The Weeks before June 4 – a Desire to do Better than in 1987

The following is a rough translation, or a reflection of Wu Renhua’s 2011 document, based on his Tweets in April, May and June 2011. It isn’t complete, and not even a sentence-by-sentence translation, but I’m trying to reflect some of the mood Wu’s document contains.

It is one of many stories about the 1989 Tian An Men movement, and I’m not ruling out that it may at times conflict with other accounts.

All links added underneath were added during translation / reflection.

Main link: 八九天安门事件大记 (Major Daily Events, Tiananmen 1989), by Wu Renhua.


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Saturday, April 15, 1989

Hu Yaobang dies from a heart attack, at 7:53 in the morning, aged 73. The news spreads in Beijing during the day, before China People’s Broadcasting Service and CCTV broadcast the news in the evening. Chen Xiaoping, also from China University of Political Science and Law, informs his colleague Wu Renhua (i. e. the author of the document reflected here), and they decide to take teachers and students along to Tian An Men to lay down flowers there. This constitutes a demonstration.

Hu Yaobang’s family has turned the visitors’ room into a mourning room. Liu Shaoqi’s widow Wang Guangmei, old brothers in arms like Li Chang arrive, their heads bowed in sorrow. On that day alone, 1,300 visitors sign the condolence books, among them Li Peng, Qiao Shi, Hu Qili, Li Tieying, Wu Xuetian, Rui Xingwen, and Yang Mingfu as party functionaries, or Xia Yan, Zhang Youyu, Zhu Houze, Ping Jiesan, Li Rui, Yu Guangyuan, Hong Xiannü and other people from all walks of life. Hu’s daughter Man Mei (official name: Li Heng), who works at a religious medical center in Seattle at the time and lives in the institution’s monastery, can’t return to Beijing by her own financial means, contacts the San Francisco Chinese General Consulate for help, but is turned down there. The nuns collect money for her trip to Beijing.

By 13:30, demonstrations on Tian An Men Square are in full swing, with banners praising Hu Yaobang (“The memory of Comrade Hu Yaobang will live forever”), or criticizing the authorities with statements like “those who should not die do die; those who should die haven’t died”. After 15:00, six institutions of higher education, among them People’s University (aka Renmin University) and Tsinghua University, one after another, display mourning posters with elegiac couplets.

The those who should not die do die; those who should die haven’t died line which runs through all Chinese universities, and stems from an essay written by famous writer Bing Xin (冰心). It isn’t clear how the line spread, even though the essay hasn’t yet been published. The CCP Central Committee asks the ministry of public security (public security bureau / PSB, 公安部) and the ministry of state security (安全部) to closely watch the situation at Beijing’s universities, and particularly the situation on Tian An Men Square. From the actions on Tian An Men Square to every university, the PSB and the ministry of state security carry out monitoring from all angles and on every issue. University officials, in line with demands from the Beijing municipal CCP committee, try to guide students’ memorial activities so as to prevent people from using the opportunity to incite disturbances.

The intelligentsia is treated poorly at the time, and their thinkings depressed by  anti-liberalization1) and anti-spiritual pollution campaigns.

Intellectuals feel, in 1989, that they might have owed Hu Yaobang more support when he was removed from office in 1987, and try to do better this time. The CCP, in its own ways, learns its lesson from the 1989 demonstrations and buys the intellectuals off, with 1,800,000,000 Yuan RMB allocated to Tsinghua, Beijing University, as teacher subsidies which were spent within three years, Wu Renhua wrote in his 2011 document: “We can see from this why intellectual behavior has become that bad”.

Sunday, April 16, 1989

Seventeen institutions of higher education in Beijing were displaying elegiac couplets, slogans, and posters – some 500 overall. According to official statistics, “of which 80 per cent mourn Hu Yaobang in a normal way, ten per cent express dissatisfaction, and about another ten per cent attack the party and the government and incite disturbances”. By now, the short slogans have evolved into more elaborate  political comment, and political observers feel reminded of the 1976 Tian An Men Incident.

The Tsinghua Chemistry Faculty lays down its wreath at the Monument to the People’s Heroes, at its northern fence. Two People’s University (Renmin University) students put white flowers there, and students from Beifang Jiaotong University (since merged into Beijing Jiaotong University) put a banner in front of the monument, “mourning Hu Yaobang, the Friend of the Young”. Until 3.30 in the afternoon, three wreaths have emerged here, two from students and one in the name of a household. Later, they are removed by the police.

At China University of Political Science and Law, a number of young teachers – Wu Renhua, Fei Anling, Xiong Jining, Liu Bin, Xuan Zengyi, and Zhang Xiaojing – lead two students to make a two-meters wreath. Toward the evening, Wu Renhua and others put the wreath to the front of the university building, where it attracts peoples’ attention. An attached notice says that the wreath will be taken to Tian An Men Square on April 17.

A small bottle of Maotaijiu, casually added to the wreath by Wu Huaren, later becomes a major issue in investigations, Wu noted in his 2011 document.2).

Beijing University had been at the center of the movements, Wu noted. Liu Suli (刘苏里) and other academics from China University of Political Science and Law frequently went to Beijing University for discussions, and Liu and others made a white silk banner, carrying the characters “中国魂” (zhōngguó hún)3).

A memorial service is held at Fudan University’s Room 3108 in Shanghai, with some 400 people attending. From the afternoon of April 15, Fudan takes the lead, and by the evening of April 16, about ten universities in Shanghai have followed up with posters of their own. Wu Renhua’s 2011 document also notes demonstrations in Xi’an, and allegations there that Hu Yaobang had been poisoned with gas (胡耀邦被气死的).

The CCP central committee announces a solemn memorial ceremony in the Great Hall of the People, and to have the flags in all major squares lowered to half-mast, nation-wide. Hu Yaobang’s memorial services are upgraded to pacify popular feelings. All Chinese leaders, incumbent or retired (the latter including Deng Xiaoping) are scheduled to attend.

Continued here »



1) Anti-liberalization refers to the purge which led to Hu Yaobang’s dismissal as the CCP’s Central Committee, and CCP chairman. The way Wu puts it, i. e. the way intellectuals were treated “at the time”, makes sense, as it could otherwise also refer to older campaigns, which might be traced back through all the CCP’s history.
2) 小瓶 (small bottle) is pronounced and stressed in the same way as 小平 (small peace, Deng Xiaoping’s given name). Wu wrote in his 2011 document that no such malicious pun had been intended. Rather, he had wanted to tribute the Maotaijiu to Hu Yaobang’s departed soul. Wu attributed the authorities’ interpretation of his gift to a report by Japan’s Kyodo press agency’s report on June 4, 2009.
3) A possible, but not necessarily the best translation for 中国魂 may be “Soul of China”.



» June-4 series, Under the Jacaranda, first post this year on April 15


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