« An explanation of this 1989 series
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I won’t be able to describe Wu Renhua‘s entire document on the 1989 movement, at least not during this spring. I never planned to achieve such an ambitious goal anyway, but in the process of reading and roughly regiving the document’s content, I do feel some regret that I don’t have as much time for this as I would like to have. It might be a different story if I was more familiar with the weeks when a civil society in Beijing seemed to develop, and all the people and organizations involved. But in fact, the series on this blog is a process of making myself more familiar with the weeks prior to what we often narrow down to that one bloody night in June, 1989.
Wu’s document is a who-is-who, and a collection of locations in Beijing. Rather than trying to go through every day recorded in his tweeted today-in-history collection, I’m adding to a project, as suggested by C. A. Yeung a few weeks ago.
This also means that I may be dwelling on events in early May 1989 even in a few weeks, when the actual day in the year 2012 will be June 4. And in that case, I will simply continue this series with the events in May 1989, as described by Wu, in another batch of posts next year.
But at least every few days, I will keep adding posts to this series, until June.
We must restitute to past generations what they once possessed, just as every present tense is in its possession: the abundance of a possible future, the uncertainty, the freedom, the finiteness, the inconsistency (…), Thomas Nipperdey, a German historian, once wrote.
That’s what commemoration is probably about. Before the bloodbath and the great dispair, there had been weeks of frustration, hope, and self-determination. If history came out of the gun barrels (as certain people appear to suggest), there would be nothing to read, nothing to remember, and nothing to expect.
Main Link: 八九天安门事件大记 (Major Daily Events, Tiananmen 1989), by Wu Renhua.
Sunday, April 23, 1989
In the morning, Zhao Ziyang meets with Hu Qili and Rui Xingwen, and emphasizes his three opinions on how to handle the students’ protests, and that “the news-related public opinion must be in accordance with the guiding principle of correct reporting”. In the afternoon, he leaves for North Korea by special train, as scheduled. Li Peng, Qiao Shi, and Tian Jiyun, see him off at Beijing Train Station. At about 14 h, the People’s University Doctoral Candidates’ Declaration emerges. It states full support for the Seven Demands, and all patriotic movements from all students and people of all walks of life in society; calls a complete student (and doctorate candidates’) strike; demands the resignation of the collective leadership’s and collective mistaken decision-makers’ collective resignations [or be obliged to resign] (Li-Peng language), later referred to as “collective responsibility” (Li-Peng language); strongly demands all cadres in the party, government and army who are older than 75 to resign; to oppose violence, to protect human rights, and the military forces should not take part and interfere in state affairs; CCP activities should not be paoid for by the state; and censorship to be removed, press freedom be established, and private press, radio and television be allowed; anti-corruption commissions be established, corruption on all party levels be investigated and removed, and business activities of cadres’ relatives be examined, and the results be reported to the public. Science and Technology Daily, under deputy chief editor Sun Changjiang (孙长江), is the first press publication to break into the censored field of covering the movement’s activities, which is commended by the students and from all walks of life. A number of young professors at the University of Science and Technology Beijing (北京科技大学) and other universities announce a strike; some university posters call for a general university strike or for “we won’t attend class unless we achieve our goals”, and some call for a nation-wide general strike. Between ten a.m. and around eight p.m. or after, students at Beijing University and Tsinghua University unsuccessfully try to take control of their respective universities’ broadcasting stations. Shen Tong (沈彤)1) takes a different approach – he runs a broadcasting system of his own from his dormitory, near the San Jiao Di (explanation for San Jiao Di here, underneath the list of the seven demands). Liu Gang (刘刚) is an organizer of a Universities’ Interim Committee (高校临时委员会), to be renamed Independent (or autonomous) Federation of Students from Universities in Beijing (北京市高等院校学生自治联合会), at which delegates of a number of Beijing Universities – if not all universities – are to participate. In the afternoon, Liu and Dai Zizhong (龚自忠) sees Wu Renhua at Wu’s place at the University of Political Science and Law. Wu hasn’t known them personally before. Liu asks Wu to attend the students’ assembly scheduled for that evening, at Yuanmingyuan or Yuanming Park2). Wu Renhua declines, because participation in the Yuanmingyuan assembly or meeting wouldn’t correspond with his role as a professor. If he played such a role, this would also provide a handle for the authorities. Liu Gang, in search for a candidate to chair the conference, approaches Pu Zhiqiang (浦志强) [the student who hit his own head with his megaphone, during Guo Haifeng’s, Zhang Zhiyong’s and Zhou Yongjun’s kneeling petition at the entrance of the Great Hall of the People a day earlier], but Pu doesn’t believe that he has the abilities it takes to become chairman. Probably more crucially, he points out that his parents by adoption, who live in a rural area, are relatively old people who depend on him3).
The Yuanmingyuan conference meets in the evening, with delegates from Beiing’s twenty-one university. Each university dispatches ten delegates. Zhou Yongjun (周勇军), of the University of Political Science and Law, and one of the three kneeling petitioners on the previous day, is elected chairman. Wang Dan, Wu’er Kaixi, Ma Shaofang, and Zang Kai (臧凯) become standing-commission members.
According to what are believed to be Li Peng’s diaries, the CCP Politbureau Standing Committee holds a meeting at eleven a.m.. Li Tieying, in his capactiy as national education commission’s director, calls Li Peng to inform him that the mood at all universities in Beijing is very emotional, that student strikes are brewing, and that he hopes that Zhao listens to / reads the reports. Beijing Municipal Party secretary Li Ximing calls Zhao Ziyang on the phone and asks him to put his trip to North Korea off. Zhao tells the national education commission’s director Li Tieying see this post, footnote 3 that he had already authorized Li Peng to chair the standing commission’s work and to report to him.
1) According to this online story, Shen was extremely lucky after the Tian An Men crackdown:
Fortunately for Shen, he had already been accepted to Brandeis University and had been issued a passport to study in the U.S. Six days after Tiananmen he went undisguised to the airport and boarded a flight for the United States though the state security police had put him on their most wanted list. Some have taken this as a sign that even many in China’s military had secretly been in sympathy with the democracy movement.
2) Yuanmingyuan or Yuanming Park (the Gardens of Perfect Brightness, 圆明园) belongs to Beijing’s Haidian District. It is also referred to as the Old Summer Palace. The actual palace was destroyed in the Second Opium War.
3) Wu Renhua writes in his document that he doesn’t remember having warned Pu Zhiqiang against chairing the Yuanming Park meeting in principle, but he does remember that he did warn Pu to mind his safety, for the sake of his adoptive parents.
» April 23, 1989, Under the Jacaranda, April 23, 2012
Continued here »