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.2: April 24-30: The April 26 Editoral
Editors’ note: In Zhao Ziyang’s absence, Li Peng called a Politburo meeting on April 24 to hear reports about the spread of the student movement in Beijing and around the country.
The next day some members of the Politburo met informally with senior Elder Deng Xiaoping at his home. The briefing was dominated by those most antagonistic to the students. They persuaded Deng that hostile forces had become involved and that the students were getting more radical, their ultimate target being to overthrow him and the CCP. Deng denounced the movement. His view was reflected in an April 26 editorial in the People’s Daily, the main Party newspaper.
Because of its harsh judgement of the student movement, the editoral became a new focus of dissatisfaction not only among students but among citizens as well.The rapidly expanding support for the movement became too broad to allow for a quick , repressive solution. After a divided Politburo Standing Committee meeting, the leaders turned their efforts to winning the people back, partly through softer-sounding public statements and partly through organizational work, especially on campsuses, via administrators, professors, officials of the Youth League, and the official student associations. But reports showed that many of these people were themselves wavering and critical of the Party’s attitude.
Meanwhile, from Shanghai, Party Secretary Jiang Zemin filed a report on measures taken to close a pro-reform newspaper, the World Economic Herald, which had promoted activities to mourn Hu Yaobang. On April 30 Party General Secretary Zhao Ziyang returned from North Korea amid mixed signs that the student movement might be calming down.
Excerpts from Party Central Office Secretariat, “Minutes of the April 24 POlitburo Standing Committee meeting"
Li Peng:"Our main item of business today is to hear reports from the Beijing Municipal Committee and the State Education Commission on developments at the universities in the capital and their possible expansion into the rest of society. Everyone knows that following Hu Yaobang’s death students from several dozen schools in the captial began to write wall posters and then marched in the streets, boycotted classes, and openly proclaimed illegal student organizations. A small minority is manipulating the students, and the situation has become grim."
Li Ximing:"From the beginning of the student movement the Municipal Committee and the Municipal government have held twelve meetings of various sizes. Last night we held a meeting for the Party secretaries and school heads of more than 70 universities in the city. Each school was required to post notices calling on Party members, officials, and activists to mingle with students and do political work on their thinking. This morning Party and government leaders at the various schools went to work among the students, but the results were negligible. Students basically ignored what school officials said and told them that dialogue with them will not solve the problem. In the afternoon the Municipal Committee held a meeting of all Youth League secretaries and all chairs of the official student associations in the capital. These people reported almost unanimously that their were isolated on their campuses. Some of the official student associations had been smeared as ‘illegitimate.’ By contrast the illegally established ‘autonomous student associations’ were full of vim and confidence. In sum, evil is winning over good."
Chen Xitong:"In breadth, size, and intensity, this student movement is unprecedented in the reform era…At present, about 60,000 students at 39 universities are boycotting classes. Some continue to put up protest posters, distribute handbills, fabricate rumors, and harm people’s mind. Others have formed illegal organizations, taken over campus public-address systems, and forced the dissolution of official student associations. Still others are taking to the streets, making speeches, soliciting donations, and sending envoys into factories, high schools, elementary schools, and even to other provinces in efforts to stir the entire nation to boycott classes and go on strike. We can say that the student movement in the capital has already evolved from its origins as spontaneous expression of grief for Hu Yaobang into agitation and turmoil."
He Dongchang from the SEC gave a detailed survey of the student movement in Beijing and across the country over the preceding ten days. Then he commented on the current student movement.
“[This student movement] has already reached institutions of higher education in more than 20 large and medium-sized cities. Be it through protest posters, slogans, demonstrations, boycotts, or the formation of illegal organizations, the goal throughout has been to shake things up, cause trouble, create turmoil, attack the Party, and attack socialism…
Qiao Shi: “We certainly don’t want to see any harm done to the growing democratic atmosphere in society, but no country can permit unruly freedom or irresponsible freedom. The patriotism on the majority of the students must be affirmed, but their readiness to follow others blindly must be rooted out…"
Yao Yilin: “Bourgeois liberal elements with ulterior motives have already exploited this student movement, and it has already grown into what we call turmoil. We must publicize these facts ASAP. We must express the attitude of Party Central clearly and make the whole nation, especially the students, aware of the movement’s true character. It is hard to imagine what the consequences will be if we fail."
Li Peng: “The declaration by doctoral candidates at People’s Univ. that I read yesterday was a naked and overt challenge to the Party. In my view we are deep into a struggle with bourgeois liberalism."
Yang Shangkun: “Calm and stability in the capital are of the utmost importance: if the capital is calm, the whole nation will stay at peace. As for the student movement, we must unite the great majority of the students while exposing those who exploit the situation. Above all we must not let this question of the student movement harm our hard-won stability and unity."
Yao Yilin: “In view of the present situation, I propose that the Center form a Small Group to halt the turmoil."
Standing committee members Li Peng, Qiao Shi, and Hu Qili supported Yao Yilin’s proposal, and the Small Group to Halt the Turmoil was duly formed. Li Peng was named its head, and Li Tieying, Li Ximing, Chen Xitong, He Dongchang, and Yuan Mu were members.