system. In some of the institutions of higher learning, illegal organizations were formed to seize power from the student unions. In some cases, they even forcibly took over the broadcasting systems on the campuses. In some institutions of higher learning, they instigated the students and teachers to go on strike and even went to the extent of forcibly preventing students from going to classes, usurped the name of the workers' organizations to distribute reactionary handbills, and established ties everywhere in an attempt to create even more serious incidents.

These facts prove that what this extremely small number of people did was not to join in the activities to mourn Comrade Hu Yaobang or to advance the course of socialist democracy in China. Neither were they out to give vent to their grievances. Flaunting the banner of democracy, they undermined democracy and the legal system. Their purpose was to sow dissension among the people, plunge the whole country into chaos and sabotage the political situation of stability and unity. This is a planned conspiracy and a disturbance. Its essence is to, once and for all, negate the leadership of the CPC and the socialist system. This is a serious political struggle confronting the whole party and the people of all nationalities throughout the country.

If we are tolerant of or conniving with this disturbance and let it go unchecked, a seriously chaotic state will appear. Then, the reform and opening up; the improvement of the economic environment and the rectification of the economic order, construction, and development; the control over prices; the improvement of our living standards; the drive to oppose corruption; and the development of democracy and the legal system expected by the people throughout the country, including the young students, will all become empty hopes. Even the tremendous achievements scored in the reform during the past decade may be completely lost, and the great aspiration of the revitalization of China cherished by the whole nation will be hard to realize. A China with very good prospects and a very bright future will become a chaotic and unstable China without any future.

The whole party and the people nationwide should fully understand the seriousness of this struggle, unite to take a clear-cut stand to oppose the disturbance, and firmly preserve the hard-earned situation of political stability and unity, the Constitution, socialist democracy, and the legal system. Under no circumstances should the establishment of any illegal organizations be allowed. It is imperative to firmly stop any acts that use any excuse to infringe upon the rights and interests of legitimate organizations of students. Those who have deliberately fabricated rumors and framed others should be investigated to determine their criminal liabilities according to law. Bans should be placed on unlawful parades and demonstrations and on such acts as going to factories, rural areas, and schools to establish ties. Beating, smashing, looting, and burning should be punished according to law. It is necessary to protect the just rights of students to study in class. The broad masses of students sincerely hope that corruption will be eliminated and democracy will be promoted. These, too, are the demands of the party and the government. These demands can only be realized by strengthening the efforts for improvement and rectification, vigorously pushing forward the reform, and making perfect our socialist democracy and our legal system under the party leadership.

All comrades in the party and the people throughout the country must soberly recognize the fact that our country will have no peaceful days if this disturbance is not checked resolutely. This struggle concerns the success or failure of the reform and opening up, the program of the four modernizations, and the future of our state and nation. Party organizations of the CPC at all levels, the broad masses of members of the Communist Party and the Communist Youth League, all democratic parties and patriotic democratic personages, and the people around the country should make a clear distinction between right and wrong, take positive action, and struggle to firmly and quickly stop the disturbance.

Documents of 1989


This Day in 1989: April 25, Students Decide to Plan a March

Students in Beijing continued their class strike to its second day on April 25, 1989. They spent their free time going on streets in small groups to publicize their petitions and protests. On campus, they were also busy establishing their own independent organizations. Although only a couple of days old, the Preparatory Committee at Peking University was already going through a series of reorganizations amid personnel confusion and infighting.

In the afternoon, a group of leaders from the State Council, the National Education Commission, and the Beijing city government showed up at Tsinghua University for a dialogue with students, auspiciously at the invitation of Tsinghua students. The news caused a big chaos on that campus. Fearing for being singled out to betray the movement, Tsinghua students boycotted the dialogue and its new independent student union practically dissolved with mass resignations.

In Shanghai, a vocal newspaper World Economics Herald published the proceedings of a symposium in which prominent intellectuals voiced their sympathy for Hu Yaobang. The paper was being recalled.

But the main actions continued to center in Beijing. The newly formed Beijing Students Autonomous Federation held its first general meeting at University of Political Science and Law. In a somewhat clandestine atmosphere, hundreds of student delegates debated on the merit of a plan to hold a large-scale demonstration on April 27. It was during a break of this meeting in the evening when students heard the first broadcast of the People's Daily editorial, to be published next day on April 26, which labeled the movement as a "planned conspiracy" and "turmoil."


Days of 1989


Friday, April 24, 2009

This Day in 1989: April 24, At Peking University, the Preparatory Committee Experiences its First Setback

Monday, April 24, 1989, was the first day of the city-wide class strike for almost all colleges in Beijing. While not going to classes, students kept themselves busy in organizing their own solidarity unions.

In that afternoon, the Preparatory Committee at Peking University called for a formal student assembly at an athletic field on campus. Thousands of students attended to dissolve the official student union and vote for their own. The enthusiasm did not last long, however. It soon became clear that there was open rift among the personnel in the leadership committee. They fought for microphone and accused each other as moles. The meeting deteriorated and most student audience walked out in disgust.

At Beijing Normal University, things went a lot smoother. the charismatic Wuer Kaixi was chosen as the president of its own solidarity student union.


Days of 1989


Thursday, April 23, 2009

This Day in 1989: April 23, the Beijing Students Autonomous Federation is Formed

After the dramatic action at the funeral, Sunday, April 23, 1989, was a day of rest for most students. As their kneeling petition was ignored by the government, a consensus decision was made to launch a city-wide class strike in the coming weeks. Also on this day, General Secretary Zhao Ziyang left China for a pre-scheduled state visit to North Korea, leaving the domestic matters to Premier Li Peng.

At Peking University, Shen Tong and his friends rigged up a couple of loudspeakers outside of his dorm window at The Triangle and connected them with microphones and broadcasting equipments. The makeshift setup would grow into the very first makeshift student media center. Taking advantage of the set up, famed intellectual Chen Mingyuan (陈明远) delivered a passionate speech supporting students. The speech was recorded and duplicated with audiotapes and helped to inspire many more students into joining the movement.

Liu Gang spent the entire day to round up emerging student leaders he had privately identified from each campus and ushered them into his residence at Yuanmingyuan. In a small conference room that evening, he opened a clandestine meeting to form a new city-wide student organization. Under his guidance, Wuer Kaixi chaired the meeting. The Beijing Students Autonomous Federation was born.

For a hastily organized meeting, not all schools were properly represented. No established student leaders from Peking University attended. On the other hand, University of Political Science and Law demonstrated their strength with the biggest delegation. In a vote for its first president, that school's Zhou Yongjun narrowed beat Wuer Kaixi. They also decided that the presidency would be a rotating one.

Fearing for their safety, the meeting did not last long. In the coming days and weeks, however, the Beijing Students Autonomous Federation would take on a very public role in leading the movement.


Days of 1989


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Place of 1989: Beijing Normal University

The precursor of Beijing Normal University was established near the turn of last century with a declared purpose of educating future teachers. As an old institute that shared the same ancestor and tradition with the older Peking University, Beijing Normal University had seen her own share of student movement in the troubled history of modern China. Most significantly for this school, three of her students were killed in a peaceful demonstration on March 18, 1926, which was remembered as the "March 18 Massacre."


That historical event was commemorated on campus with an elegant statue, a landmark where more recent students gathered for their own demonstrations.

During the 1980s, Beijing Normal University was a relatively tranquil place and not known for her student activism. Until 1989, that was.

In the very early days of the 1989 student movement, Wuer Kaixi, an undergraduate student from this school, stood up and demonstrated his ample leadership skills. He would become known as the most charismatic leader throughout the movement, even after his own mistakes had led to his banishment from the student leadership. Surrounding him, other students from this small school, such as Cheng Zhen (程真) and Liang Qingdun (梁擎墩), also played important leadership roles in the movement.

Student leader Chai Ling was also a graduate student at Beijing Normal University during the movement time. But she lived and participated in her undergraduate alma mater, Peking University, instead.

At the late stage of the movement, it was a young professor from this school, Liu Xiaobo, who became a focal point. Together with Gao Xin (高新), the editor of the school's newspaper, Liu Xiaobo launched a hunger strike of his own. In the fateful early morning of June 6, 1989, it was the voice of these older intellectuals that helped persuade students into their final withdraw from Tiananmen Square.

Pictures of 1989: Hu Yaobang's Funeral


People's Daily reported the state funeral inside the Great Hall of People.



Tens of thousands of students were at Tiananmen Square, facing the Great Hall of People, as a part of the state funeral.



Near the end of three students' kneeling appeal, other students tried to persuade them to give up.

This Day in 1989: April 22, Students Participate Hu Yaobang Funeral at Tiananmen Square

On April 22, 1989, tens of thousands of students participated in Hu Yaobang's state funeral after staying in Tiananmen Square for the whole night. After the funeral, three students, Zhang Zhiyong, Guo Haifeng, and Zhou Yongjun staged a spontaneous kneeling down petition at the steps of the Great Hall of People. These dramatic scenes are described in my book excerpt.

Among the very few students who did not participate in the funeral demonstration were Shen Tong and his friends in a little club called Olympic Institute. They stayed in Peking University and started to plan for an independent media center for the student movement.


Days of 1989


Book Excerpt: Hu Yaobang's Funeral

The following excerpt is from my book Standoff at Tiananmen, chapter 4, describing the scene of students participating in Hu Yaobang's state funeral on April 22, 1989. The same excerpt had previously appeared on Danwei.

Substantial police forces did show up at daybreak. They built up a human barrier in front of the Great Hall of People. From there they watched the students intently but otherwise showed no desire to evict them out of the Square.

Just before sunrise, a platoon of honor guards marched out of Tiananmen, crossed Chang'an Avenue, and entered the Square from its northern edge. It was the time for the traditional flag-raising ceremony. As they stopped at the giant National Flag Pole, the hundreds of thousands of students stood at attention. They turned to face the rising Five-Starred Red Flag, singing the national anthem at the top of their lungs:

Arise! All who refuse to be slaves!
Let our flesh and blood
Become our new Great Wall!
As the Chinese nation faces its greatest peril,
All forcefully expend their last cries.
Arise! Arise! Arise!
May our million hearts beat as one,
Brave the enemy's fire,
March on!
Brave the enemy's fire,
March on!
March on! March on! On!

Originally composed as the theme song for a patriotic movie during the anti-Japanese war era, "March of Volunteers" was a rousing anthem inspired by "La Marseillaise". Even in peacetime, the sense of grandiosity, urgency, and even desperation of the song was enough to cause one's blood to boil. Now, at the center of the nation, defying their own government, hundreds of thousands of students were singing the anthem in one voice. It was a moment of great crisis, uncertainty, and hope. Most of them had tears in their eyes. Looking at the rising flag, they wondered how this day would end.

The anthem finished just as the flag reached the top of the pole. Then, it began an agonizingly slow decent. As it settled into a half-staff position in honor of Hu Yaobang, students sang the somber L'Internationale. The aggressive fighting spirit was replaced by a strong sense of sadness as more tears were shed.

In the crowd, Chai Ling was feeling an unprecedented sense of togetherness. She made a mental note of how many of her friends were present. She also spotted an unexpected figure: a die-hard Communist Party member who had worked hard to prevent students from protesting. But there he was, participating in this historical event with nothing but sincerity.

The sheer size and determination of the students must have impressed the authorities as well. Several officers came down from the long flights of stairs of the Great Hall to meet with student leaders in the early morning. As a good-will gesture, they allowed the students to remain in the Square for the duration of the funeral service. The service would also be broadcast live through the loudspeakers in the Square for their benefit. Predictably, however, they denied students' request to have their own representatives attending the service inside the Great Hall. Finally, the officials requested students to back away to make room for arriving vehicles. Under the guidance of Wuer Kaixi's bullhorn, the huge crowd grudgingly complied with discipline. Wishful but unfounded rumors were spreading that Premier Li Peng had agreed to meet with students after the funeral.

The Great Hall of People was one of the cornerstone masterpieces constructed during the renovation of Tiananmen Square in the 1950s. It was designed to host mass conferences typical in the communist political scene. It consisted of an auditorium that could seat ten thousand people and many palace-style meeting halls for receiving foreign dignitaries as well as domestic visitors. Symbolically, it was also the site of the National People's Congress which met here annually in the spring. It was built with an architecture of Stalinist grandiosity and covered an area of forty three acres. A dozen solemn pillars, each eighty-two feet high, dominated the front face. They supported an expanded eave decorated with a National Emblem, establishing the building as the symbol of the highest power of the land. Underneath, a long and majestic set of stairs, divided into three tiers, led to its front gates.

The memorial service commenced inside the Great Hall as the clock struck ten. Curiously, all top officials wore traditional "Mao Suits" to bid farewell to the man who had abolished the attire. Zhao Ziyang delivered a eulogy filled with familiar and impersonal praises. As the National Anthem was played inside and broadcast on the loudspeakers outside, students sang once again. They sang with their greatest devotion and force, hoping that their collective voice could carry enough power to penetrate the granite walls of the Great Hall. Then, they bowed their heads to observe a moment of silence.

Although their voices might not have been heard, their presence was undoubtedly felt by everyone inside. Ge Yang, a prominent magazine editor, observed:
After Zhao Ziyang delivered the eulogy for Hu Yaobang, we filed past to pay our last respects. As we walked by the glass doors of the Great Hall of People, many lingered for a moment to observe the many thousands of students sitting outside on the Square. Rows of soldiers stood with arms linked to separate the students from us. I felt rage as I stood there silently watching them. The atmosphere was tense. Some of the officials feared that the students might try to force their way into the Great Hall. A soldier came over and asked me politely to move on.

My driver walked up to me and took my arm. I replied, "I just want to stand here for a while. I belong to the Communist Party, and I was wounded serving the Party during the war. I have seen much, but I have never before seen such abuse of students by Party members like yourself."

The soldier listened and then left.

Referring to the rows of soldiers separating the students from the dignitaries inside the Great Hall, Ge Yang noted in a poem that "a wall of brute force" had split the land into two sides. "On one side lay Hu Yaobang's body, but on the other side was his soul."

Inside the Great Hall, Hu Yaobang's body was lying in state covered with the flag of the Communist Party. Officials and dignitaries walked past slowly to pay their last respects. At the end of the service, as tradition dictated, the funeral procession carrying the body would exit the Great Hall, circle Tiananmen Square, and then head west on Chang'an Avenue for the crematorium in the suburb. As funeral music played endlessly from the loudspeakers, students in the Square eagerly but patiently waited for the sight of the hearse. It was their own chance to bid farewell to Hu Yaobang.

It had been a long night and morning. As the farewell process dragged on inside, many decided that they had fulfilled their desire and mission. They trickled out of the Square for food and rest. But a few thousand persisted. They crowded toward the Great Hall of People to get a peek of the hearse.

It was after another long wait when word came that the funeral possession had already been spotted on Chang'an Avenue heading west. Along the boulevard, millions of residents lined the sidewalks to give Hu Yaobang a dignified send-off. Tens of thousands of bicycles followed the hearse on the side, ringing their bells. It was a scene reminiscent of that for late Premier Zhou Enlai in 1976. But this time, the hearse had skipped Tiananmen Square where thousands of students had been waiting.

A small chant emerged from the angry crowd and gradually grew into a roar:

"Li Peng! Come out!"

"Li Peng! Come out!"

The crowd surged forward. Soldiers, with their arms interlocked, struggled to hold their lines. At the forefront was Wuer Kaixi, still with the bullhorn in his hand, calling for Premier Li Peng.

"Look," screamed Wuer Kaixi, "so many students have starved for a whole day just for the opportunity to talk to you." He shouted, "after forty years of the People's Republic, this is the first time a man has stood under the National Emblem, in front of the Great Hall of People, in front of the highest authority of the land, and demanded a dialogue with you. I protest! You are shameless!"

Wuer Kaixi's statement was not historically accurate. Calling out national leaders in front of the Great Hall of People was far from an invention of this new generation. It had happened many times during the turmoil of the Cultural Revolution. Even more recently, Chen Ziming and Wang Juntao had witnessed the same scene during the April Fifth Movement in 1976. Yet Wuer Kaixi was certainly sincere in his sentiment. The young students never had the chance to receive a proper education of this part of history and they believed without a doubt that they were making an effort that nobody had ever made before.

It did not take long for some hot heads to suggest that they could push through the soldiers and storm the Great Hall. Surveying the numbers, Wuer Kaixi thought that they had a decent chance. But fortunately, just as he was going to yell into his bullhorn, others prevailed in stopping him. After a heated discussion, they decided to send in representatives with their Seven-Point Petition, to which they still had not received any response. "If they still ignore us, we will just kneel down in front of them!" suggested an emotional Zhang Boli. Kneeling, of course, was the traditional protocol for meeting an emperor. Zhang Boli proposed the dramatic gesture as a symbolic protest.

"No way! I don't want to kneel down in front of the communists!" replied a terse Wuer Kaixi.

"If you don't, I will!" Guo Haifeng, who had been a part of the previous petitions with Wang Dan and then Li Jinjin, grabbed the petition paper and headed to the Great Hall of People. Two others, Zhou Yongjun and Zhang Zhiyong, followed him. Perhaps caught by surprise, the soldiers let them sneak through.

It was about half past noon. The three of them marched onto the middle tier of the long flight of stairs. They looked around. There was nobody nearby. Down below at a distance that seemed far away, thousands of students stood behind lines of soldiers. Most of the students were not aware of the plan but their attention was fixed after spotting three figures ascending the stairs. Still ahead and higher up, the giant doors to the Great Hall of People remained closed. There were only a few guards at the top of the stairs looking down at them.

Slowly, Guo Haifeng lowered himself to his knees. On his left, Zhou Yongjun followed reluctantly but only knelt with his right leg. On his right, Zhang Zhiyong knelt down with both knees and buried his head into his chest. But Guo Haifeng looked up in defiance despite his body position. He raised both arms holding the long scroll of petition paper over his head toward the National Emblem high above.

A shock wave propagated down the stairs and through the student body in the Square. A brief silence was immediately overcome by horrified cries and screams.

"No!" "No!"

"You can't kneel down! Stand up!!!"

Perhaps for the first time in their young lives, this new generation vividly felt that they and their government were not on the same side. The drama was so intense that nobody knew how to react to it. The three of them knelt there for as long as half an hour. Nobody came out of the Hall to receive or reject them. It felt like an eternity.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

This Day in 1989: April 21, Students Organize and March into Tiananmen Square

The stirring passion of the last few days ignited by Hu Yaobang's passing continued to develop on April 21, 1989. Seeing the courage of Wuer Kaixi at Xinhuamen, Liu Gang sought him out this morning to discuss the formation of a city-wide student leadership organization. They reached a general agreement.

Also on this day, some intellectuals joined in the fray and published open letters of their own to petition the government.

But the main action continued to be the students. In the late afternoon, thousands and thousands of them, from about twenty colleges in Beijing, gathered at Beijing Normal University. Wuer Kaixi displayed his natural leadership skills and guided the huge crowd into tight formations. He made a speech to proclaim the foundation of a "Beijing Provisional Student Union," which did not yet exist at the time, and led the students out of his campus toward Tiananmen Square. The demonstration surprised and delighted city residents who cheered them along the way.

The students reached Tiananmen Square around midnight. They settled down in front of the Great Hall of People, where Hu Yaobang's state funeral would commerce the next day. The area was scheduled to be closed in the morning for the occasion. But these tens of thousands of students made their claim. They would spend the cold spring night in the Square so that they could be a part of the funeral.


Days of 1989


Monday, April 20, 2009

This Day in 1989: April 20, Beijing Normal University and Peking University Students March in Rain

April 20, 1989 was a relatively quiet day. Many students had a sleepless night before, either protesting at Xinhuamen or establishing the Preparatory Committee at Peking University. But exaggerated account of police violence at Xinhuamen were propagating through campuses in the late morning, stirring up strong emotions.

At Beijing Normal University, Wuer Kaixi stood in pouring rain to talk to anyone who was willing to listen about the night before. He was able to gather a few hundred of his schoolmates by mid-afternoon and they launched a protesting march to Tiananmen Square. His troops were decimated by the storm along the way and only a handful reached the destination.

A similar, but bigger, protest march also developed out of Peking University, most of its students had missed the action at Xinhuamen. A few thousands of them made to Tiananmen Square in the pouring rain. They eventually dispersed.

The attention, meanwhile, was turning to the upcoming state funeral for Hu Yaobang, scheduled in two days.


Days of 1989

Sunday, April 19, 2009

This Day in 1989: April 19, Preparatory Committee Formed at Peking University; More Confrontation at Xinhuamen

In retrospect, April 19, 1989, was the first significant date during the 1989 student movement.

It was a Wednesday, a regular meeting date of the Democracy Salon at Peking University. As the situation escalated, Wang Dan decided to hold the session right at The Triangle at the center of the campus. In that evening, about three thousand students gathered in the darkness to listen to a few speakers taking their turns on a stool. With a voice vote, the crowd "disbanded" the official student union and decided to establish a Preparatory Committee for their own student solidarity. Xiong Yan, Wang Dan, Feng Congde, and later Shen Tong, joined the committee. It marked the first time in any student movement that a formal and non-anonymous organization structure was put in place.

The Preparatory Committee at Peking University would, with its temporary name intact, last through the entire length of the movement and play an extremely significant role.

Meanwhile, students from other campuses returned to Xinhuamen for another round of push-and-shove match with the guards there. Wuer Kaixi made his first public appearance of the movement. He stood up in front of students and police to give his real name and address, and then took the leadership role at the scene. In a side corner, Zheng Yi, Zhang Boli, and a few of their friends displayed a makeshift banner calling for a hunger strike, but were ignored.

The protest at Xinhuamen did not last long this time before it deteriorated into a violent mess. Hundreds of police charged the crowd and used belts and boots to disperse and force students into waiting buses along the Chang'an Avenue. Many students suffered minor injuries either at the hands of the police or by smashing the bus windows. In the chaos, a young girl screamed "Down with the Communist Party!" She was promptly shut up and whiskered away by fellow students before more damage could be done.

There was little evidence of significant police brutality in this early morning scuffle. Students forced into buses were driven to campus areas and released without questioning. Nonetheless, it was termed as the "April 20 Tragedy" and "Blood at Xinhuamen" in many campus posters. Students were all angry and started to plan for more protests.

Also on this day, the government announced that the state funeral for Hu Yaobang was scheduled for April 22.


Days of 1989

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Place of 1989: Xinhuamen (新华门)



Xinhuamen (新华门), or the Gate of New China, is the main entrance of Zhongnanhai, the secretive compound that houses the leadership of both Communist Party and the central government of China.


Just west of Tiananmen Square, Xinhuamen is not a place that attracts a lot of attention. The gate itself was converted from a building when the compound needed an easy access to the Chang'an Avenue outside of its red wall on the south.

The gate is decorated by two giant sloans on each side. The one on the left says "Long Live the Great Chinese Communist Party!" and the other says "Long Live the Victorious Mao Zedong Thought!" The front door of the gate is always open with a pair of soldiers standing guard all the time. Padestrans are always advice to keep their distance.

During the 1989 student movement, Xinhuamen became the focal point in the first nights of protest. As early as April 17, thousands of students gathered in front of the gate to demand an audience with Premier Li Peng. The crowd was finally dispersed in the wee hours of the morning.

But they returned the next evening with even more forces and determination. They actively engaged in a push-and-shove game with the guards for hours. Student leader Wuer Kaixi made his first public appearance that night on the scene and impressed many people with his courage and determination. Police finally broke through the crowd and forced the protesting students into buses. Many people suffered minor injuries during the scuffle. Exagerated accounts of the events were then public displayed as the "April 20 Tragedy" among the many college campuses in Beijing.

A month later, Xinhuamen also became a site of hunger strike when a group of teachers and students from University of Political Science and Law broke from their main camp in Tiananmen Square and staged their own hunger strike here. They effectively shut down this entrance for weeks.
During the day of June 3, a van carrying military weapons was discovered on Chang'an Avenue just outside of Xinhuamen. Students ceased the vehicle and displayed the guns on its tops. Around noon, police charged the crowd with tear gas and recovered the weapons. It was the first time tear gas was used.

Pictures of 1989

Selected pictures of the 1989 Chinese Student Movement

Pictures of 1989: Mourning Hu Yaobang

At the base of the Monument to People's Heroes:





At The Triangle of Peking University:





At Beijing Normal University:



Students from Peking University delivering the "China's Soul" banner to Tiananmen Square: (The characters for "China's Soul" are in the center of the banner and invisible from this photograph.)

This Day in 1989: April 18, Students Sit-in at Great Hall of People and Xinhuamen

After spending the night in Tiananmen Square guarding the flowers and wreaths at the Monument to People's Heroes, the crowd from Peking University shrank to about two hundreds in the early morning of April 18, 1989. They had come up with a Seven-Point Petition which they intended to submit to the National People's Congress.

Wang Dan and Guo Haifeng led the remaining crowd onto the steps of the Great Hall of People. When it opened the door in the morning, they went in and submitted the petition to an office. Wang Dan obtained a receipt and then left the scene. But the crowd was not satisfied and remained at the site. They wanted to have People's Representatives to receive the petition in person. Another copy of the peitition was made and Li Jinjin took the lead to organize a day-long sit-in. It was by the evening hour when three People's Representatives finally agreed to appear and receive the petition in front of the students. Li Jinjin met them on the steps and handed the paper in a scene resembling a formal diplomatic manuver.

Li Jinjin left the scene and returned to Peking University, where to his horror he saw large groups of students rushing out of the campus to reinforce the crowd at Tiananmen.

Later that night, a sizable crowd gathered in front of Xinhuamen, the site of the central government and engaged a push-and-shove match with the guards there. They demanded for the Premier Li Peng to appear in person for a dialogue. The situation was tense.

Eventually, however, the crowd dispersed in the early morning hours with the combined efforts of rational persuasion and the appearrance of more and more police force. No violence broke out that night, but the same could not be said for the next night.


Days of 1989

Documents of 1989

Significant Documents of 1989, with more to come.
  1. Fang Lizhi's Open Letter, January 6, 1989
  2. China's Despair and China's Hope, Fang Lizhi, February 2, 1989
  3. 33 Writers' Open Letter, February 13, 1989
  4. 42 Scientists and Educators' Open Letter, February 26, 1989
  5. 43 Intellectuals' Open Letter to NPC, March 14, 1989
  6. Hu Yaobang's Obituary, April 15, 1989
  7. Seven-Point Peitition, April 18, 1989
  8. Chen Mingyuan's Speech at Peking University, April 23, 1989
  9. People's Daily Editorial, April 26, 1989
  10. Hunger Strike Manifesto, May 13, 1989
  11. The Making of Statue of Democracy, May, 1989
  12. Four Gentlemen Hunger Strike Manifesto, June 2, 1989
  13. Radio Beijing Broadcast, June 4, 1989
  14. 21 Most Wanted Student Leaders, June 13, 1989
  15. President Bush's Secret Letter to Deng Xiaoping, June 20, 1989
  16. Catch Liu Xiaobo's Black Hand, June 24, 1989
  17. President Bush's Diaries, June-July, 1989

Document of 1989: Seven-Point Petition


In the early morning of April 18, 1989, hundreds of students from Peking University gathered around the Monument to People's Heroes at Tiananmen Square. They had spent the previous night there guarding the wreaths and flowers dedicated to the newly deceased Hu Yaobang. Wang Dan, Guo Haifeng, Li Jinjin, and Zhang Boli were all among the crowd. They proposed to draft a formal petition to the government.

After much discussion, a "Seven-Point Petition" was drafted:
  1. Reevaluate and praise Hu Yaobang's contributions
  2. Negate the previous anti-"spiritual pollution" and anti-"Bourgeois Liberation" movements
  3. Allow unofficial press and freedom of speech
  4. Publish government leaders' income and holdings
  5. Abolish the "Beijing Ten-Points" [restricting public assembly and demonstrations]
  6. Increase education funding and enhance the compensation for intellectuals
  7. Report this movement faithfully
The petition was first written as big posters. Wang Dan and Li Jinjin made separate attempts to submit them to People's Representatives in the Great Hall of People that day. The list was also widely circulated among the campuses in Beijing and became the focal point in the early stages of the student movement. The government never responded directly to the petition.

On April 22, at the end of the state funeral for Hu Yaobang, three students made the most dramatic scene of kneeling down at the steps of the Great Hall of People and lifting a copy of the Seven-Point Petition over their head.


Documents of 1989


Friday, April 17, 2009

Li Lu Appears in Fortune Report

Li Lu, one of the key leaders in the 1989 student movement, has been largely staying out of the media limelight in more recent years. He made a rare appearance in the April 27 issue of Fortune magazine in a report on Warren Buffet's investment in electric cars made in China. In the print version, the magazine also contains a box segment introducing Li Lu:
Warren Buffet may be BYD's most famous investor, but Li Lu, whose company LL Investment Partners owns 2% of BYD, has quite a story of his own. Born in China in 1966, Li Lu was raised by foster parents after his were forced into labor camps during the Cultural Revolution. As a 10-year-old, he barely survived an earthquake that killed 250,000 in the city of Tangshan. Then things got really interesting: Li Lu became a leader of the pro-democracy movement that organized protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989, appeared on China's Twenty-One Most-Wanted List, and escaped to New York, where he was embraced by the human-rights community and earned three degrees from Columbia. After stints at Allen & Co. and DLJ, he met Charlie Munger through friends and started his own investment fund; Munger, the Berkshire vice chairman, is his largest investor. Li Lu, who is not allowed to travel freely in China, politely declined to be interviewed by Fortune. When asked about Li Lu's story, BYD CEO Wang Chuan-Fu says: "That's past history. Today, Mr. Li and I share the belief that the best way to help China move forward is to make BYD a world-class company."