The Tiananmen Papers: the Chinese leadership’s decision to use force against their own people – in their own words
Edited by Andrew J. Nathan and Perry Link
Ch.1: April 8-23: The Student Movement Begins
Account drawn from Beijing Municipal Party Committee Office “Speech of Comrade Li Ximing at the meeting of university Party secretaries and presidents in the capital,” April 23:
Li Ximing, “it is clear that the student protests began moving in a new direction on the eighteenth. Certain people with ulterior motives are exploiting the students…
Account drawn from Party Central Office Secretariat, “oral report by Shangkun, Li Peng, Qiao Shi & Yilin on the current situation, May 22, evening,” section containing Li Peng’s remarks:
When the news that students were massing at Xinhua Gate reached Li Xiannian on the evening of april 19, he telephoned Li Peng and said, “these students have been acting up for several days now. How did this thing spread to Xinhua Gate…what’s going on, anyway? Is somebody orchestrating this from behind the scenes?
After two nights of unrest at Xinhua Gate, Li Peng told Luo Gan, State Council Secretary general, and later Politburo Standing Committee member Yao Yilin that the unrest was getting out of hand. After hearing a second briefing from SEC head Li Tieying, Li Peng instructed the SEC to insist that every university steadfastly follow the spirit of the Party Central and the State Council. He then spoke with Li Ximing and Chen Xitong, demanding that the municipal government take decisive action; in consequence, the muinicipal authorities declared temporary martial law in the vicinity of Xinhua Gate.
Beijing Municipal Party committee and Beijing municipal People’s Government, “Trends worth close attention during the mourning for Comrade Hu Yaobang at Beijing institutions of higher education," report to Party Central and the State Council, April 20.
In the early morning of April 18 the mourning activities of students in Tiananmen Square changed direction because of the destructive acts of certain people with ulterior motives. During the first few days, the vast majority of students who came to Tiananmen Square were sincere in their grief and displayed deep feeling for Comrade Yaobang. But on the morning of April 18, as the following facts shows, a new direction emerged:
1. Slipping political ideas into mourning activities: At 4.A.M. on April 18, after more than 3000 students from Peking Univ. and People’s Univ. had hung a white banner that read “the soul of China" on the Monument to the People’s Heroes, several hundred students went to sit in at the entrance to the Great Hall of the People and delivered seven political demands to the Standing Committee of the NPC. These demands, which echoed the speeches, slogans, wall posters, and leaflets of the previous two days, called in various ways for:
- Freedom and democracy.
- Completely repudiate efforts to “eliminate spiritual pollution."
- Lift all bans on newspapers and and implement freedom of the press.
- Require officials to resign for serious mistakes.
- Make the central government subject to popular votes of confidence.
- Publicize the incomes of leaders and their children.
- Release political prisoners unconditionally.
2. The appearance of reactionary language: Between April 15 and the evening of 19th, 1,654 wall posters appeared at 31 universities. On 18th students began to post and to shout reactionary slogans directed Senior leading comrades such as Xiaoping, Ziyang, and Li Peng. “Down with corrupt government!" “Down with the Communist Party!" and “Down with autocracy and dictatorship!" are examples.
3. Troublemakers working hard on inciting the masses: people have been spreading rumors that Comrade Yaobang was “hounded to death" or “died of apoplexy." Instigators mill among students in the Square saying: “why demonstrate here? Go to Zhongnanhai, go to the Great Hall of the People." Wall postes call for students to get organized and form a unified committee to coordinate activities. They also urge students to go into factories, shops, and the countryside to mobilize the masses against corrupt government. Some posters at Peking Univ. even incite students to “Attack Zhongnanhai! Torch Zhongnanhai!"
4. Laying siege to Zhongnanhai: in the early morning and evening of 19th, several hundred students, shouting slogans and singing the “Internationale", laid siege to Xinhua Gate and beat policemen while nearly 10,000 people looked on.
5. Programmatic slogans and organizational activities: at some schools, wall posters called for the formation of a committee to revise the Constitution and of autonomous student associations to operate under their bylaws; their also called for provincial federalism, freedom of the press, and freedom of speech. During the first few days of mourning activities, concerned citizens talked some of the extremist students into ending their activities voluntarily and leaving the scene.
But beginning on 18th, exhortation no longer worked. The students congregated, sat in, gave speech, and then laid siege to Zhongnanhai. Student sentiments came more into harmony as their actions became more concerted. These were clear signs of organization within their ranks.
The Municipal Party Committee and the Municipal government have taken the following steps to deal with this situation:
First: Launching a political offensive in which reason will be the watchword. Through public broadcasts and personal persuation, we are reasoning with the students in order to expose the evil intentions of the minority and to persuade the students to return to their campuses and to their books, to join the organized activities for mourning Comrade Yaobang, and to transform their sorrow into actions by concentrating on their studies.
Second: Publishing proclamations and banning illegal activities. On April 19th the Municipal Government published three proclamations to ensure social stability and the normal progress of mourning activities and took strict precautions against subversion and instigation by the minority.
Third: Using martial law measures to keep the situation from escalating. In the early morning of April 18 and 19, in order to stop the student siege at Zhongnanhai and to alleviate traffic jams on Chang’an Boulevard, the Municipal Government took the decisive step of employing temporary martial law methods as a way of dispersing the student troublemakers at Xinhua Gate; it also dispatched buses to return students to their campuses.
Fourth: Calling an emergency meeting to enlist the cooperation of people in charge of districts, counties, bureaus,universities, corporate headquarters, and enterprises. Beijing mayor Chen Xitong chaired the meeting, and Party Secretary Li Ximing and Deputy Secretary Li Qiyan both spoke. They asked all unit heads to give faithful accounts of the situation, to expose the minority of troublemakers, to carry out their duties actively, to guide the masses effectively, to reinforce organizational discipline, and to work hard to stablize the overall situation in order to facilitate the normal process of mourning for Comrade Yaobang and to focus on the regulation, consolidation, and deepening reform and opening.
[to be cont’d]