Tag Archives: Tiananmen

October 11, 1978 (a Wednesday)

Ban the Chinese Government

In October 1978, Huang Xiang was feeling restless and one day was moved to take out of concealment the political poems he had written during the Mao Years. He then conceived of going to Beijing to post them so people could see them, in spite of the danger still inherent in anti-Mao sentiments. Word of Huang Xiang’s plan got around in his circle of friends, and soon three of them – Mo Jiangang, Li Jiahua, and Fang Jiahua – decided to accompany him on the 1,500 mile trip to Beijing.

On October 11, 1978, with a bucket of flour paste, they proceeded to an alley off Wangfujing Avenue in downtown Beijing near the offices of The People’s Daily, and began to glue up the hundred-odd sheets of Huang Xiang’s poetry. The four brushed as big characters a series of Huang Xiang’s poems collectively referred to as “The Fire God Symphony”. According to Huang, those poems were meant “to oppose the idol worship of Mao Zedong and his personal cult, to criticize romanticism, feudalism, fascism, and modern emperorship, to completely negate the Cultural Revolution, and to appeal publicly for freedom, democracy, and human rights.”

Huang Xiang, aged 63. The largest character that appears on his front door is “door” in Chinese.

The well-constructed poems of “The Fire God Symphony” are united in their coherent references to fire symbolism – fire, light, torch, fire god – to express a compelling discontent with reality and an open advocacy of democracy and human rights. In terms of articulating an infectious spirit of defiance and rebellion, Huang Xiang at his best stands shoulder to shoulder with other famous poet-rebels such as Guo Moruo and Walt Whitman. Huang demonstrates a rare political prescience in his frontal assault on the idolatry of Chairman Mao and his suffocating ideology. For example, in “The Fire God Symphony” he writes:

Why can one man control the wills of millions of people
Why can one man prescribe life and death everywhere
Why should we bow and worship an idol
Letting blind faith confine our will to live, our thoughts and emotions

[…]

Let man be restored to his dignity
Let life become life once again
Let music and virtue be the soul’s inner essence
Let beauty and nature be man’s once again

Later on October 11, a curious crowd gathered in the alley off Wangfujing Avenue and soon spilled out onto the avenue, causing a huge traffic jam. Sympathizers linked arms to protect the four from the surge of the crowd. Huang Xiang, encouraged by the crowd, recited all of his poems from memory (some six hundred lines). That night people crowded the alley trying to read the poems by torch light.

Later recalling these events, Huang Xiang wrote:

We “set fire” on Wangfujing Avenue in Beijing. Myself and my three friends, Li Jiahua, Fang Jiahua, and Mo Jiangang, put up my poem “The Fire God Symphony” in big character posters. This first batch of posters lit a spark for seeking enlightenment and freedom in Communist China. We founded and published the first independent periodical ever, called Enlightenment, and staged a poetic campaign to advocate human rights and freedom of expression.

On November 24, 1978 they returned and posted big character posters (dazibao) on seventy yards of fence near Mao Zedong’s mausoleum in Tiananmen Square. Huang Xiang then brushed two big character posters on the spot, “The Cultural Revolution Must Be Reevaluated!” and “Mao Zedong was thirty percent right and seventy percent wrong!” Both were absolute heresies even two years after Mao’s death. These astonishing statements, in full sight of the usual people lined up to enter Mao’s mausoleum, caused a sensation.

By December 1978, cultural and political activists had gravitated to Xidan, west of Tiananmen Square. Many posters appeared on a wall next to a busy bus stop. The wall soon acquired its historic name, the Democracy Wall.

The Democracy Wall Movement quickly spread from the Xidan Wall in Beijing to other walls in the city and to other cities: ­Shanghai, Guangzhou, Wuhan, Huangzhou and Qingdao. While most focused on economic issues and Cultural Revolution grievances, a small number emphasized political issues. Participants coordinated their actions in each city and sometimes between cities. By mid-1979, activists were beginning to set up connections between regions, which developed into a loose network. Although the activists were small in number, several hundred to several thousand at any one time, their posters, debates and magazines attracted tens of thousands of readers and listeners. Officials as well as ordinary people, who shared their revulsion at Mao’s use of terror and chaos for his own political purposes and also sought to reform the political system were among the readers and discussants at the walls.

From 1959 to 1997, Huang was incarcerated six times for political dissent and spent a total of 12 years in jail. He continued to write even though he was tortured for his work, which was completely banned in China. He has lived in exile in the United States since 1997. Huang has published poems and essays, and a bilingual edition of his Out of Communist China was published in 2003.

References:

Advertisements

October 8, 2010 (a Friday)

All dictatorships like to proclaim patriotism but dictatorial patriotism is just an excuse to inflict disasters on the nation and calamities on its people.

— Liu Xiaobo, “The [Communist Party of China’s] Dictatorial Patriotism” (2005)

[China] provides large quantities of economic assistance to dictatorships such as North Korea, Cuba, and Myanmar, offsetting to some degree the impact of Western economic sanctions and enabling these remaining despotic regimes on their last legs to linger on.

— Liu Xiaobo, “The Negative Effects of the Rise of Dictatorship on World Democratization” (2006)

Zen stones

The prominent dissident writer Liu Xiaobo, one of the first signers of Charter 08.

Liu Xiaobo (刘晓波), 54, the prominent independent intellectual and long-time democracy advocate, was awarded the Nobel peace prize on 8 October 2010, for his “long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China.” The first resident citizen of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to win a Nobel prize, Liu becomes only the second person to win the peace prize while incarcerated, following German pacifist Carl von Ossietzky, who won it in 1935 while jailed by the Nazis. In its press release, the Norwegian Nobel Committee noted:

. . . [T]here is a close connection between human rights and peace. Such rights are a prerequisite for the “fraternity between nations” of which Alfred Nobel wrote in his will.

Over the past decades, China has achieved economic advances to which history can hardly show any equal. The country now has the world’s second largest economy; hundreds of millions of people have been lifted out of poverty. Scope for political participation has also broadened.

China’s new status must entail increased responsibility. China is in breach of several international agreements to which it is a signatory, as well as of its own provisions concerning political rights. Article 35 of China’s constitution lays down that “Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration”. In practice, these freedoms have proved to be distinctly curtailed for China’s citizens.

For over two decades, Liu Xiaobo has been a strong spokesman for the application of fundamental human rights also in China. He took part in the Tiananmen protests in 1989; he was a leading author behind Charter 08, the manifesto of such rights in China which was published on the 60th anniversary of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 10th of December 2008. The following year, Liu was sentenced to eleven years in prison and two years’ deprivation of political rights for “inciting subversion of state power”. Liu has consistently maintained that the sentence violates both China’s own constitution and fundamental human rights.

The campaign to establish universal human rights also in China is being waged by many Chinese, both in China itself and abroad. Through the severe punishment meted out to him, Liu has become the foremost symbol of this wide-ranging struggle for human rights in China.

Liu Xiaobo.

Liu is one of the leaders of the Independent Chinese PEN Centre (ICPC), a group of writers that promotes freedom of expression. The ICPC is among 145 member centers of the International PEN, a human rights organization and international literary organization founded in 1921. Liu’s writing is banned in China but his books are sold in Hong Kong. “Awarding Liu Xiaobo the Nobel Peace Prize is an affirmation of the central importance to everyone of freedom of expression, of which he is a courageous exponent,” states PEN International President, John Ralston Saul. “Charter 08 contains this phrase: We must stop the practice of viewing words as crimes,” says Marian Botsford Fraser, Chair of PEN International‘s Writers in Prison Committee. “Liu is serving 11 years for that simple credo, and his belief in democracy for the Chinese people. We fervently hope that Liu’s winning of the Nobel Prize furthers those causes.”

“Liu Xiaobo is a worthy winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, we hope it will keep the spotlight on the struggle for fundamental freedoms and concrete protection of human rights that Liu and many other activists in China are dedicated to,” said Catherine Baber, Amnesty International USA‘s Deputy Director for the Asia-Pacific region. “This award can only make a real difference if it prompts more international pressure on China to release Liu, along with the numerous other prisoners of conscience languishing in Chinese jails for exercising their right to freedom of expression”, said Baber.

Harry Wu, former Chinese political prisoner and founder of Laogai Research Foundation, said of the decision, “the Nobel Committee has sent a clear message to China that it will not be intimidated by its economic and political might.” He added, “for decades, Liu Xiaobo has advocated for freedom. It’s time that the Chinese government releases him from prison and listens to his suggestions.”

“This award comes at a critical historical crossroads in China and constitutes a powerful affirmation for the voices calling for change,” said Sharon Hom, Executive Director of Human Rights in China. “As Liu Xiaobo and other Chinese advocates for change have pointed out, the only sustainable road ahead for China is one towards greater openness and political reform. This has most recently even been publicly stated by senior Chinese officials [Ed.: See transcript of interview with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on 28 September 2010].”

I agree. Amnesty International has documented widespread human rights violations in China:

  • An estimated 500,000 people are currently enduring punitive detention without charge or trial.
  • Millions are unable to access the legal system to seek redress for their grievances.
  • Harassment, surveillance, house arrest, and imprisonment of human rights defenders are on the rise.
  • Censorship of the Internet and other media has grown.
  • Repression of minority groups, including Tibetans, Uighurs and Mongolians, and of Falun Gong practitioners and Christians who practice their religion outside state-sanctioned churches continues.
  • While the recent reinstatement of Supreme People’s Court review of death penalty cases may result in lower numbers of executions, China remains the leading executioner in the world.

Furthermore, the totalitarian nature of China’s government makes it nearly impossible to effect change in the notoriously oppressive government of North Korea (DPRK), essentially a puppet state of China. Human rights in China is a prerequisite to human rights in North Korea.

Not surprisingly, China’s foreign ministry last week warned that Liu was not suited for the Nobel Peace Prize as he was “sentenced to jail by Chinese judicial authorities for violating Chinese law.” The Chinese government told reporters the committee had violated its own principles by giving the award to a “criminal.” Of course, the Chinese don’t get it: Liu is a political prisoner, not a criminal. In the run-up to the decision, China warned Norway that selecting Liu would affect mutual ties and dispatched a Foreign Ministry official to Oslo to press its case. The two countries are in the process of negotiating a free-trade deal, and Norway’s oil industry — a crucial sector of its economy — wants to boost its business dealings in China. In a sign that it was unwilling to be cowed, however, Norway’s government chose to publicize the Beijing official’s ostensibly private visit.

____________________________________________________________


____________________________________________________________

Liu was born on 28 December 1955 in Changchun, Jilin Province. He received a BA in literature from Jilin University, and an MA and PhD from Beijing Normal University, where he also taught.

In April 1989, he left his position as a visiting scholar at Columbia University to return to Beijing to participate in the 1989 Pro-Democracy Movement. On 2 June, Liu, along with Hou Dejian, Zhou Duo, and Gao Xin, went on a hunger strike in Tiananmen Square to protest martial law and appeal for peaceful negotiations between the students and the government. In the early morning of 4 June 1989, the four attempted to persuade the students to leave Tiananmen Square. After the crackdown, Liu was held in Beijing’s Qincheng Prison until January 1991, when he was found guilty of “counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement” but exempted from punishment.

In 1996, he was sentenced to three years of Reeducation-Through-Labor on charges of “rumor-mongering and slander” and “disturbing social order” after drafting the “Anti-Corruption Proposals” and letters appealing for official reassessment of the June Fourth crackdown.

“There was never a question for him of abandoning the struggle, although he was very critical about the [1989 student] movement,” said Jean-Philippe Béja, of the Paris-based Centre for International Studies and Research, who first met Liu in the early 90s.

“He is a person who wants to live in truth.”

Zen stones

TAKE ACTION HERE: Demand that China release Nobel Peace Prize activist Liu Xiaobo!

AND HERE: Demand that China release Nobel Peace Prize activist Liu Xiaobo!

Zen stones

Remembering Tiananmen Square » The Endless Further

It’s a bit late, but I came across this post about the recent, 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989. It’s worth reading.

Remembering Tiananmen Square » The Endless Further.

The Coup d’état of Zhao: June 24, 1989

On 19 May 1989, Chinese Communist Party Secretary General Zhao Ziyang picked up a bullhorn and urged student demonstrators to end their hunger strike against the Chinese government in the name of peace and national stability. This was his last public appearance.

On this date, a Saturday, Zhao Ziyang was formally ousted as General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party weeks after voicing sympathy for student demonstrators at Tiananmen Square. Jiang Zemin replaced him, and Zhao spent the rest of his life under house arrest. His removal from power was “effectively a coup,” according to American diplomatic officer Raymond Burghardt, who was chief political officer in Beijing at the time.

During his 16-year confinement, Zhao was able to clandestinely record his memoirs on 30 one-hour cassette tapes. Recorded over his children’s music and Peking Opera tapes, Zhao numbered each one with faint pencil before passing them to trusted friends to be smuggled out in separate batches under the nose of his captors. The full contents, including audio clips, were published in Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Zhao Ziyang on 19 May 2009, more than four years after his death.

Zhao, a reformist who pleaded with China’s paramount leader Deng Xiaoping to take a softer line with the protesting students, described the killings as a “tragedy”. Recalling the moment he finally knew his efforts to prevent bloodshed were in vain, Zhao wrote: “On the night of June 3, while sitting in the courtyard with my family, I heard intense gunfire. A tragedy to shock the world had not been averted, and was happening after all.”

Among the key passages of the book is Zhao’s account of the meeting on May 17 at the house of Deng Xiaoping at which it was decided – despite Zhao’s vigorous representations – to impose martial law and clear the square by force:

I had no other choice but to express my views to Deng personally, in a face-to-face meeting. Since I had asked for a personal meeting with Deng, only to have Deng call for a full Standing Committee meeting at his home, I realized that things had already taken a bad turn.

I expressed my views roughly as follows: “The situation with the student demonstrations has worsened, and has grown extremely grave. Students, teachers, journalists, scholars and even some government staff have taken to the streets in protest. Today there were approximately 300,000 to 400,000 people. Quite a large number of workers and peasants are also sympathetic. Besides the hot issues of corruption and government transparency, the main impetus for all these different social groups is that they want an explanation for how the Party and the government can be so coldhearted in the face of hunger-striking students, doing nothing to try to save them… If the hunger strike continues and some people die, it will be like gasoline poured over a flame. If we take a confrontational stance with the masses, a dangerous situation could ensue in which we lose complete control.”

While I was expressing my view, Deng appeared very impatient and displeased.

In the end, Deng Xiaoping made the final decision. He said: “Since there is no way to back down without the situation spiraling completely out of control, the decision is to move troops into Beijing and impose martial law”.

When the meeting adjourned, Zhao recalls that he left immediately, not pausing to talk further with his colleagues. “At that moment, I was extremely upset. I told myself that no matter what, I refused to become the General Secretary who mobilized the military to crack down on the students.” But Zhao accepted the likely consequences:

By insisting on my view of the student demonstrations and refusing to accept the decision to crack down with force, I knew what the consequences would be and what treatment I would receive. Mentally, I was fully prepared, I knew that if I persistently upheld my view, I would ultimately be compelled to step down. If I wanted to keep my position, or give up my post in some face-saving way, I would have to give up my viewpoint and conform. If I persisted, then I had to be prepared to step down.

Zhao died on 17 January 2005 in a Beijing hospital at 07:01 AM, at the age of 85.

June 15, 1989 (a Thursday)

‘Execution’ by Beijing artist Yue Minjun

On this date, a Chinese court in Shanghai accused three men of starting a riot in Shanghai and sentenced them to death, the first execution orders since Chinese troops opened fire on pro-democracy demonstrators in Beijing on June 3-4, crushing a 7-week-old reform movement. Television said the three men sentenced to death were charged with setting a train on fire and beating security officials who tried to extinguish the blaze.

The train incident occurred June 6 when six protesters were killed as they stood at a barricade on the tracks near the Shanghai train station and a train from Beijing did not stop in time. People in a large crowd set fire to the train and fought with firefighters and police who came to put it out, injuring 21. The three condemned men “frenziedly smashed the railway carriages and set fire to police motorcycles and the carriages” during the attack, the official New China News Agency reported. “They also prevented firefighters from extinguishing the fire and beat them cruelly.” They were given three days to appeal.

An article in the New York Times on 22 June 1989 reported, in part:

The Chinese authorities staged a public execution today of three young men who were accused of taking part in a violent political protest in Shanghai…

The three young men in Shanghai were presumably executed in the Chinese way, with a bullet fired in the back of the head at close range…

The three men in Shanghai – Xu Guoming, an employee of a Shanghai brewery; Bian Hanwu, who is unemployed, and Yan Xuerong, a worker at a radio factory – were sentenced to death last Thursday but had appealed.

They were accused of helping to set fire to a train on June 6 and then attacking firefighters who arrived to put out the fire. No one was killed, but some firefighters were beaten up and nine rail cars were burned, forcing the closing of the rail line for two days.

The Government has not mentioned the circumstances in which the crowd attacked the train. The crowd had gathered to block the rail line, in protest of the killings of hundreds of students and workers in Beijing two days earlier by the army. A train rammed its way through the human blockade, killing six people who lay on the track, and only then did the outraged crowd attack the train and set it afire.

It is not known what evidence existed against the three men, who appeared to be in their 20′s or perhaps early 30′s, or even exactly what role each was accused of having played in the incident. Nor have the authorities indicated how they caught the three, who were apparently arrested several days later rather than on the scene…

Soon after, people in Beijing, Shandong, Sichuan, Hebei, and Hubei were sentenced to death. Throughout the country, there were tens of thousands of detentions and arrests. Approximately one thousand people were executed, and many others were investigated and harassed. These people were additional victims of the June 4 Massacre.

References:

  • Jiang Qisheng (江棋生).  An Independent Report on the Situation of the June 4 Massacre Victims (1989年六四镇压受害者状况民间报告).   Released online by Human Rights in China (HRIC), 3 June 2010 and accessed at http://www.hrichina.org/content/406 on 20 June 2012.

The 21 “Most Wanted”: June 13, 1989 (a Tuesday)

A handcuffed man is led by Chinese soldiers on a street in Beijing on 14 June 1989 as the authorities looked to prosecute and punish anyone connected with the demonstrations.

On this date, the Beijing Public Security Bureau issued a list of 21 leaders of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests who were being sought for arrest, as reported by the New York Times on the following day:

The 21 students whose mug shots and biographical details were shown on television included the two most prominent leaders of the democracy movement, Wang Dan and Wuer Kaixi. Others shown on television were Chai Ling, the leader of the students occupying Tiananmen Square, and her husband, Feng Congde, and a 28-year-old graduate student, Liu Gang, who is said to have assisted the students from behind the scenes.

The television showed lengthy film clips of Mr. Wuer, apparently so that viewers could identify him and turn him in. The clips also showed the extent of Government surveillance of the student leaders; it seemed that three different video cameras were used to record one visit by Mr. Wuer on May 29 to a restaurant in a Beijing hotel. One camera was trained on him from above while he ate, another showed him leaving the restaurant, and a third caught him as he left the building.

From NYT’s description above, it is clear that Liu Gang’s significance in the movement was not understood by outsiders. Even most students were surprised seeing his name in the no. 3 slot, behind Wang Dan and Wuer Kaixi but ahead of Chai Ling.

This is the list of the 21 most wanted:

  1. Wang Dan (王丹) [3769 0030], male, 24 A native of Jilin. Student in the Department of History, Peking University. Approximately 1.73 metres tall. Has a pointed lower jaw, relatively thin hair, cavities on his front teeth, and relatively thin physical features. Wears glasses for myopia. Speaks with husky Peking accent.
  2. Wuer Kaixi (吾尔开希) [0702 1422 7030 1585], formerly known as Wuer Kaixi [0702 1422 0418 6007]. Male, born on 17th February 1968. Uygur nationality. A native of Yining County, Xinjiang Autonomous Region. Student of the 1988 class of the Education Department, Peking Normal University. Is 1.74 metres tall. Hair parted in the middle. Hair colour is yellowish. Has long face, big eyes, thick lips, relatively white skin, relatively rough voice. Speaks Putonghua. Regularly wears green military trousers.
  3. Liu Gang (刘刚) [0941 0474], male. A native of Liaoyuan city, Jilin. Former graduate student of the Department of Physics, Peking University, now unemployed. Approximately 1.65 meter’s tall. Has a square face, full beard, relatively long sideburns. Speaks with a north-eastern accent.
  4. Chai Ling (柴玲) [2693 3781], female. Born on 15th April 1966. Han nationality. A native of Rizhao city, Shandong. Graduate student of the 1986 class of the Department of Psychology, Peking Normal University. Is 1.56 meters tall. Has a round face, single-fold eyelids, high cheekbones, short hair and relatively white skin.
  5. Zhou Fengsuo (周锋锁) [0719 6912 6956], male. Born on 15th October 1967. Han nationality. A native of Changan county, Shaanxi Province. A student of the 1985 class of the Department of Physics, Qinghua University. Is 1.76 meters tall. Has a square face, pointed chin and quite heavy eyebrows.
  6. Zhai Weiming (翟伟民) [5049 0251 3046], originally called Zhai Weimin [5049 3634 3046]. Male, 21. A native of Xinan county, Henan Province. Student of Peking Economics College. Is 1.68 metres tall. Thin, has a long, oval face, crew cut, single-fold eyelids, relatively dark facial complexion. Speaks with quite a heavy Henan accent.
  7. Liang Qingtun (梁擎墩) [2733 2348 2557], alias Liang Zhaoren [2733 0340 0088], Male. Born on 11th May 1969. A native of Pengxi county, Sichuan Province. Student of the 1987 class of the Department of Psychology, Peking University. Is 1.71 metres tall. Has quite a thin physique and quite dark skin, a long squarish face, small eyes, high nose, quite thick lips. Can speak Putonghua.
  8. Wang Zhengyun (王正云) [3769 2973 0061], male, 21, of Kucong nationality. Address Lianfang village, Nanke town, Mengla district, Jinping county, Honghe prefecture, Yunnan Province. Student of the Central Institute for Nationalities. Height about 1.67 meters. Long, thin face, hair parted in the middle, dark brown complexion with freckles.
  9. Zheng Xuguang (郑旭光) [6774 2485 0342], male, 20. Native of Mixian county, Henan. Address 56 North Lane, Huancheng West Road, Xian city. Student of Peking Aeronautic and Astronautic University. Height 1.81 meters, weight 63 kg. Long, oval face, single-fold eyelids, a pointed chin, big ears.
  10. Ma Shaofang (馬少方) [7456 1421 2455], male, born in November, 1964. Native of Jiangdu city, Jiangsu Province. Student of the evening writing classes of Peking Film Academy. Height about 1.67 meters. On the thin side, long face, pointed chin, dark-skinned, wears glasses for myopia.
  11. Yang Tao (杨涛) [2799 3447], male, 19. Native of Fuzhou city, Fujian. History student of Peking University. Height about 1.70metres. On the thin side, high cheekbones, double-fold eyelids, wears glasses, speaks Putonghua.
  12. Wang Zhixin (王治新) [3769 3112 2450], male. Born in November 1967. Student of China University of Political Science and Law. Address Textile Industry School, Yuci City, Shanxi. Height 1.69 meters. Long hair, wears glasses.
  13. Feng Congde (封從德) [1409 1783 1795], male, 22. Native of Sichuan Province. Candidate of the Institute of Remote Sensing of Peking University. Height about 1.70 meters. On the thin side, dark-skinned.
  14. Wang Chaohua (王超华) [3769 6389 5478], female, 37. Graduate student of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Height about 1.63 meters. Rather thin, long face, dark brown complexion, triangular eyes, short hair.
  15. Wang Youcai (王有才) [3769 2589 2088], male. Born in June 1966. Native of Zhejiang Province. Graduate student of the Law Department of Peking University.
  16. Zhang Zhiqing (张志清) [1728 1807 3237], male. Born in June 1964. Native of Taiyuan city, Shangxi. Student of China Political Science and Law University.
  17. Zhang Boli (张伯笠) [1728 0130 4567], male, 26. Native of Wangkui county, Heilongjiang Province. Student of the writing class of Peking University. Height about 1.75 meters. A little overweight, round face, double-fold eyelid, upturned nose, thick lips. Speaks with a north-eastern accent.
  18. Li Lu (李禄) [2621 6922], male, about 20. Student of Nanjing University. Height about 1.74 meters. Middle type of figure, square chin, protruding lower teeth.
  19. Zhang Ming (张铭) [1728 6900], male. Born in April 1965. Native of Jilin city, Jilin Province. Student of the Automotive Engineering Department of Qinghua University.
  20. Xiong Wei (熊炜) [3574 3555], male. Born in July 1966. Native of Yingcheng county, Hubei Province. Student of the 1985 class of the Radio Engineering Department of Qinghua University. Address No 502, Unit 47, No 1 Mashengmiao, Haidian, Peking.
  21. Xiong Yan (熊焱) [3574 8746], male. Born in September 1964. Native of Shuangfeng county, Hunan Province. Graduate student of the Law Department of Peking University. Address Xingziceshui Hospital, Shuangfeng county, Hunan Province.

*The 21 Most Wanted*

As Liu Gang would later comment, almost all of the 21 had been, one way or another, involved with the Beijing Students Autonomous Federation he had founded.

June 11, 1989 (a Sunday)

The Chinese astrophysicist Fang Lizhi at home in Beijing, shortly before taking refuge at the US embassy during and after the Tiananmen Square crackdown, 1989.

On this day, in the wake of the June 4th crackdown on the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, China issued a warrant for a leading Chinese dissident who had taken refuge in the U.S. embassy in Beijing. The diplomatic standoff lasted for a year, and the refusal of the United States to hand the dissident over to Chinese officials was further evidence of American disapproval of China’s crackdown on political protesters.

The Chinese government used this brutal crackdown as a pretext for issuing an arrest warrant for Fang Lizhi, an internationally respected astrophysicist and leading Chinese dissident. Although Fang had not participated in the Tiananmen Square protests, he had been a consistent advocate of greater political democracy and a persistent critic of government policies.  On June 5, Fang and his wife, Li Shuxian, took refuge in the U.S. embassy.

In the June arrest warrant, Fang and his wife were charged with “committing crimes of counter-revolutionary propaganda and instigation.”  Chinese officials demanded that the American government hand over the pair, but the U.S. refused.  Fang and his wife remained in the U.S. embassy until June 25, 1990, when they were allowed by Chinese authorities to leave the embassy and board a U.S. Air Force C-135 transport plane to Britain.

During his time in the embassy, Fang wrote an essay entitled “The Chinese Amnesia”, criticizing the Chinese Communist Party’s repression of human rights and the outside world’s turning a blind eye to it. The entire essay (translated by Perry Link) was eventually published in The New York Review of Books on September 27, 1990. The following is a portion of it:

Excerpt from “The Chinese Amnesia” (1989)
By Fang Lizhi
(translated by Perry Link)

There seems to be no accurate count of all the books that have appeared about the Tiananmen events of the spring of 1989. But certainly they have been many. A friend at Columbia University recently wrote me that she and one of her Chinese colleagues, both of whom were eyewitnesses at Tiananmen, had originally planned to write a book about it. But publishers told them that so many Tiananmen books were already available that the market had become “saturated.” The two reluctantly dropped their plan. It seems that a new Tiananmen book, for now, can have only a modest circulation.

In my view, a large but “saturated” market is itself one of the most important consequences to emerge from the events at Tiananmen. It signals the failure of the “Technique of Forgetting History,” which has been an important device of rule by the Chinese Communists. I have lived under the Chinese Communist regime for four decades, and have had many opportunities to observe this technique at work. Its aim is to force the whole of society to forget its history, and especially the true history of the Chinese Communist party itself.

In 1957 Mao Zedong launched an “Anti-Rightist Movement” to purge intellectuals, and 500,000 people were persecuted. Some were killed, some killed themselves, and some were imprisoned or sent for “labor reform.” The lightest punishment was to be labeled a “Rightist.” This was called “wearing a cap” and meant that one had to bear a powerful stigma. I had just graduated from college that year, and also in that year was purged for the first time.

After the 1957 Anti-Rightist purge, what worried me most was not that I had been punished, or that free thought had been curtailed. At that time, I was still a believer, or semibeliever, in Marxism, and felt that the criticism of free thought, including my own free thought, was not entirely unreasonable. But what worried me, what I just couldn’t figure out, was why the Communist party in China would want to use such cruel methods against intellectuals who showed just a tiny bit (and some not even that) of independent thought. I had always assumed that the relationship between the Communist party and intellectuals, including intellectuals who had some independent views, was one of friendship–or at least not one of enmity.

Later I discovered that this worry of mine seemed ridiculous to teachers and friends who were ten or twenty years older than I. They laughed at my ignorance of history. They told me how, as early as 1942, before the Party had wrested control of the whole country, the same cruel methods against intellectuals were already being used at the Communist base in Yan’an. In college I had taken courses in Communist party history, and of course knew that in 1942 at Yan’an there had been a “rectification” movement aimed at “liberalism,” “individualism,” and other non-Marxist thought. But it was indeed true that I had had no idea that the methods of that “rectification” included “criticism and struggle”–which meant in practice forcing people to commit suicide, and even execution by beheading. People who had experienced the Yan’an “rectification” paled at the very mention of it. But fifteen years later my generation was completely ignorant of it. We deserved the ridicule we received.

After another thirteen years, in 1970, it became our turn to laugh at a younger generation. This was in the middle stage of the Cultural Revolution that took place between 1966 and 1976. In the early stage of the Cultural Revolution, Mao Zedong had used university students, many of whom supported him fanatically, to bring down his political opponents. But in the early 1970s these same students became the targets of attack. In 1970 all the students and teachers in the physics department of the Chinese University of Science and Technology were sent to a coal mine in Huainan, Anhui Province, for “re-education.” I was a lecturer in physics at the time. The movement to “criticize and struggle” against the students’ “counterrevolutionary words and deeds” reached its most intense point during the summer. Some students were “struggled”; others were locked up “for investigation”; a good number could not endure the torment of the vile political atmosphere and fell ill. One of my assignments was to pull a plank-cart (like a horse cart, but pulled by a human being) to transport the ill students. Of the group of forty-some students working in the same mine as I did, two were driven to suicide–one by jumping off a building, the other by lying in front of a train.

Most of these students, as innocent as I had been in 1957, never imagined that the Communist government could be so cruel in its treatment of students who had followed them so loyally. Later one of the students, who became my co-worker in astrophysical research (and who is now in the US), confided to me that he had had no knowledge whatever of the true history of the Anti-Rightist Movement. It was not until he was himself detained and interrogated that he slowly began to appreciate why some of the older people he knew lived in such fear of the phrase Anti-Rightist. The whole story of the main actors and issues had, for this generation, become a huge blank.

Fang’s assessment of the world’s indifference to the oppression of human rights in China was accurate, at least in the United States; the American media had rarely mentioned human rights violations in China since the Democracy Wall movement was crushed in 1979 and its leaders were thrown in jail. As reported in an article entitled “China News Blackout” (Summer, 1989), written by Martin A. Lee and published by FAIR, the national media watch group:

“Look at Wei Jingshen,” Deng Xiaoping said of a prominent Democracy Wall dissident (Progressive, 3/87). “We put him behind bars and the democracy movement died. We haven’t released him, but that did not raise much of an international uproar.”

Shortly after the suppression of the Democracy Wall movement, Deng introduced economic and legal reforms. “A wave of euphoria swept through U.S. government and press circles,” recalled Roberta Cohen, who served as deputy assistant secretary of state for human rights under Carter. “The enthusiasm for free-market initiatives and other reforms became the new rationale for turning a blind eye to the continuing repression in China.”

According to the State Department’s 1987 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, between 2 million and 5 million people languished in Chinese labor camps and prisons. New York Times correspondent Fox Butterfield reported on the existence of Chinese gulags when he was based in China in the early 1980s, but there wasn’t much follow-up in the U.S. press.

U.S. media remained tight-lipped when President Ronald Reagan approved sales of police equipment to China’s internal security force, expanded military ties and encouraged loans and investment despite serious human rights abuses by the Chinese government. The brutalization of Tibet and the relentless suppression of dissent in China were off the press agenda until late in Reagan’s second term. Meanwhile, according to Amnesty International, thousands of Chinese prisoners were being tortured, while others faced illegal arrests, unwarranted search and seizure, and other forms of harassment.

Journalists were outraged when Deng and company imposed harsh press restrictions during the Tiananmen crackdown in 1989, but U.S. reporters appear to have practiced a form of self-censorship with respect to Chinese human rights violations for nearly a decade. “American administrations yawned at reports of repression of basic freedoms in China…. So, much too often, did American journalism,” A.M. Rosenthal wrote in the New York Times (6/13/89) shortly after the massacre at Tiananmen Square.

Rosenthal’s complaint rings hollow, for it was during his tenure as New York Times executive editor that reporting on Chinese abuses virtually ceased. No news stories on China and human rights are listed in the Times index from 1984 through 1986. Ditto for Time magazine, which selected Deng Xiaoping as “Man of the Year” in 1985. Newsweek managed only one story on the subject for these three years.

The media silence was all the more deafening in light of what transpired in China during this period. Vice President George Bush visited the People’s Republic in 1985, but this provoked none of the concern for political prisoners that journalists displayed when U.S. officials met with Soviet leaders. And another round of student protests was put down in December 1986 by Deng Xiaoping, who stated at the time (Progressive, 3/87):”When necessary one must deal severely with those who defy orders. We can afford to shed some blood.” This is the man Bush hailed as a “forward-looking” leader.

In February 1989, more than one hundred Chinese security personnel had forcibly prevented Fang Lizhi from attending a banquet with President George Bush (the First), even though he had received a highly publicized invitation. And yet, Bush subsequently failed to raise the human rights issue with Chinese officials. The best he could muster was a statement of regret channeled though his spokesperson Marlin Fitzwater. In a case of too little, too late, editorials in major dailies chided Bush for not taking a tougher stand in Beijing (Miami Herald, 2/28/89; New York Times, 3/1/89).

Nevertheless, the Fang Lizhi incident indicated that feelings about what had occurred in Tiananmen Square ran high, both in the United States and China; it seemed America had finally taken notice.

June 9, 1989 (a Friday)

The United States has blamed us for suppressing the students. But didn’t the U.S. itself call out police and troops to deal with student strikes and disturbances, and didn’t that lead to arrests and bloodshed? It suppressed the students and the people, while we put down a counter-revolutionary rebellion.  What right has it to criticize us?

— Deng Xiaoping, June 9, 1989, comment to officers of troops enforcing martial law in Beijing after the Tiananmen events on 4 June.

Zen stones

Tiananmen. Nothing happened, according to the Chinese Communist Party.

On this date, less than a week after the Tiananmen Square protests were crushed on 4 June, Deng Xiaoping, chairman of the Central Military Commission and China’s foremost leader, delivered an address in Beijing to military commanders. The address, which was first reported in Chinese newspapers in Hong Kong and the United States, emerged as a key document setting out the party line in the crackdown on the pro-democracy movement. He stated that the government had suppressed a “counterrevolutionary rebellion . . . determined by the international and domestic climate” where the “dregs of society” had sought to “establish a bourgeois republic entirely dependent on the West.”

Chinese senior leader Deng Xiaoping, left, shakes hands with officers of the People's Liberation Army in Beijing June 9, 1987 while former President Li Xiannian, left, looks on.

An official publication issued by the Chinese authorities in 1990 about the “riots,” The Truth About the Beijing Turmoil, claimed that 6,000 troops had been injured and “scores” had been killed. The book said that 3,000 civilians were wounded, and over 200, including 36 university students, had died. These casualties occurred when troops “counter-attacked,” it states, and “some rioters were killed, some onlookers were hit by stray bullets and some wounded or killed by armed ruffians.” How this could have happened when soldiers only “fired into the air” as it claims was left unexplained.

More recent commentators have made much of the fact that the party leadership generally now refers to the events of that year as a “political incident” rather than the more harsh-sounding “counterrevolutionary rebellion.” But the denial of extensive loss of life among ordinary people in the official version, dubbed “the big lie” by many observers, has not been revised, even to a small extent. The attempt to impose collective amnesia is encouraged by a deafening silence on the matter in the Chinese media.

June 5, 1989 (a Monday)

A Beijing demonstrator blocks the path of a tank convoy along the Avenue of Eternal Peace near Tiananmen Square.

On this date, one day after the 27th and 28th Armies of the People’s Liberation Army brutally crushed the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing, a single, unarmed young man stood his ground before a column of tanks on Chang’an Boulevard (Avenue of Eternal Peace) in front of the Beijing Hotel. Captured on film and video by Western journalists, this extraordinary confrontation became an icon of the struggle for freedom around the world.

Photo taken on June 5, 1989

About midday, as a column of tanks slowly moved east along Chang’an Boulevard toward Tiananmen Square, an unarmed young man carrying shopping bags stood defiantly in front of the approaching tanks. Instead of running over him, the first tank tried to go around, but the young man stepped in front of it again. They repeated this maneuver several more times before the tank stopped and turned off its motor. The young man climbed on top of the tank and spoke to the driver before jumping back down again. Soon, the young man was whisked to the side of the road by an unidentified group of people and disappeared into the crowd.
_________________________________________________________
_________________________________________________________

To this day, who he was and what became of him remains a mystery. He is known simply as the “Tank Man,” or the “Unknown Rebel.”

Yet, the struggle for freedom in the People’s Republic of China continues today.

June 4, 1989 (a Sunday)

A dissident student asks soldiers to go back home; photo taken on June 3, 1989.

On June 3, as word spread that hundreds of thousands of troops were approaching from all four corners of the city, citizens of Beijing, China, flooded the streets to block them, as they had done two weeks earlier. People set up barricades at every major intersection. At about 10:30 p.m., near the Muxidi apartment buildings — home to high-level Party officials and their families — the citizens became aggressive as the army tried to break through their barricades. They yelled at the soldiers and some threw rocks; someone set a bus on fire. The soldiers began firing on the unarmed civilians with AK-47s loaded with battlefield ammunition. Human rights observer Timothy Brook recalled:

Forget to forget today.

The first rounds of fire catch everybody by surprise. The people in the streets don’t expect this to happen. There are a couple of hospitals right near Muxidi, and the casualties start showing up within 10 or 15 minutes of the first round of gunfire. The casualties run very high because people didn’t expect to be shot at with live ammunition. When they start firing, people say, “Oh, it’s rubber bullets.” Even after it becomes clear, even after they realize that the army is going to go ahead at any cost, people still pour into the streets. This is the amazing thing: People were just so angry, so furious at what was happening in their city that they were not going to step back and let the army do what it was doing. This is why the casualties from Muxidi on east towards Tiananmen Square were so high. This is the major military confrontation of the evening.

__________________________________________________
__________________________________________________

The attack continued into the early morning hours of June 4. The wounded were taken to nearby hospitals on bicycles and pull-carts, but the hospital staff were unequipped to deal with the severe wounds. Muxidi saw the highest casualties of the night; an untold number of people were killed. Reporters and Western diplomats on the scene estimated that at least 300, and perhaps thousands, of the protesters had been killed and as many as 10,000 were arrested. You can see more historic photographs by clicking here and here.

Ten armed soldiers beating a student to death in Tiananmen Square during the massacre (6-4).

On the night of June 3, Liao Yiwu was home in the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan. The news of the brutal suppression of the students’ pro-democracy movement shocked him to the very core. Overnight, Liao composed a long poem, “Massacre,” which portrayed, with stark imagery, the killing of innocent students and residents as vividly as Picasso depicted the Nazi massacre in the town of Guernica.

Without any chance of having his poem published in China, Liao made an audiotape of himself reciting “Massacre,” using Chinese ritualistic chanting and howling to invoke the spirit of the dead. The tape recording was widely circulated via underground channels in China.

Excerpt from “Massacre
By Liao Yiwu
(translated by Wen Huang)

Dedicated to those who were killed on June 4, 1989

A massacre is happening
In this nation of Utopia
Where the Prime Minister catches a cold
The masses have to sneeze to follow
Martial law is declared and enforced
The aging toothless state machine is rolling over
Those who dare to resist and refuse to sneeze
Fallen by the thousands are the barehanded and unarmed
Armored assassins are swimming in blood
Setting fire to houses with windows and doors locked
Polish your military boots with the skirt of a slain girl
Boot owners don’t even tremble
Robots without hearts never tremble
Their brain is programmed with one process
A flawed command
Represent the nation to dismember the constitution
Represent the constitution to slaughter justice
Represent the mothers to suffocate the children
Represent children to sodomize the fathers
Represent the wives to murder the husbands
Represent the citizens to bomb the city
Open fire, open fire, open fire
Shoot women, students and children
Shoot workers, teachers and venders
Riddle them with bullets
Aiming at those angry faces, shocking faces, contorted faces, despondent faces and tranquil faces
Shoot with abandon
The fleeting beauty of those faces moving toward you like tidal waves
The eternal beauty of those faces heading toward heaven and hell
The beauty of turning humans into beasts
The beauty of seducing, raping and trampling on your fellow citizens
Eliminate beauty
Wipe out the flowers, forest, school campuses, love, and the pure air
Shoot, shoot and shoot…
I feel good and I feel high
Blow up that head
Burn up the hair and the skin
Let the brain erupt
Let the soul gush out
Splash on the bridge, the fence and the street
Splash toward the sky
Blood turned into stars and stars are running
Heaven and earth have turned upside down
Shiny helmets are like stars
Troops are running out of the moon
Shoot, Shoot, Shoot
Humans and stars are falling and running
Indistinguishable, which are humans and which are stars
Troops followed them into the cloud, into cracks on the ground …

We live under bright sunlight
But we have lost our eyesight
We find ourselves on a street, so wide
But no one can take a stride
We stand in a crowd, supposed to be loud
But people open their mouth without sound
We are tortured with thirst
But everyone refuses water.

This unprecedented massacre
Survivors are those bastards.

Map of Beijing showing where some of the victims died

Massacre Map Index

The savagery of the Chinese government’s attack shocked both its allies and Cold War enemies. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev declared that he was saddened by the events in China. He said he hoped that the government would adopt his own domestic reform program and begin to democratize the Chinese political system. In the United States, editorialists and members of Congress denounced the Tiananmen Square crackdown and pressed for President Bush the First to punish the Chinese government. A little more than three weeks later, the U.S. Congress voted to impose economic sanctions against the People’s Republic of China in response to the brutal violation of human rights.

4 am, 4 June 1989, Tiananmen Square. Soldiers rushed out of the Great Hall of the People, with guns pointed towards students under the Hero's Memorial. They fired as they pushed forward. In this picture the flash out of the muzzle of one soldier's weapon is clearly visible. Professor Ding Zilin collected two more names of students who perished that night in the Tiananmen Square.

Obstinately, the People’s Republic of China continues to deny the facts. “There were no deaths in the square,” according to a deceptive article that was published in the People’s Daily on September 19, 1989.

James Miles — who was the BBC’s Beijing correspondent at the time of the Tiananmen Square events — wrote an article dated 2 June 2009 entitled “Tiananmen killings: Were the media right?“, noting that:

We got the story generally right, but on one detail I and others conveyed the wrong impression. There was no massacre on Tiananmen Square.

(. . .)

Evidence of a massacre having occurred in Beijing was incontrovertible. Numerous foreign journalists saw it from widely scattered vantage points.

On the morning of 4 June, reporters in the Beijing Hotel close to the square saw troops open fire indiscriminately at unarmed citizens on Chang’an Boulevard who were too far away from the soldiers to pose any real threat. Thirty or 40 bodies lay, apparently lifeless, on the road afterwards. That scene outside the Beijing Hotel alone justified the use of the word massacre. But the students who had told me and other journalists of a bloodbath on the square proved mistaken.

Protesters who were still in the square when the army reached it were allowed to leave after negotiations with martial law troops (Only a handful of journalists were on hand to witness this moment – I, like most others at the time, had spent the night in various different parts of the city monitoring the army’s bloody advance). A few of the students were crushed by armoured vehicles some distance from the square after the retreat. There were credible reports of several citizens being shot dead during the night on the outer perimeter of the square, but in places which strictly speaking could be said to be outside the square itself. But we are far less certain of killings on Tiananmen proper. There were probably few, if any.

(. . .)

The Chinese government was quick to exploit the weaknesses in our reporting. By focusing on what happened in the square itself, it began sowing seeds of doubt about the general accuracy of Western reports among Chinese who did not witness what happened. At first this made little difference, since most Beijing residents at least had friends of friends who had seen for themselves that there had been a massacre, even if not in the square. But as the years passed, a new generation emerged with few eyewitness accounts to cling to.

(. . .)

[Today, it] is not uncommon to find Chinese who believe the Communist Party’s fiction that there was a riot in Beijing on 3 June that warranted intervention. Rioting did occur, but involving angry residents outraged by the army’s brutal entry into the city.

(. . .)

There was no Tiananmen Square massacre, but there was a Beijing massacre. [emphasis added]

___________________________________________________
Hu Ping explains the implications of June 4th, 1989 for the world:

___________________________________________________

Suggested reading:

  • Tiananmen Papers– Andrew Nathan and Perry Link
  • Mandate of Heaven– Orville Schell
  • Almost a Revolution– Shen Tong
  • Disco’s and Democracy– Orville Schell
  • Moving the Mountain– Li Lu
  • Black hands of Beijing– George Black Robin Munro
  • Children of the Dragon– Human Rights in China
  • Bring down the Great Wall – Fang Lizhi
  • The Power of Tiananmen– Dingxin Zhou
  • Beijing Spring– David and Peter Turnley
  • Prisoner of the State– Zhao Ziyang
  • Quelling the People– Timothy Brook
  • Escape from China– Zhang Boli
  • A glossy propaganda book published by the Chinese Government called The Truth about the Beijing Turmoil

Videos about Tiananmen Square:

  • The Gate of Heavenly Peace – documentary
  • Moving the Mountain– Movie
  • Tank Man– PBS documentary
  • Democracy Crushed, Tiananmen Square– The History Channel
  • Tiananmen Declassified– The History Channel

Reflections on Tiananmen Square, 20 years later

Dead civilian bodies in the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square Protests Massacre, 4 June 1989.

The following is from an article published on 30 May 2009 in the New York Times that was written about Tiananmen by Yu Hua, a Chinese author who was there in 1989:

This is the first time I am writing about Tiananmen Square. I am telling my story now because 20 years later — the anniversary is June 4 — two facts have become more apparent. The first is that the Tiananmen pro-democracy protests amounted to a one-time release of the Chinese people’s political passions, later replaced by a zeal for making money. The second is that after the summer of 1989 the incident vanished from the Chinese news media. As a result, few young Chinese know anything about it.

But most important of all, I realize now that the spring of 1989 was the only time I fully understood the words “the people.” Those words have little meaning in China today.

“The people,” or renmin, is one of the first phrases I learned to read and write. I knew our country was called “the People’s Republic of China.” Chairman Mao told us to “serve the people.” The most important paper was People’s Daily. “Since 1949, the people are the masters,” we learned to say.

A rickshaw driver ferries two dying students on the morning of June 4, 1989.

In China today, it seems only officials have “the people” on their lips. New vocabulary has sprouted up — netizens, stock traders, fund holders, celebrity fans, migrant laborers and so on — slicing into smaller pieces the already faded concept of “the people.”

But in 1989, my 30th year, those words were not just an empty phrase.

Protests were spreading across the country, and in Beijing, where I was studying, the police suddenly disappeared from the streets. You could take the subway or a bus without paying, and everyone was smiling at one another. Hard-nosed street vendors handed out free refreshments to protesters. Retirees donated their meager savings to the hunger strikers in the square. As a show of support for the students, pickpockets called a moratorium.

China is a nation where over a billion people don’t have basic political freedoms and human rights. This denial of basic rights was maintained by the murder of Chinese citizens by the Chinese government. These are the defining facts of modern China.

June 3, 1989 (a Saturday)

A dissident student asks soldiers to go back home; photo taken on June 3, 1989.

On June 3, as word spread that hundreds of thousands of troops were approaching from all four corners of the city, citizens of Beijing, China, flooded the streets to block them, as they had done two weeks earlier. People set up barricades at every major intersection. At about 10:30 p.m., near the Muxidi apartment buildings — home to high-level Party officials and their families — the citizens became aggressive as the army tried to break through their barricades. They yelled at the soldiers and some threw rocks; someone set a bus on fire. The soldiers began firing on the unarmed civilians with AK-47s loaded with battlefield ammunition. Human rights observer Timothy Brook recalled:

Forget to forget today.

The first rounds of fire catch everybody by surprise. The people in the streets don’t expect this to happen. There are a couple of hospitals right near Muxidi, and the casualties start showing up within 10 or 15 minutes of the first round of gunfire. The casualties run very high because people didn’t expect to be shot at with live ammunition. When they start firing, people say, “Oh, it’s rubber bullets.” Even after it becomes clear, even after they realize that the army is going to go ahead at any cost, people still pour into the streets. This is the amazing thing: People were just so angry, so furious at what was happening in their city that they were not going to step back and let the army do what it was doing. This is why the casualties from Muxidi on east towards Tiananmen Square were so high. This is the major military confrontation of the evening.

__________________________________________________
__________________________________________________

The attack continued into the early morning hours of June 4. The wounded were taken to nearby hospitals on bicycles and pull-carts, but the hospital staff were unequipped to deal with the severe wounds. Muxidi saw the highest casualties of the night; an untold number of people were killed. Reporters and Western diplomats on the scene estimated that at least 300, and perhaps thousands, of the protesters had been killed and as many as 10,000 were arrested. You can see more historic photographs by clicking here and here.

Ten armed soldiers beating a student to death in Tiananmen Square during the massacre (6-4).

On the night of June 3, Liao Yiwu was home in the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan. The news of the brutal suppression of the students’ pro-democracy movement shocked him to the very core. Overnight, Liao composed a long poem, “Massacre,” which portrayed, with stark imagery, the killing of innocent students and residents as vividly as Picasso depicted the Nazi massacre in the town of Guernica.

Without any chance of having his poem published in China, Liao made an audiotape of himself reciting “Massacre,” using Chinese ritualistic chanting and howling to invoke the spirit of the dead. The tape recording was widely circulated via underground channels in China.

Excerpt from “Massacre
By Liao Yiwu
(translated by Wen Huang)

Dedicated to those who were killed on June 4, 1989

A massacre is happening
In this nation of Utopia
Where the Prime Minister catches a cold
The masses have to sneeze to follow
Martial law is declared and enforced
The aging toothless state machine is rolling over
Those who dare to resist and refuse to sneeze
Fallen by the thousands are the barehanded and unarmed
Armored assassins are swimming in blood
Setting fire to houses with windows and doors locked
Polish your military boots with the skirt of a slain girl
Boot owners don’t even tremble
Robots without hearts never tremble
Their brain is programmed with one process
A flawed command
Represent the nation to dismember the constitution
Represent the constitution to slaughter justice
Represent the mothers to suffocate the children
Represent children to sodomize the fathers
Represent the wives to murder the husbands
Represent the citizens to bomb the city
Open fire, open fire, open fire
Shoot women, students and children
Shoot workers, teachers and venders
Riddle them with bullets
Aiming at those angry faces, shocking faces, contorted faces, despondent faces and tranquil faces
Shoot with abandon
The fleeting beauty of those faces moving toward you like tidal waves
The eternal beauty of those faces heading toward heaven and hell
The beauty of turning humans into beasts
The beauty of seducing, raping and trampling on your fellow citizens
Eliminate beauty
Wipe out the flowers, forest, school campuses, love, and the pure air
Shoot, shoot and shoot…
I feel good and I feel high
Blow up that head
Burn up the hair and the skin
Let the brain erupt
Let the soul gush out
Splash on the bridge, the fence and the street
Splash toward the sky
Blood turned into stars and stars are running
Heaven and earth have turned upside down
Shiny helmets are like stars
Troops are running out of the moon
Shoot, Shoot, Shoot
Humans and stars are falling and running
Indistinguishable, which are humans and which are stars
Troops followed them into the cloud, into cracks on the ground …

We live under bright sunlight
But we have lost our eyesight
We find ourselves on a street, so wide
But no one can take a stride
We stand in a crowd, supposed to be loud
But people open their mouth without sound
We are tortured with thirst
But everyone refuses water.

This unprecedented massacre
Survivors are those bastards.

Map of Beijing showing where some of the victims died

Massacre Map Index

The savagery of the Chinese government’s attack shocked both its allies and Cold War enemies. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev declared that he was saddened by the events in China. He said he hoped that the government would adopt his own domestic reform program and begin to democratize the Chinese political system. In the United States, editorialists and members of Congress denounced the Tiananmen Square crackdown and pressed for President Bush the First to punish the Chinese government. A little more than three weeks later, the U.S. Congress voted to impose economic sanctions against the People’s Republic of China in response to the brutal violation of human rights.

4 am, 4 June 1989, Tiananmen Square. Soldiers rushed out of the Great Hall of the People, with guns pointed towards students under the Hero's Memorial. They fired as they pushed forward. In this picture the flash out of the muzzle of one soldier's weapon is clearly visible. Professor Ding Zilin collected two more names of students who perished that night in the Tiananmen Square.

Obstinately, the  People’s Republic of China continues to deny the facts. “There were no deaths in the square,” according to a deceptive article that was published in the People’s Daily on September 19, 1989.

James Miles — who was the BBC’s Beijing correspondent at the time of the Tiananmen Square events — wrote an article dated 2 June 2009 entitled “Tiananmen killings: Were the media right?“, noting that:

We got the story generally right, but on one detail I and others conveyed the wrong impression. There was no massacre on Tiananmen Square.

(. . .)

Evidence of a massacre having occurred in Beijing was incontrovertible. Numerous foreign journalists saw it from widely scattered vantage points.

On the morning of 4 June, reporters in the Beijing Hotel close to the square saw troops open fire indiscriminately at unarmed citizens on Chang’an Boulevard who were too far away from the soldiers to pose any real threat. Thirty or 40 bodies lay, apparently lifeless, on the road afterwards. That scene outside the Beijing Hotel alone justified the use of the word massacre. But the students who had told me and other journalists of a bloodbath on the square proved mistaken.

Protesters who were still in the square when the army reached it were allowed to leave after negotiations with martial law troops (Only a handful of journalists were on hand to witness this moment – I, like most others at the time, had spent the night in various different parts of the city monitoring the army’s bloody advance). A few of the students were crushed by armoured vehicles some distance from the square after the retreat. There were credible reports of several citizens being shot dead during the night on the outer perimeter of the square, but in places which strictly speaking could be said to be outside the square itself. But we are far less certain of killings on Tiananmen proper. There were probably few, if any.

(. . .)

The Chinese government was quick to exploit the weaknesses in our reporting. By focusing on what happened in the square itself, it began sowing seeds of doubt about the general accuracy of Western reports among Chinese who did not witness what happened. At first this made little difference, since most Beijing residents at least had friends of friends who had seen for themselves that there had been a massacre, even if not in the square. But as the years passed, a new generation emerged with few eyewitness accounts to cling to.

(. . .)

[Today, it] is not uncommon to find Chinese who believe the Communist Party’s fiction that there was a riot in Beijing on 3 June that warranted intervention. Rioting did occur, but involving angry residents outraged by the army’s brutal entry into the city.

(. . .)

There was no Tiananmen Square massacre, but there was a Beijing massacre. [emphasis added]

___________________________________________________
Hu Ping explains the implications of June 4th, 1989 for the world:

___________________________________________________

Suggested reading:

  • Tiananmen Papers– Andrew Nathan and Perry Link
  • Mandate of Heaven– Orville Schell
  • Almost a Revolution– Shen Tong
  • Disco’s and Democracy– Orville Schell
  • Moving the Mountain– Li Lu
  • Black hands of Beijing– George Black Robin Munro
  • Children of the Dragon– Human Rights in China
  • Bring down the Great Wall – Fang Lizhi
  • The Power of Tiananmen– Dingxin Zhou
  • Beijing Spring– David and Peter Turnley
  • Prisoner of the State– Zhao Ziyang
  • Quelling the People– Timothy Brook
  • Escape from China– Zhang Boli
  • A glossy propaganda book published by the Chinese Government called The Truth about the Beijing Turmoil

Videos about Tiananmen Square:

  • The Gate of Heavenly Peace – documentary
  • Moving the Mountain– Movie
  • Tank Man– PBS documentary
  • Democracy Crushed, Tiananmen Square– The History Channel
  • Tiananmen Declassified– The History Channel

June 2, 1989 (a Friday)

Tiananmen Square - June 2, 1989

In the early afternoon on this date, close to a thousand students rode bicycles to the office of Beijing Dailyand burned copies of that day’s edition in a protest of the newspaper’s “degenerative” report on the movement.

Later, Liu Xiaobo led Gao Xin, Zhou Dou, and Hou Dejian into the Square and announced their own hunger strike. They would become known as the “Four Gentlemen.” Liu Xiaobo read their manifesto criticizing both the government and the students’ erratic behavior during the Democracy Movement and vowed to steer the movement into a more sensible direction. In this document, which Liu drafted himself, he declared for the first time his famous slogan, “We have no enemies,” which he insisted to this day.

Four Gentlemen Hunger Strike Manifesto
June 2, 1989

We start our hunger strike! We protest! We call upon people! We repent!

We are not looking for death. We are searching for true life.

Under the tremendous pressure of irrational militant violence by the Li Peng regime, Chinese intellectuals must end their all-words-but-no-action tradition of osteomalacia. We must protest the military rule with our actions. We must call for the birth of a brand new political culture with our actions. We must repent the mistakes we made from our long-time weakness. Each of us bears a part of the responsibility for the backwardness of our Chinese nation.

1. The Purpose of Hunger Strike

The current democratic movement, unprecedented in China’s history, has always used legal, non-violent, and rational means to appeal for liberty, democracy, and human rights. However, the Li Peng regime went so far as to mobilize a military force of hundreds of thousands to suppress the unarmed students and people of all walks. Therefore, we start our hunger strike, not for petition, but for protesting the martial law and military rule! We advocate the pushing for progress in China’s democratization with peaceful means and we are against any form of violence. However, we are not afraid of violence. We want to use peaceful means to demonstrate the toughness of our civil and demoractic force, to demolish the undemocratic order supported by bayonets and lies! This ultra-foolish act of using martial law and military rule against students and masses in peaceful petition establishes a precedence of the very worst kind, put the Communist Party, the government, and the military in shame, and destroys the fruit of a decade of reform and openness in a single day!

The thousdands of years history of China is filled with hatred and violent clashes. Even in the modern era, the sense of enermy is a heritage for Chinese people. After 1949, the slogan of “Class Struggle as the Guideline” pushed the tranditional senses of hatred, enemy, and violence even more to the extreme. This military rule is also a result of the “class struggle”-style political culture. Because of this, we start our hunger strike, to call on Chinese people to gradually abandon and eliminate the senses of enemy and hatred, absolutely abolish the “class struggle”-style political culture — because hatred could only produce violence and tyrancy. We must begin China’s democratic reconstruction with a democractic sense of tolerance and cooperation. The democratic politics is a politics without enemy and hatred, but only consultation, discussion, and voting based on mutual respect, mutual tolerance, and multure compromises. As the Premier, Li Peng has made serious mistakes and should resign according to democratic procedures. But Li Peng is not our enemy. Even after he steps down, he should continue to enjoy his rights as a citizen, including the rights to uphold his incorrect opinions. We call upon the government and every ordinary citizen to abandon the old political culture and start a new political culture. We demand the government to end the military rule immediately. And we call upon students and the government to once again negotiate peacefully and to resolve their conflicts with consulation and dialogue.

This student movement has received unprecedented sympathy, understanding, and support from all walks of the society. The implementation of the military rule has turned the student movement into a democratic movement participated by all people. But there is no denying that many people support students only out of humanitarian compassion and resentment to the government and lack a true sense of citizenship out of political responsibilities. Therefore, we call upon the whole society to gradually abandon the spectator and mere sympathy attitudes and build up a true sense of citizenship. First and foremost, citizenship is a sense of political equality. Every citizen must have the self-confidence that his own political rights is equal to that of the Premier. Secondly, citizenship is not only justice and sympathy, but also a rational urge of participation. This is also the sense of political responsibility. Every person does not just sympathize and support but participate directly in the democratic reconstruction. Finally, citizenship is the consciousness of taking responsibilities and obligations. The existence of rational and legal social politics is to everyone’s credit. The existence of irrational and illegal social politics is to everyone’s fault. Consciously participating in social politics and consciously taking on responsibilities is every citizen’s loyal obligation. Chinese people must understand: in democraticized politics, everybody must be a citizen first, and then be a student, professor, worker, cadre, soldier, etc..

For thousands years, the Chinese society went through vicious cycles of overthrowing an old emperor and establishing a new one. History has shown that the stepping down by one leader who had lost people’s heart and the rise of another leader beloved by the poeple cannot solve the true problems in Chinese politics. What we need is not a perfect savior but a complete democratic system. Therefore, I call for the following: First, the society should form legal, independent organizations by various means, gradually establish a grass-root political force to balance the government power. Because the essence of democracy is balance, we would rather have ten devils balancing each other than a single angle with absolute power. Second, gradually establish a thorough procedure for impeachment by impeaching leaders who made serious mistakes. It is not important as of who to step up or down, it is important in how they step up or down. An undemocractic appointing and firing procedure can only lead to dictatorship.

In this movement, the government and students have all made mistakes. The mistakes by the government are mainly for standing on the opposite side of the vast student and resident mass and escalating the conflicts, guided by the old “class struggle” political mindset. Students’ mistakes are mainly in the shortcomings of their own organizations. They showed many non-democratic elements during their efforts in petitioning for democracy. Therefore, we call upon both government and students sides to reflect calmly. It is our opinion that, as a whole, the main mistakes in this movement are on the government’s side. The actions of demonstrations and hunger strike are ways for people to express their opinions. They are absolutely rational and legal, and not turmoil. But the government ignored the fundamental rights guaranteed to every citizen by the Constitution and adopted a tyranical political mindset to characterize this movement as turmiol. This led to a series of incorrect policies and again and again pushed the movement to new heights, made the conflict more and more dramatic. Therefore, the real culprit of creating turmoil is government’s errenous policies, whose seriousness is not any less than that during the Culture Revolution. It is only due to the restraints of students and residents, including the many strong voices by enlightened individuals in the Party, government, and military, that we are spared of any large-scale bloodshed. Because of this, the government must admit and reflect on these mistakes. We believe that it is still not too late for corrections. The government should learn a hearty lesson from this large-scale democratic movement, acquire a new habit of listening to people’s voices, get used to people expressing their opinions with the rights guanranteed by the Constitution, and learn to govern the nation democratically. This wide-range democratic movement is teaching the government how to manage society with democracy and rule of law. The mistakes on the students’ side are mainly in the chaos in their internal organizations, the lack of effenciency and democratic procedure. For instance, their goals are democracy but their means and procedures are undemocratic; their theory is democratic but their handling of real issues are undemocratic; they lack the spirit of cooperation, their powers cancel each other and led to confusion in decision-making; their finance is a mess and waste is rampant; they have abundance of emotion but not enough of reasoning; they possess too much sense of priviledge but lacks equality, etc. etc.. In the most recent hundred years, the struggle to achieve democracy by the Chinese people has mostly limited at the level of ideology and slogans. It only concerns with the idea of enlightening but not the actual implementations, only the goal but not the means, processes and procedures. We believe that the true realization of a democratic politics is the democratization of the actual process, means, and procedures. Therefore, we call upon Chinese people to abandon the traditional empty democray of ideology and slogans and to begin the actual implementation, to transfer the democratic movement centered in enlightenment to a democractic movement of actual implementations, acting from every detailed piece of issues. We call upon the students to start their own reflections by focusing on establishing the order within Tiananmen Square.

The big mistakes the government made are also represented in their use of the term “a small clique”. With our hunger strike, we want to tell all the media home and abroad that the socalled “a small clique” means such a group of people: they are not students but they are willingly participating in this students-led democratic movement as citizens with strong senses of political responsibility. Everything we do is legal and rational. They want to use their intelligence and action to help the government repent in the areas of political culture, personal character, and ethical power, openly acknowledge and correct its mistakes; to help the students refine their independent organizations with democratic and legal procedures. We must admit that it is an unfamiliar concept to every Chinese citizen to govern the nation democratically. All Chinese citizens must learn from the scratch, that includes the top leaders in the Party and the government. In this process, mistakes by the government and the people are unavoidable. The key is to acknowledge the mistakes, correct the mistakes, and turn these mistakes into positive treature so we can learn how to govern our nation democratically through the process of correcting mistakes.

2. Our Slogans

We have no enemies! Don’t let hatred and violence poison our intellegence and China’s democratization process!

We need to reflect! It’s everyone’s responsility for China’s falling behind!

We are citizens first!

We are not looking for death! We are seeking the true life!

3. Hunger Strike Location, Time, and Rules

Location: Under the Monument of People’s Heros at Tiananmen Square
Time: 72 hours, 6/2 4pm to 6/5 4pm
Special Note: Since Hou Dejian has to travel to Hong Kong for recording in 6 days, his hunger strike will be 48 hours, 6/2 4pm to 6/4 4pm
Rules: Only consume plain water, any beverage containing nutritious ingredients (super, starch, fat, protein) is not allowed

4. Hunger Strikers
Liu Xiaobo: Doctor in Literature, Lecturer at Beijing Normal University
Zhou Dou: formerly lecturer at Peking University, Stone Corp.
Hou Dejian: Known song writer
Gao Xin: editor-in-chief of Beijing Normal University Weekly, member of Chinese Communist Party

June 2, 1989 - A woman soldier sings among pro-democracy protesters occupying Tiananmen Square. Police officers and troops would occasionally mix with protesters in an effort to keep the demonstration peaceful.

[The above is a translation. The original in Chinese can be viewed here.]

There were clear signs that tension between the students occupying the Tiananmen Square and the government was gradually building on June 2, 1989. More soldiers were seen around the area, either marching or jogging in formation, or just wandering about. Some of them were detained by students as spies but were eventually released.

May 30, 1989 (a Tuesday)

Goddess of Democracy

On this date, dissident Chinese art students finished setting up a large, 10-meter-tall (33 ft) sculpture called the “Goddess of Democracy” (民主女神) in Tiananmen Square in Beijing. Modeled after the Statue of Liberty, it became one of the enduring symbols of the protest.

The art students who created the statue wrote a declaration that said in part:

At this grim moment, what we need most is to remain calm and united in a single purpose. We need a powerful cementing force to strengthen our resolve: That is the Goddess of Democracy. Democracy…You are the symbol of every student in the Square, of the hearts of millions of people. …Today, here in the People’s Square, the people’s Goddess stands tall and announces to the whole world: A consciousness of democracy has awakened among the Chinese people! The new era has begun! …The statue of the Goddess of Democracy is made of plaster, and of course cannot stand here forever. But as the symbol of the people’s hearts, she is divine and inviolate. Let those who would sully her beware: the people will not permit this! …On the day when real democracy and freedom come to China, we must erect another Goddess of Democracy here in the Square, monumental, towering, and permanent. We have strong faith that that day will come at last. We have still another hope: Chinese people, arise! Erect the statue of the Goddess of Democracy in your millions of hearts! Long live the people! Long live freedom! Long live democracy!

Protesters surrounding the sculpture of the Goddess of Democracy in Tiananmen Square, Beijing, May 30, 1989.

The document was signed by the eight art academies that sponsored the creation of the statue: The Central Academies of Fine Arts, Arts and Crafts, Drama, and Music; the Beijing Film Academy; the Beijing Dance Academy; the Academy of Chines Local Stage Arts; and the Academy of Traditional Music.

Photo from May 30, 1989; a student from an art institute plasters the neck of the Goddess of Democracy

The Goddess of Democracy had stood for only five days before being destroyed by soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army in the assault on Tiananmen that would end the Democracy Movement. Nevertheless, the original statue has become an icon of liberty and a symbol of the free speech and democracy movements.

May 19, 1989 (a Friday)

On this date, Communist China’s General Secretary Zhao Ziyang made his last public appearance, when he visited student demonstrators in front of the Forbidden City and urged them to leave Tiananmen Square, warning that police would use force if they did not. The protests had begun several weeks earlier over the government’s refusal to allow public mourning upon the death on April 15th of pro-democracy official, Hu Yaobang.

At 4:50 am, in the darkness, Zhao Ziyang showed up on the edge of Tiananmen Square unexpectedly. He had come without permission from either the Poliburo or Deng Xiaoping. To his annoyance he realized that he had been followed by his hardliner rival Li Peng, whose appearance in the Square seemed ridiculous as Li was so thoroughly despised by the students. With Li behind him like a shadow, Zhao walked toward the fleet of city buses in which the hunger strikers were living. The exhausted and downbeat national leader was accompanied by his aide, Wen Jiabao, and other staff and guards. The entourage caused quite a stir. Zhao boarded one of the buses housing hunger strikers, shook hands, and gave an unprepared speech to a few cameras. He rumbled through, begging students to stop the hunger strike, but offered nothing other than the famous farewell-ish line, “I am old, I really don’t care any more…”
________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________

Zhao made this nocturnal visit after the Communist Chinese Politburo had decided to declare martial law and send in combat troops against Zhao’s wishes. Martial law was formally announced on the evening of May 19 in the Great Hall of the People, where Li Peng addressed thousands of government cadres. At midnight May 19, a few hours after students ended their hunger strike, the loudspeaker on Tiananmen Square announced the government’s martial law: Military troops were to enter the city and clear the Square. The martial law was made official throughout the nation in the morning of May 20.

That dazed-looking aide behind Zhao Ziyang is Wen Jiabao, more recently China’s prime minister.

Mr Zhao was a powerful figure within Communist China’s opaque apparatus of power, but his decision to back the young protesters in Tiananmen Square cost him his career, and earned him 16 years under arrest in his Beijing home. His removal from power was “effectively a coup,” according to American diplomatic officer Raymond Burghardt, who was chief political officer in Beijing at the time. Ironically, Zhao’s aide, Wen Jiabao, escaped the taint of his allegiance to his superior and is today the Prime Minister of Communist China.

Remarkably, the secret memoirs of Zhao Ziyang exploded into the open, four years after his death, on May 14, 2009. Dictated during his years of house arrest and smuggled out on cassettes disguised as children’s music or Peking opera, they were published as a book entitled, Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Zhao Ziyang. Thus, Zhao posthumously became the first senior member of the Chinese Communist Party to openly criticize the government and the actions of his former colleagues with the publication of his memoirs.

The current Communist Chinese leadership says the crackdown was a “disturbance” by “hooligans” and says crushing the revolt was essential to ensure a stable foundation for the country’s economic growth. Mr. Zhao takes the opposite view.

Excerpts from Prisoner of the State (2009)
By Zhao Ziyang

On the 17 May meeting:

I walked out as soon as the meeting adjourned. At that moment, I was extremely upset. I told myself that no matter what, I refused to become the General Secretary who mobilized the military to crack down on students.

On the Tiananmen crackdown:

On the night of June 3rd, while sitting in the courtyard with my family, I heard intense gunfire. A tragedy to shock the world had not been averted, and was happening after all… First, it was determined then that the student movement was a planned conspiracy of anti-Party, anti-socialist elements with leadership. So now we must ask, who were these leaders? What was the plan? What was the conspiracy? What evidence exists to support this? Second, it was said that this event was aimed at overthrowing the People’s Republic and the Communist Party. Where is the evidence? I had said at the time that most people were only asking us to correct our flaws, not attempting to overthrow our political system. Third, can it be proven that the June Fourth movement was “counterrevolutionary turmoil,” as it was designated? The students were orderly. Many reports indicate that on the occasions when the People’s Liberation Army came under attack, in many incidents it was the students who had come to its defense. Large numbers of city residents blocked the PLA from entering the city. Why? Were they intent on overthrowing the republic?

On democracy:

It would be wrong if our Party never makes the transition from a state that was suitable in a time of war to a state more suitable to a democracy society… The ruling Party must achieve two breakthroughs. One is to allow other political parties and a free press to exist. The second… is, the Party needs to adopt democratic procedures and use democratic means to reform itself… Different opinions must be allowed to exist, and different factions should be made legitimate.

The last word:

Whether the Communist Party persists should be determined by the consequences of society’s political openness and the competition between the Communist Party and other political powers (…) The trend is irrefutable, that the fittest will survive.

According to the Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy, which is headquartered in Hong Kong, Mr. Zhao had been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize every year since 1999.

May 18, 1989 (a Thursday)

18 May 1989.   Beijing University students during a huge demonstration at Tiananmen Square start an unlimited hunger strike, part of the mass pro-democracy protest against the Chinese government. Photo credit Catherine Henriette/AFP/Getty Images.

18 May 1989. Beijing University students during a huge demonstration at Tiananmen Square start an unlimited hunger strike, part of the mass pro-democracy protest against the Chinese government. Photo credit Catherine Henriette/AFP/Getty Images.

On this date, a crowd of protesters, estimated to number more than one million, marched through the streets of Beijing with songs, slogans, and banners calling for greater democracy and the ouster of some hard-line Chinese officials.

China, Beijing, Tian'anmen Square. 18 May 1989. Trucks arrive from all over the city as well as from the country.

China, Beijing, Tian’anmen Square. 18 May 1989. Trucks arrive from all over the city as well as from the country.

Also, this morning Li Peng, member of the Standing Committee of the Politburo of the CPC Central Committee and premier of the State Council, and others met with representatives of the students, who had been fasting at Tiananmen Square, at the Great Hall of the People. On the evening of May 18th, Party elders and Politburo members, including Deng Xiaoping and Li Peng, approved the declaration of martial law.

Chinese workers parade through Beijing streets, 18 May 1989, in support of student hunger strikers gathered at Tiananmen Square. Photo credit Catherine Henriette/AFP/Getty Images.

Chinese workers parade through Beijing streets, 18 May 1989, in support of student hunger strikers gathered at Tiananmen Square. Photo credit Catherine Henriette/AFP/Getty Images.


The protests were part of the months-long movement to occupy Tiananmen Square in central Beijing, which culminated in the brutal repression of June 1989. In the wake of the crackdown, the Chinese government condemned the protests as a “counter-revolutionary rebellion”, though it has never publicly accounted for those killed. The massacre caused horror around the world, and China was marginalized by the international community, but as Deng Xiaoping reportedly said: “The West always forgets.

May 10, 1990 (a Thursday)

Tiananmen Square – June 2, 1989

On this date, the government of the People’s Republic of China announced that it was releasing 211 people arrested during the crackdown on massive protests held in Tiananmen Square in Beijing in June 1989. A brief government statement simply indicated, “Lawbreakers involved in the turmoil and counterrevolutionary rebellion last year have been given lenient treatment and released upon completion of investigations.” The statement also declared that over 400 other “law-breakers” were still being investigated while being held in custody. Most observers viewed the prisoner release as an attempt by the communist government of China to dispel much of the terrible publicity it received for its brutal suppression of the 1989 protests. In fact, in the United States, where the administration of President George Bush was considering the extension of most-favored-nation status to China, the release of the prisoners was hailed as a step in the right direction.

April 26, 1989 (a Wednesday)

The April 27th march was a protest to the April 26th editorial.

On this date, Deng Xiaoping, the powerful leader of the Communist Party Elders of China, denounced the student demonstrations in Beijing in an editorial published in the People’s Daily. He called the protests dongluan (meaning “turmoil” or “rioting”) by a “tiny minority.” These highly emotive terms were associated with the atrocities of the Cultural Revolution. Rather than tamping down the students’ fervor, Deng’s editorial further inflamed it. The government had just made the second of several grave mistakes that would lead to the Tiananmen Square Massacre of June, 1989.

April 22, 1989 (a Saturday)

At picture right, it’s Zhou Yongjun on the steps of the Great Hall of the People on April 22, 1989. Zhou is flanking Guo Haifeng, who is holding a scroll with the students’ demands to reform China.

On this date, the state funeral for Hu Yaobang, the reform-minded Chinese Communist leader whom the students were honoring, was held.  A small handful of student leaders, including Zhou Yongjun and Guo Haifeng, appeared on the steps of the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, clutching their petition for Chinese reform.  They knelt down on the steps in the classic Chinese tradition of waiting for the emperor to receive their petition.  Chinese government officials refused to receive the delegation.  This moment became an iconic photo of the Tiananmen Square protests.

The Seven Point Peition

The “Seven Point Petition” had been drafted on April 18, 1989.In the early morning, hundreds of students from Peking University had gathered around the Monument to People’s Heroes at Tiananmen Square. They had spent the previous night there guarding the wreaths and flowers dedicated to the newly deceased Hu Yaobang.  Wang Dan, Guo Haifeng, Li Jinjin, and Zhang Boli all had been among the crowd and proposed to write a formal petition to the government. After much discussion, the following became their seven demands for government reform:

  • Reevaluate and praise Hu Yaobang’s contributions
  • Negate the previous anti-“spiritual pollution” and anti-“Bourgeois Liberation” movements
  • Allow unofficial press and freedom of speech
  • Publish government leaders’ income and holdings
  • Abolish the “Beijing Ten-Points” [restricting public assembly and demonstrations]
  • Increase education funding and enhance the compensation for intellectuals
  • Report this movement faithfully

The rebuff of the students would prove to be the first of several grave mistakes by the government that led to the Tiananmen Square Massacre in June, 1989.  On April 23, 1989, Zhou was elected the first President of the Autonomous Students Federation of Beijing Universities.  The students had decided that they needed a central organization to speak for the whole array of Beijing schools that were represented in Tiananmen Square.

Retrospective

Hua Tianyou, professor at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, sculpted the May 4th Movement of 1919, a relief on the Monument to the Peoples Heroes, in Beijing in June 1953.

On May 4, 1919, thousands of students from 13 Beijing universities had gathered in Tiananmen Square to protest their government’s weak response to the Treaty of Versailles, which included terms that many felt were unfair to China. That movement soon spread to Shanghai and from students to workers, paving the way for the formation of the Communist Party. Party leaders had viewed the May Fourth movement as so critical to the Communist revolution that in 1958, when they unveiled the Monument to the People’s Heroes in the center of Tiananmen Square, the faces of the 1919 protestors were carved into one side.

In 1989, when students once again converged on the square, they chose the monument as their base. “May Fourth was very important to Chinese history,” says Wang Chaohua, a student organizer who appeared on the government list of 21 most-wanted leaders after the Tiananmen crackdown. “Like the students of May Fourth, we wanted to propose something new.” In both 1919 and 1989, says Wang, who recently completed a doctorate in Asian languages and literature at the University of California at Los Angeles, “political authorities did not command the public imagination. The vacuum was filled by intellectual energy.

April 15, 1989 (a Saturday)

Hu Yaobang (r.) and Deng Xiaoping – Sept 1981

On this date, former Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Hu Yaobang, deposed in 1987, died of a massive heart attack. People began to gather in Tiananmen Square to commemorate Hu and voice their discontents. This was the beginning of events that would lead to the Tiananmen Square massacrein June.

Hu Yaobang was a reformist, who served as General Secretary from 1980 to 1987. He advocated rehabilitation of people persecuted during the Cultural Revolution, greater autonomy for Tibet, rapprochement with Japan, and social and economic reform. As a result, he was forced out of office by the hardliners in January of 1987, and made to offer humiliating public “self-criticisms” for his allegedly bourgeois ideas.

Chinese Students Demonstrate After Hu Yaobang’s Death, photo dated 21-22 April 1989.

One of the charges leveled against Hu was that he had encouraged (or at least allowed) wide-spread student protests in late 1986. As General Secretary, he refused to crack down on such protests, believing that dissent by the intelligentsia should be tolerated by the Communist government.

Official media made just brief mention of Hu’s death, and the government at first did not plan to give him a state funeral. In reaction, university students from across Beijing marched on Tiananmen Square, shouting acceptable, government-approved slogans, and calling for the rehabilitation of Hu’s reputation. Bowing to this pressure, the government decided to accord Hu a state funeral after all.