Tuesday, May 12, 2009

This Day in 1989: May 12, the Launching of Hunger Strike

On May 12, 1989, Wang Dan hosted his Democracy Salon as usual, the guest speaker is Bao Zunxin. It turned out that this was to be the last time this Salon would ever be held.

Wang Dan and Chai Ling got together on this day to launch a hunger strike. The reaction was lukewarm at first. Most students including both the Beijing Students Autonomous Federation and the Preparatory Committee at Peking University were against the idea. Only dozens signed up during the day.

That changed in the evening when Chai Ling made an impromptu and passionate speech on her personal motivation. She inspired many more to join the ranks of hunger strike and persuaded even more to support their cause.

See an excerpt of my book on how the hunger strike decision was made and gained momentum on this day twenty years ago.

With the hunger strike materializing ahead of the state visit of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, the government finally showed its first sign of willingness to deal directly with the students. The Dialogue Delegation was contacted after midnight for a potential dialogue with the government.

Days of 1989

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