Friday, May 15, 2009

This Day in 1989: May 15, Gorbachev in Beijing, a New Headquarters Forms

On May 15, 1989, Mr. Mikhail Gorbachev landed in Beijing. A small welcoming ceremony was held at the airport and his motorcade had to dodge traffic while avoiding Tiananmen Square, where students continued their hunger strike.

The collapse of the dialogue with Yan Mingfu the day earlier was a significant blow to the hunger strikers' morale. In the early morning of this day, Wuer Kaixi had made a desperate plea for the students to move away from the Great Hall of People so a proper ceremony could still be held for Gorbachev. He succeeded in doing that but paid a heavy price in personal reputation from which he would never recover. His good-will effort would also be in vain.

Upset with Wuer Kaixi, Chai Ling and Li Lu decided to formally launch their own leadership for the hunger strikers. In the morning, Chai Ling announced the new Hunger Strike Headquarters, with herself as the commander-in-chief. She assigned Li Lu as her deputy. Li Lu carried out a census and found that there were a little more than 1,000 hunger strikers at the scene this morning.

Support was also gradually building as the hunger strike entered its third day. Prominent intellectuals, organized by Zheng Yi, marched along Chang'an Avenue. They refused Dai Qing to join, claiming that she was a mole. Zheng Yi would stay at Tiananmen Square and became an advisor/aid to the hunger strike students.

In the evening, a huge thug gathered at the front gate of the Great Hall of People, threatening to storm the building where a state banquet was held in honor of Gorbachev. Chai Ling led her weakened students onto the stairs and forced the crowd to back down. Back at the Square, Chai Ling and Li Lu were confronted by other leaders who challenged their unelected headquarters. The challengers were particularly upset and alarmed at Li Lu, who claimed to be a student from Nanjing University but could not produce any proof for his identity. Chai Ling emotionally defended Li Lu's credibiilty and honor.

As the night fell, the future of the hunger strikers was as gloom as ever.

Days of 1989

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