The Weeks before June 4: Struggling for the Ideological Switch Stands

[Cont. April 23, 1911

Main Link: 1989 年 4 月 24 日 星期日

Li Tieying and Li Ximing both agree with Li Peng that strict measures should be taken against the students’ movement. At 8.30 in the evening, Li Peng goes to see Yang Shangkun to analyse the situation. Yang also sees a changing trend and encourages Li Peng to see Deng Xiaoping. Li Peng asks Yang to join him in a visit to Deng, and Yang agrees. During the evening, as Li Peng reads many papers and adds  comments to them, and a flow of public-security bureau, security, education commission staff etc, concerning trends among the students in all places keeps coming in, by phone and cable.

Science and Technology Daily‘s entering into the forbidden area of coverage receives a great echo, and from the morning on, people call this paper to tell the staff that they had written in fair words. However, vice chief editor Sun Changjiang says that they haven’t done something special, and just acted in accordance with professional ethics, in their effort to carry out their duty as the media. Their [Science and Technology Daily] coverage hadn’t been particularly good; rather, he believes, that of some other papers has been particularly bad. The event is authentic, and their attitude is sincere.

Monday, April 24, 1989

Main Link: 1989 年 4 月 24 日 星期一 (same document)

In the morning, sixty-thousand students from some 38 colleges and universities such as Beijing University, Tsinghua University, People’s University (Renmin University) begin a strike. Some students gather within the universities, conduct sit-ins, demonstrations, put up posters, and others shout slogans like “join the strike quickly”, “no end to the strike without reaching our goals”, and “walk out on lessons and exams, not on learning”.

Some students give lectures on societal issues, put up propaganda sheets, propagate “April 20 massacre”, “crying-and-begging to the non-understanding government” information, and still others take to the streets and lanes, for fund-raising and to call on “all the city’s citizens to become active in strikes”. Students from Beijing University, Tsinghua University and People’s University maintain order, and dissuade students from taking part in lessons. Some university party secretaries point out in reports to the next-upper party level that the current situation, if it lasts, will be absolutely harmful, and that one has to fear that this could take still larger dimensions as May 4 is approaching. They express their hopes that the central committee and the municipal committee issue clear guidelines, policies and instructions to end the strikes as soon as possible.

At 14:40, student committees at Beijing University and other universities hold meetings at the May-4 squares on their campuses, with some eighty percent of students attending. They prepare activities to boycott official May-4 activities and to establish autonomous students unions in Beijing and students unions of national unity all over the country. Some papers report that student delegates from Nankai University,  Nanjing University, Fudan University, Guangzhou University and other universities are also attending. Nearly two-hundred students with red armbands are maintaining order. As several members of students committees publicly push and pull each other on stage in a quarrel twice, more than six-thousand students at the meeting are abuzz. The meeting ends at 16:00 in discord, without having made any decisions. Dozens of foreign reporters have been present and recorded the event. A press conference by the preparatory committee, scheduled for 7 p.m., is subsequently cancelled.

Beijing University posts the “Recommendations to the Preparatory Committee, signed by people from Beijing University” poster, suggesting to redraw the slogans and action principles in order to get public support. The slogans should oppose corruption and bureaucracy, actions should be carried out downtown, at broad daylight, so as to broaden their influence, unified action would be needed between the universities and colleges, preparations be made for a long-term struggle, and extensive contacts be built with people from intellectual and democratic circles.

There is also another poster, under the headline “five points”, about “guaranteeing basic human rights, releasing political criminals, opposing party supremacy, checks and balances by separation of the three powers, defining a democratic constitution” and other political positions.

More than twohundred Beijing University teachers jointly call for maintaining the principles of the thirteen universities to consult the students and to have a dialog with them. A similar call comes from the China University of Political Science and Law [Wu Renhua‘s university]. The Beijing Students Autonomous Federation (aka Capital Autonomous Federation of University Students) calls on every student to send ten letters to compatriots all over the country. Between two- and threehundred students are to be dispatched to fifteen large cities all over the nation, such as Tianjin, Jinan, Shenyang, Changsha, Chengdu, Xi’an, Lanzhou, Shijiazhuang, Zhengzhou, Guangzhou, Taiyuan, Shanghai, Nanjing and Wuhan  to deliver speeches and to make contacts.

A peaceful petition meeting at Tsinghua University started a peaceful demonstration within the campus, at eight in the morning, with about ten thousand students participating. It’s an orderly demonstration with a length reaching two kilometers.

The Tsinghua University Students Council puts forward four principles concerning the students’ strike:

  1. to maintain the reasonable struggle and the peaceful petition
  2. to maintain unity and the power of all that can be united
  3. to adhere to the strike on lessons, not on learning
  4. to make sure that cool heads prevail among the younger students.

Educational departments from all over the country give their reactions to the State Education Commission, expressing their hope that the situation at Beijing’s universities and colleges can be stabilized soon, as it would otherwise be difficult to control the situation at universities outside the capital.

In the evening, Ren Wanding, who was responsible for the “Human Rights Alliance” time of the Xidan Democracy Wall, speaks on Tian An Men Square. He says: “the people are destitute, robbers arise from everywhere, prices are soaring, and the national economy is in crisis. If the four cardinal principles don’t vanish from the constitution, they will keep hanging over the people’s interests.”

Ren Wanding has also been to the universities of Beijing to speak there, but without much response, as the students didn’t understand him, and because they felt that his views were radical. When Chen Xiaoping and I watched him speaking in front of the dormitory of the University of Political Science and Law, there was only a sparse audience. Both Chen and I felt saddened.

In the afternoon, Li Ximing and Chen Xitong report to National People’s Congress chairman Wan Li. Wan Li was Beijing’s vice mayor prior to the cultural revolution. He suggests that the politburo’s standing committee should analyse the situation in the evening, chaired by Li Peng.

[According to this account by Wu Renhua, this meeting was held on the evening of April 24. This source seems to suggest that this happened on April 23.]

The standing committee, chaired by Li Peng, believes that a variety of events are indicating that under the control and instigation of very few people,  a planned, organized anti-party, anti-socialist political struggle is arranged before their eyes. The decision is made to form a group tasked with stopping the unrest, and requires Beijing’s party and government to stabilize the situation quickly, by winning over the majority of the masses and by isolating the minority, and by calming down the unrest. Standing committe member Li Peng, Qiao Shi, Hu Qili, Yao Yilin, as well as  – with no voting rights – Yang Shangkun, Wan Li, central party secretary Rui Xingwen, Yan Mingfu, Wen Jiabao, (not standing) politburo members Tian Jiyun, Li Ximing, Song Ping, Ding Guangen as well as people in charge at the relevant departments are attending the meeting.

In the evening, Li Peng receives a phonecall from Deng Xiaoping‘s secretary Wang Ruilin, inviting Li Peng and Yang Shangkun to his home at ten a.m. next day for discussions.

The World Economic Herald, a weekly from Shanghai, normally scheduled to appear today, has six blocks of content from a memorial forum held in cooperation with the New Observer magazine (新观察) on April 19. The 25 participants spoke highly of Hu Yaobang’s humanness, as a person of democratic open-mindedness [or liberalism – 民主开明], and of deep humanity. Science and Technology Daily vice chief editor Sun Changjiang [see above, entering into the forbidden area of coverage], Guangming Daily‘s reporter Dai Qing, and Yan Jiaqi of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences political science institute state more clearly that Hu Yaobang was forced to resign, and that he died while being treated unfairly. 300,000 copies of the World Economic Herald were printed by Saturday, some of it already at the post offices, while the remainder is stored at the printing house. But when Shanghai’s municipal party committee is informed about some of the content, it orders the postal offices to stop the dispatch of the papers, and seals the remaining copies in the printing house off. In the afternoon, the CCP municipal committee has a meeting with World Economic Herald chief editor Qin Benli in the afternoon, telling him that what is said in the account of the forum is correct, but that, as May 4 comes nearer, they fear that this could stirr the students’ emotions, add to the pressure on the government, and express their hope that the more sensitive content will be removed. The World Economic Herald does not agree with the cuts and revisions.

At the time, the World Economic Review’s Beijing office is the meeting point for democratic and liberal personalities. The office director Zhang Weiguo has strong campaigning skills and is broadly connected. Because of having led the [memorial] forum and for other reasons, he will be arrested after the June-4 crackdown.

To be continued
Continued here »

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