Thursday, May 14, 2009

This Day in 1989: May14, Dialog with Yan Mingfu

On May 14, 1989, the hunger strikers started to settle in Tianamen Square after spending their first cold night there. Feng Congde brought the giant "Hunger Strike" flag he made the night before and they raised it on the poles in the Square. The visible flag announced the purpose of their presence. Feng Congde also spent the day to build a makeshift broadcasting station there with loudspeakers.

The second day of the hunger strike proved to be rather eventful. Yuan Mingfu finally made the biggest concession on the government's side and agreed to a formal dialogue on the students terms. Yet the harshly organized dialogue collapsed under the weight of emotions, miscommunication, and mistrust, as described in my book excerpt here.

Before she crashed the dialogue, Wang Chaohua had spent a good part of the day soliciting prominent intellectuals to persuade students to end the hunger strike. In that evening, after the collapse of the dialogue, a dozen intellectuals were led into the Square to address the students directly. The intellectuals were cheered on enthusiastically when they expressed admiration and support to students, but were boo-ed when the word withdraw was mentioned. The mood turned sour when students objected Dai Qing's condescending tune and her perceived own agenda.

As the hunger strike continued, a fateful decision was made that the welcome ceremony for Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was moved from Tiananmen Square to the airport. It was not only a huge slap in the face of the government but also a move by the government in calling the students' bluff, who was using the occasion as their main bargaining chip.

Days of 1989

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