Thursday, April 16, 2009

This Day in 1989: April 16

The news of Hu Yaobang's death was slowly sinking in on April 16, 1989. Spontaneous memorial banners, flowers, and Big Posters were appearing in college campuses all over the country. Dozens of small flowers and wreaths also showed up at the Monument to People's Heroes at Tiananmen Square. There were not yet organized activities.

There were many rumors. Most centered on the theme that Hu Yaobang suffered a heart attack because the continued criticisms he was receiving during recent politburo meetings. Although baseless and most likely to be false, the rumors were wide spread and casting Hu Yaobang as the victim of other leaders such as Li Peng and Deng Xiaoping.

Among the banners, the most eye-catching was one that proclaimed, "The one who should have died did not; the one who should not have died did!" The quotation was attributed to Bing Xin, a famous author who was almost ninety years old. She was referring to her own advanced age while mourning for the death of the younger Hu Yaobang.

Yet the message immediately took on a new meaning in the public. "The one who should have died" was taken to refer to Deng Xiaoping, the old man who had wronged Hu Yaobang more than two years ago.

Meanwhile, a group of young teachers at the University of Political Science and Law were spending the day preparing for a giant wreath. This was the idea of Wu Renhua, who had graduated from Peking University. After almost an entire day of work, the wreath came to be almost seven feet in diameter and covered with paper flowers and banners. They placed the wreath at the center of the campus with an unsigned note announcing that the wreath would be delivered to Tiananmen Square at one o'clock next afternoon.

Wu Renhua did not know how many, if any, students from that conservative campus would join him.

Days of 1989

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