Sunday, April 22, 2012

Document of 1989: Chen Mingyuan's Speech at Peking University

On April 23, 1989, the day after Hu Yaobang's funeral, Professor Chen Mingyuan delivered an emotional and inspiring speech at the Triangle in Peking University. The following is an abbreviated translation from the book Children of the Dragon. For a more complete transcript, please read this version in Chinese.

 A Speech given by Prof. Chen Mingyuan at Peking University on April 23, 1989

My name is Chen Mingyuan.

If someone wants to inform on me, he can give my name to the Public Security Bureau.
[More Applause]

I know that whenever students make reasonable requests to demands, whenever people become excluded, there will always be a few who would like to betray their comrades, their friends, and even their own souls, in order to climb a few more rungs up the ladder.

I am forty-eight years old. I am not afraid.

The first thing I want to say is that I attended Hu Yaobang's funeral yesterday. Throughout the service, I was very sad indeed. Hu Yaobang spoke a great deal about education, price control, intellectuals, and reform...

At the end of the memorial service, several other comrades and I suggested that the hearse carrying Hu's body should circle Tiananmen Square, in keeping with convention. We should let Comrade Yaobang take one last look at the Monument to the People's Heroes and Tiananmen Gate. But the government refused. I was profoundly disappointed. I know that many comrades, many Chinese, were very disappointed. If Comrade Yaobang were still alive, he would feel very disappointed, too. We demand an official explanation for this unpopular decision...

I have no wish to instigate trouble, and I have no ulterior motives. But our government, and our news media, have prepared a hat for me nonetheless.

Under the present circumstances, people are terrified to stand up. Anyone who does stand up has to consider the safety of his parents, his children, and his job. Every month, he collects only a small salary. If he goes to jail, what will happen to his family? I have never stood up before so many people, but today I felt that I just could not stay silent. I have to speak out!

I want to protest strongly against official television. I have already called them and told them - through many different channels - that their reports on April 19 and April 20 were totally irresponsible. Did everyone here hear what was reported on CCTV?
["Yes, we heard!"]

Did anyone in the demonstration shout anti-government slogans?

Did CCTV say they did?

Did anyone put up anti-government posters?

CCTV said that many unidentified bystanders were there inciting the crowds. I was one of them, but I am not "unidentified," because at the beginning of this speech I told you my name. I think the one who incited the crowds was CCTV. And where is the person who wrote those broadcasts? He should stand up here!

He is the one who cannot be identified! He is the one who incited us!

I think these recent student demonstrations were totally spontaneous. Nobody was behind them.

The demonstration was spontaneous, the petition peaceful, and the mourning of Comrade Yaobang very orderly. I think the students from Peking University should feel very proud of themselves.
["Long live the students! Long live democracy! Long live freedom!" Applause]

When I pronounced the word "freedom," some people became nervous. Some would say, "Freedom is a bad word." Some would say, "We should try to avoid using that word." But I feel that freedom is the most beautiful word in the world. Why should only other people be allowed to use it? Why is it that this beautiful word is not in the vocabulary of our great motherland and our great people?

Yes, we are poor. We are backward. We are undereducated. We are living a bitter life. But we do have this ideal of freedom and democracy...

Many of us are afraid of press freedom. Whenever we talk about the freedom of the press, someone says that "something will go wrong"; they say that we shouldn't publicize our "family scandals." But I believe that truth is the soul of the media...
[Cheers and Applause]

Those who ignored the students' demands - which came from the bottom of their hearts - should ask themselves why they are afraid of students...
[Long Applause]

If you ask all our comrades, "What is the most severe problems in our reforms?" they will say, "inflation." What is the real inflation rate? The government told us it was 18%. I work every day. I do household chores. I shop and buy groceries. But I can't even afford to buy new clothes! Pork used to cost 80 cents a pound. Now it's up to 4 or 5 yuan. In Guangzhou, it has even reached 10 yuan...

When we come to the problem of education, every one of us has spoken about it until our lips have cracked. Why can't we make education a top priority on the list of government expenditures?
["Yes!" Applause]

The government has always told us that this is too difficult, that there's a shortage of funds in industry, that there's a shortage of money in agriculture. It's even very difficult to build houses for all those mayors and governors. But I think that there's one thing that should not be so difficult. That is to confiscate the illegal income from the racketeers and spend that on education!

Students, I'm very troubled these days. There are so many problems in our country today. But the issues we raised here are the most basic ones...

We are the masters of our country.
["Yes!" Long applause]

Meanwhile we have to report truthfully on those corrupt government officials, no matter how high up they may be, and punish them according to law.
["Yes! Well Said!"]

Maybe someone will say, "You students should return and study quietly. You professors should simply teach your courses." But all these problems constantly wear us down. We can't accept this. We shall never accept it!

Documents of 1989

No comments: