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
April 25 – “Networking"
A State Security Ministry report from Wuhan on April 25 carried the first news of a developing trend. A week after the start of the student movement, some Beijing students were leaving the city to “network(串聯/chuanlian*)" with students in other provinces.
A report from the Zhejiang provincial Party Committee to Zhongnanhai reflected attitudes held by school officials in many institutions of higher education around the country. They perceived policies emanating from Beijing as oscillating between tough and soft and wanted more-consistent guidance from the Center on how to impose discipline on the students and what to do if they failed. The schools were willing to hold dialogue with the students, but the students’ demand went far beyond topics that school officials were qualified to discuss.
An abortive dialogue**
At 6 P.M. on April 25 the State Security Ministry reported to Zhongnanhai on an abortive attempt by officials of the All-China students’ Federation and its Beijing branch to arrange a meeting between student representatives from Qinghua Univ. and some high-ranking national officials. The Qinghua-based Peaceful Petition Organization Committee first demanded such a meeting. But when it was granted, they set new conditions and in the end failed to send delegates to meet with the waiting officials, including liu Zhongde – deputy secretary general of the State Council and He Dongchang – vice minister of the State Education Commission, The report suggested four possible reasons for the students’ behavior: internal divisions, lack of preparation for the dialogue, possible manipulation by figures behind the scenes, and possible concern that if Qinghua students alone engaged in such dialogue, students from other schools would accuse them of selling out the student movement.
A Xinhua News Agency report on this incident, published in the April 26 People’s Daily, created great irration among Qinghua students, who regarded the report as biased and as aimed at splitting the students.
Deng Xiaoping and the April 26 Editorial
At 9 A.M. on April 25 Li Peng, Yang Shangkun, Qiao Shi, Hu Qili, Yao Yilin, Li Ximing, Chen Xitong, and others went to Deng Xiaoping’s home to report. Li Peng sketched the evolving situation for Deng, aided by interjections from other members of the group. Chen Xitong then spoke about the situation in Beijing. What Deng said when he had heard the reports was to form basis of the April 26 Editorial and would become the Party’s verdict on the nature of the student movement.
Excerpt from Party Central Office Secretariat, “Important Meeting Minutes," April 25:
Li Peng: “Comrade Xiaoping, with things developing so rapidly, those of us on the Standing Committee who were in town met last night to hear reports from the Beijing Municipal Committee and the State Education Commission on the situation in the universities and the tendencies in society more generally. We all feel that the situation in Beijing now is extremely grim."
Hu Qili: “This is the largest student movement in ten years, and there have already been student demonstrations in more than 20 large and medium-sized cities across the country."
Li Peng: “Some of the protest posters and the slogans that students shout during the marches are anti-Party and antisocialist. They are clamoring for a reversal of the verdicts on spiritual pollution and bourgeois liberalization. The spear is now pointed directly at you and the others of the elder generation of the proletarian revolutionaries."
Deng Xiaoping: “Saying I’m the mastermind behind the scenes, are they?"
Li Peng: “There are open calls for the government to step down, appeals for nonsense like ‘open investigations into and discussions of the question of China’s governance and power,’ and calls to institute broader elections and revise the Constitution, to lift restrictions on political parties and newspapers, and to get rid of the category of ‘counterrevolutionary’ crimes. Illegal student organizations have already sprung up in Beijing and Tianjin."
Deng Xiaoping: “What?"
Chen Xitong: “Illegal student organizations. At Peking Univ. some student have imitated Poland’s Solidarity to form their own Solidarity Student Union."
Li Peng: “The small number of leaders of these illegal organizations have other people behind them calling the shots."
Li Ximing: “They say the person behind the illegal student organization at Peking Univ. is Fang Lizhi’s wife."
Chen Xitong: “We have already asked the relevant departments to find out the status and background of the leaders of these illegal student organizations as soon as possible."
Li Peng: “In Beijing there have been two attacks on Xinhua Gate in quick succession; in Changsha and Xi’an there was looting and arson on April 22; and in Wuhan students have demonstrated on the Yangtze River Bridge, blocking the vital artery between Beijing and Guangzhou. These actions seriously harm social stability and unity, and they disrupt social order. Those of us on the Standing Committee all believe that this is turmoil and that we must rely on law to bring a halt to it as soon as possible."
Yao Yilin: “The nature of this student movement has changed. It began as a natural expression of grief and has turned into social turmoil."
Yang Shangkun: “It’s crucial that we maintain social order throughout the country, especially in the capital. We certainly can’t allow a few people with ulterior motives to make use of this movement to manufacture turmoil. we’ve got to expose them as quick as possible."
Deng Xiaoping: “I completely agree with the Standing Committee’s decision. This is no ordinary student movement. The students have been raising a ruckus for 10 days now, and we’ve been tolerant and restrained. But things haven’t gone our way, A tiny minority is exploiting the students; they want to confuse the people and throw the country into chaos. This is a well-planned plot whose real aim is to reject the Chinese Communist Party and the socialist system at the most fundamental level. We must explain to the whole Party and nation that we are facing a most serious political struggle. We’ve got to be explicit and clear in opposing this turmoil."
Full text of the April 26th Editorial: IT IS NECESSARY TO TAKE A CLEAR-CUT STAND AGAINST DISTURBANCES
*The term “chuanlian" arose during the Cultural Revolution to describe the movement of young people into factories, offices, schools, farms, and elsewhere, eventually reaching all corners of the country and especially Beijing, to organise and to spread and absorb the revolutionary word. The usage invokes, either positively or negatively, the image of Cultural Revolution-style activism or chaos.
** There are contradictory statements that bring into question whether this “abortive dialogue" had actually been aranged on 25 April 1989. One source says on that day the Beijing Municipal Government stated its intention to engage in dialogue with only the students from Qinghua Univ. ; and another source says that the State Council agreed to engage in dialogue with students for the first time on that day.