Sunday, April 26, 2009

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

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