Monday, May 11, 2009

This Day in 1989: May 11, Reporters Got Dialogue, Student Leaders Decide on Hunger Strike

May 11, 1989 was a subtle turning point in the student movement. At the time, most student in the city had thought that the movement was already over. Classes had resumed everywhere except for Peking University and Beijing Normal University. Even at those two schools, many were expressing the need to resume classes.

The government had adopted a much more conciliatory tone in its handling of the movement. The harsh language in the April 26 People's Daily editorial had disappeared. Officials from General Secretary Zhao Ziyang, Premier Li Peng, on down were visiting factories and institutes to conduct dialogues with the masses. However, despite daily inquiries by the students' Dialogue Delegation, nobody had come in official contact with students. Most notably, Hu Qili held a dialogue with the petitioning young reporters and promised more press freedom.

On this day in 1989, posters were appearing at Peking University calling for a hunger strike. It mentioned that the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was scheduled for a state visit in a few days, great timing for launching a dramatic action.

In the afternoon, the Beijing Students Autonomous Federation had a meeting. Tempers flared on the issue of hunger strike. Wang Chaohua, Liang Qingdun, and other leaders rejected the tactic while Ma Shaofang strongly advocated it. Eventually, the Federation reached a resolution that they would not launch any significant action in near future but rather hold a "wait and see" position on evaluating the government's next move.

After the heated meeting, Wang Dan, Wuer Kaixi, Ma Shaofang, Cheng Zhen, Wang Zhaohui, Wang Wen gathered in a small restaurant by the campus of Peking University. They were not happy with the Federation's stance and decided to launch the hunger strike on their own.

On that same day, Chai Ling also appeared to have reached the same conclusion after talking to her friends in the "authors class" at Peking University. She came back to her husband Feng Congde and was very happy about the decision. In a joking mode, she told him that they could sneak in bread. It would be a symbolic gesture, not that serious.

Days of 1989

No comments: