The Weeks before June 4 – Asserting Authority

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

Friday, June 21, 1989

The authorities feel humiliated by the petitioning students at Xinhua Gate. “People’s Daily” publishes an editorial titled “How we Shall mourn Comrade Hu Yaobang”, and a Xinhua newsagency journalist’s report is titled “Several Hundred Crowd around Xinhua Gate and Create Trouble”. Many university students in Beijing believe that these comments and reports aren’t seeking the truth in the facts and that they are hard to accept.

People’s Daily’s editorial says that a small number of people act the mourners, but do in fact level illegal activities against the party and the government, and even brazenly pounded Xinhua Gate. There was no way to allow this. Whoever used the mourning of Comrade Hu Yaobang to level vandalism at the party and the government would become a historic criminal. Those of them who insisted on having their own ways would reap what they had sowed.

In the morning, University of Political Science and Law students call for a student strike. A responsible at the university informs about that three students who had taken part in mourning activities on Tian An Men Square on the evening of April 19. At about 11.30 p.m. they were about to return to the campus and encountered a large number of military police on the southern side of the Great Hall of the People. Wang Zhiyong (王志勇, see previous post) had been beaten unconscious with leather belts, and the Beijing Hospital No. 3 (北医三院) had confirmed lacerations on his head, light cerebral concussions, and eye injuries.

The strike notice demands
(1) two days of strike, on April 21 and 22 to protest the illegal police behavior;
(2) demands that the government severely punish the perpetrators1)
(3) the police must, in its report, publicly apologize for this kind of behavior, and report in accordance with the facts
(4) if item (2) and (3) are not replied to by April 23 at 5 p.m., further action will gradually be taken.

Strikes at Beijing University begin before noon, some students at the entrances to the rooms dissuade classmates from attending lessons, and a strike notice is written on some blackboards. Beijing University Student Steering Committee publishes a strike notice.

At about twelve, students at the University of Political Science and Law campus burn Xinhua newsagency’s “Safeguarding Social Stability is the Current Big Picture” and “People’s Daily’s” editorial. Small bottles are smashed2).

In the afternoon, fifty students from Tianjin arrived at Beijing University as scheduled [see previous post], as a petition delegation.

At Beijing University, Wu’erkaixi‘s  (ئۆركەش دۆلەت / 吾尔开希•多莱特) notice emerges:
(1) scrap the (official) Students’ Union’s and Postgraduates’ Union’s responsibilities;
(2) participate in the Beijing Universities’ Provisional Students’ Association;
(3) from April 22, the entire university announce a student strike and a stop to all examinations;
(4) at ten p.m., all universities take a pledge at Beijing University, and all students, without fail, must participate, prepare bread and drinks to express appreciation for fellow students from (other) universities.

In the afternoon, Chen Ku-ying (陈鼓应 / 陳鼓應), a guest professor for philosophy from Taiwan, and 143 more professors and scholars sign and publish an open letter (“Teachers’ Urgent Call”) to the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, calling for maintaining the principle of consultations and dialogue, and the restoration and development of the Three Forms of Broad-Mindedness (三宽: 宽松、宽宏、宽厚). Violence against students should not be allowed.

At about 6 p.m., an open letter to the party’s central committee, the state council, and the National People’s Congress’ Standing Committee emerges at Beijing University. It is signed by Bao Zunxin (包遵信), Bei Dao (北岛), Su Xiaokang (苏晓康) and 47 more authors and states that the students’ mourning activities’ demands are positive and constructive, and that healing the popular feelings (收拾民心) and weathering the crisis together would be a fundamentally wise policy.

Beijing Municipal government publishes a notice saying that because of the mourning ceremony for Hu Yaobang at the Great Hall of the People, Tian An Men Square needed to be evacuated by dawn, and that cars and pedestrians will not be allowed to enter the square. In fact, this is a measure to prevent the students from gathering there and to participate in the mourning ceremony. All universities in Beijing decide to let the students assemble on the square during the preceding evening, i. e. today evening.

After 8 p.m., some 40,000 students are on their way, from one university after another. It is the first united demonstration by all universities in Beijing.

The masses, in their tens of thousands, applaud the demonstrators from the roadsides. The students, their spirits high, call slogans like “Long live the people!”, “long live understanding!”, and “What are we doing? We are speaking the truth!” Hot water and cups provided by the public, along the roads.

The demonstration is tightly organized. Also along the roads, students screen the demonstration on the road from outsiders slipping in. At 22.40, the first students arrive on Tian An Men Square, and by 1.30 a.m., everyone is there. Around midnight, the numbers are somewhere between 200,000 and – according to some reports – 400,000 students and onlookers. Every university has dispatched overseers.

In the evening, a student, Zhen Songyu (甄颂育), rushes in and asks us (Wu Renhua, Liu Su and Chen Xiaoping) to help getting order into messy demonstration preparations. I’m taking to the demonstrators’ front rows, Chen Xiaoping walks behind the formation, and Liu Su keeps us connected. Late at night, Wang Juntao (王军涛), to be classified by the authorities as a vicious manipulator (literally: “black hand”, 黑手) after the end of the movement, and Zhang Lun (张伦), who has just returned from Yan’an, appear among our  University of Political Science and Law demonstrators, seeking for me. I’m meeting Zhang Lun, from Beijing University, for the first time.

In the afternoon, after reading reports from the education commission, Beijing municipal government, the public-security ministry, Xinhua, and other departments, party secretary general Zhao Ziyang makes a phonecall to politbureau member and the national education commission’s director Li Tieying (李铁映) with a proposal to keep communication with all universities and to make sure that effective measures are taken to maintain guidance and to prevent conflicts (contradictions, 矛盾) from intensifying. In the afternoon, Zhao also has discussions with permanent politbureau member Hu Qili and the secretariat of the Communist Party Central Committee secretary and politbureau member Rui Xingwen. Zhao says that the news and public opinion should emphasize some correct things, and while affirming that the students are patriotic, the importance of social stability also needs to be pointed out, and intensified contradictions be prevented.

Permanent politbureau member and chief state councillor Li Peng (李鹏), after reading the public-security ministry’s “Concerning some illegal organizations emerging at Universities” report, adds a comment to the original document: “Comrade Tieying [Li Tieying, see previous paragraph], this issue must be closely watched, and immediately be communicated to the universities in question, to curb this in accordance with the law.”

Li Peng notes in his “June-4 diary”3) that

This evening at seven, Zhao Ziyang held a standing committee meeting and discussed the wording of the eulogy for Comrade Hu Yaobang. It gives high appraisal to the life of Comrade Hu Yaobang, but according to Comrade Xiaoping’s [i. e. Deng Xiaoping] advice, it doesn’t give Comrade Yaobang the title of a great Marxist. At eight p.m., 50,000 students, in the name of taking part in the mourning ceremony for Hu Yaobang, have entered Tian An Men Square – in advance – to make sure that the measures that had been taken to keep them out next day can not be put into practice. In the evening, I kept watching the developments from [my] Zhongnanhai office. Comrade Qiao Shi, in direct command of the scene, [says that] the measures to keep the square clear cannot be carried out.

Continued here »



1) the dominant translation would be murderersxiongshou (凶手), the term used in the strike notice quote, is basically a stronger word than just perpetrators.
2) see footnote 2 there. The smashing of little bottles, however, was most probably targeted at Deng Xiaoping.
3) I heard about the “diary” in 2010, but I don’t know if that document can be considered authentic.



» April 21, 1989, Under the Jacaranda, April 21, 2012
» Detective Li’s Diary, June 30, 2010


2 Responses to “The Weeks before June 4 – Asserting Authority”


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