Saturday, February 25, 2012

Document of 1989: 42 Scientists and Educators Open Letter

On February 20, 1989, 42 prominent scientists and educators in Beijing co-signed an open letter to the nation's top leadership calling for democracy. This is the third such letter following those of Fang Lizhi and 33 writers. This letter is relatively lengthy and detailed. As with the other letters, it called for the release of political prisoners but stopped short of calling for an amnesty. It also did not mention Wei Jingsheng's name.

Open Letter to Party Central Leaders from Beijing Science and Education Community

General Secretary Zhao Ziyang,
Chairman Wan Li,
President Li Xiannian,
Premier Li Peng,
Party Central,
NPC Standing Committee
CPPCC National Committee
State Council,

Since the 3rd Plenary Session of the 11th Party Congress, Our nation's modernization efforts, led by liberation of thoughts and guided by the openness and reform policies, have achieved world-renowned successes. Although some complications and mistakes have appeared, the overall direction of the development is in accord to people's will and the world historical trend. This decade has indeed been the best period since the founding of our nation. Today, however, the reform has encountered serious obstacles in its path: rampant corruption and graft, runaway inflation, deteriorating morale, serious crises in education, science, and culture. Chinese intellectuals with its tradition of taking up the responsibilities of the nation's survival cannot help but to worry deeply. For the purpose of preventing a premature death of the modernization efforts, we, old and middle-aged intellectuals who have worked at the frontiers of research, education, and culture, with our sense of social responsibilities for our nation and people and with our loyal and patriotic soul, sincerely suggest the following:

(A) In the context of openness and reform, the reform of the political system, i.e., the democratization of politics, need to be conducted with the economic reform. This is because that the experiences in world history and the realities in China show us that the democratization of politics (including rule by law) is the necessary guarantee for the economic reform and the entire modernization endeavor. Only with democratization people will be able to fully unleash their initiative and enthusiasm. They will be willing to share the burden of the unavoidable difficulties in the process of reform. With the collective mind and force of the people, no difficulties couldn't be overcome. Also, with market economy, only with democratization and under the supervision of the people and media we could have a "clean" government. In contrary, a government without people's supervision cannot stop corruption. This is a well-known law of history.

(B) The first necessity of political democratization is to effectively guanranttee citizens' basic rights in the Constitution, especially the guarantee of citizens rights of free expression, free press and publication. Only when people can freely express their thoughts, dissenting opinions can be published openly, and criticisms against leaders not be punished that we can achieve an active, comfortable, and harmonic society and that the democratic senses of citizens can be releashed. This is the only reliable guarantee to stability and unity, with which reform can continue smoothly.

(C) To prevent any repeat of historical tragedies of incriminating the publication of dissenting opeinions, please see to that all youths sentenced or detained because of crimes of thoughts be released. No longer incriminating thoughts will open up a new era for the politics of our nation.

(D) Government must provide necessary supports to the education and science endeavors that are critical in deciding the nation's future but do not yield direct economic benefits. It must do all it can to increase funding for scientific research, especially those in fundamental sciences, enhance the living conditions of all intellectuals so they don't face hardships. Right now, a few first-rated professors are already applying for hardship aids. Recently, a 78-year-old senior engineer jumped to his death because he couldn't afford to live. This obviously damages the modernization efforts and also the image of our nation.

If the above suggestions could be adopted, it would be a grand fortune of our nation and people. The concepts of democracy and science spearheaded by the pioneers of the May Fourth Movement 70 years ago would truly bloosom in the vast lands of China. It would also bring a celebratory atmosphere to the 40th anniversary of our nation's founding.


Qian Linzhao, Wang Ganchan, Shi Yalang, Xu Liangying, Guo Xingguang, Xue Yugu, Ye Wuzheng, Huang Zongchen, Hu Shihua, Zhu Zhaoxian, Zhou Mingzheng, Xu Guozhi, Jiang Lijin, Sun Keding, Wang Rong, Liu Yuanzhang, Mao yuShi, Hu Jimin, Yan Rengeng, Zhang Yisan, Du Yuji, Yu Haocheng, Zhang Xianyang, Li Hongling, Bao Zunxin, Liu Shengji, shao Yanxiang, Wu Zuguang, Wang Laidi, Gu Zhihui, Ge Ge, Liu Liao, Zhang Zhaoqing, Liang Xiaoguang, Zhang Conghua, Hou Meiying, Wu Guozheng, Cai Shidong, Cao Zhunxi, Xiao Shuxi, Zhou Liquang, Liang Zhixue

(For the Chinese names of the signatories, please view the original version here.)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Document of 1989: 33 Writers' Open Letter

On February 13, 1989, five weeks after Fang Lizhi's open letter, 33 prominent writers in Beijing co-signed an open letter to the National People's Congress and the Party Central in support of Fang Lizhi's suggestion of an amnesty. 

After the crackdown, a few individuals claimed that their signatures were either forged or obtained under false pretense.

After we learned the open letter by Mr. Fang Lizhi to Chairman Deng Xiaoping on January 6, 1989, we would like to express our deep interest in this issue.

We assert that, at the time of the 40th anniversary of our nation and the 70th anniversary of the May Fourth Movement, a general amnesty, especially the release of Wei Jingsheng and other political prisoners, will produce a harmonic atmosphere beneficial to the reform efforts. It is also in accordance to the general trend of respecting human rights in today's world.

Bei Dao, Shao Yanxiang, Niu Han, Lao Mu, Wu Zuguang, Li Tuo, Bing Xin, Zhang Jie, Zong Sui, Wu Zuxiang, Tang Yijie, Le Daiyun, Huang Ziping, Zhang Dainian, Chen Pingyuan, Yan Wenjing, Liu Dong, Feng Yidai, Xiao Qian, Su Xiaokang, Jin Guangtao, Li Zehou, Pang Pu, Zhu Wei, Wang Yan, Bao Zunxin, Tian Zhuangzhuang, Liu Qingfeng, Mang Ke, Gao Hao, Su Shaozhi, Wang Ruoshui, Chen Jun

February, 13, 1989

(For the Chinese names of the signatories, please view the original version here.)

Documents of 1989

Saturday, February 4, 2012

New York Times' Reporting in 1989

In 2008, while preparing for the book Standoff at Tiananmen, I went through the archives of New York Times and read through its reporting during the period of student movement in 1989. A daily summary was published in this blog at that time. They are now listed here as a "table of contents," with each post containing one or more links to the actual NYT reports in it. All dates below are for 1989 while the titles are that of my own summaries, not NYT articles or necessarily their intent.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Document of 1989: Fang Lizhi's Open Letter

On January 6, 1989, Fang Lizhi wrote a personal letter to Deng Xiaoping, suggesting a general amnesty for political prisoners. It soon became an "open letter" through foreign reporters in Beijing and drew the curtain of the 1989 student movement.

Chairman Deng Xiaoping
The Central Military Commission

This year is the 40th anniversary of the People's Republic of China. It is also the 70th anniversary of the May Fourth Movement. There will certainly be a lot of commemorate activities for these anniversaries. However, compared to looking back, far more people would perhaps concern about the present more. They are concerning about new hopes these anniversaries could bring for the future.

For this purpose, I sincerely suggest to you that, at the cusp of these anniversaries, a nationwide amnesty is called for, especially to release Wei Jingsheng and all political prisoners like him.

I think that, however one would judge Wei Jingsheng himself, releasing someone like him who had been in prison for 10 years is consistent to the humanitarian principle. It will enhance the social atmosphere.

Coincidentally, this year is also the 200th anniversary of the great French Revolution. No matter how we see that event, the values symbolized by that revolution, Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, and Human Rights, have become universally respected by the human kind. Therefore, I sincerely appeal to you once again to consider my suggestion, so that we can add on more respect for the future.

Best Regards,

Fang Lizhi

Documents of 1989