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
Birth of the Autonomous Federation of Students (AFS) in Beijing
Security agencies and Beijing municipal authorities kept close track of the intensifying student movement on April 20-21*:
Excerpt from Beijing Municipal Party Committee and Beijing Municipal People’s Government, “Bulletin: Peking University students prepare to establish a ‘united student association,’” bulletin to Party Central and State Council duty officers, April 20.
The deomcracy salon** at Peking Univ. reconvened from 11 P.M. yesterday until 1 A.M. this morning to discuss setting up a “united student association." The meeting reviewed past student protests that had failed owing to a lack of leadership and unified action, and it determined that the task at hand was to build effective leadership for the campus democracy movement. Around midnight, Wang Dan announced the abolition of the current official student association at Peking Univ. and the creation of a “Planning Committee of the United Student Association of the Peking University." Seven students, including Ding Xiaoping, Wang Dan, Yang Tao, and Feng Congde, were chosen as a leadership committee under which eight departments were formed — propaganda, workers and farmers, public order, communications, theory, logistics, and others. The Planning Committee announced that it will lead all student movements between April 20 and May 4 and that later on, new graduate and undergraduate student associations will be created to lead spantaneous democracy movements on campus while a “United Association" will unify similar groups at Universities across the nation.
A program of 11 items was announced at the meeting. The items repeated the demands in the petition presented to the Standing Committee of the NPC on April 18 but added, significantly, “release Wei Jingsheng" and “insist that Deng Xiaoping be specific about what he meant by the failure of education during the 10 years of reform."
A “Letter to all Beijing Universities" circulated at the meeting. It proposed that “the various schools use representatives of their democratic student organizations to choose delegates to a joint ‘Mediating Committee for the Democratic Petitioning Activities of Universities in Beijing’ that would unify and lead the spantaneous activities that have already grown strong on university campuses in Beijing." Someone relayed Jin Guantao’s opinion that the time to act has come and that the students should begin with concerted passive resistance. Around 1 A.M. more than 2000 students from Qinghua Univ. shown up outside the Peking Univ. library to the Peking Univ. students, who agreed to send representatives to Qinghua that day at noon to discuss united action. Early in the morning, the Planning Committee sent representatives to establish contact with various institutions and to organize people to make armbands, wreaths, and so on. We believed that the students will use strikes as one form of protracted struggle.
*There are a series of documents from this period in Suzanne Ogden, Kathleen Hartford, Lawrence Sullivan, and Daivd Zweig, eds, China’s Search for Democracy: the student and the mass movement of 1989 and in Han Minzhu, eds, Cries for Democracy: Writings and Speeches from the 1989 Chinese Democracy Movement.
**A series of informal meetings on the Peking Univ. Campus, beginning in spring 1988, where students discussed topics related to democracy.
[to be cont’d]