Dr. Jiang Yanyong’s letter calling for June 4 reappraisal

This is the English translation of Dr. Jiang’s letter, retained from CND. It is a powerful document.

“Chairman and vice chairmen of the National People’s Congress [NPC] Standing Committee Chairman and vice chairmen of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference [CPPCC] Members of the CPC Central Committee Political Bureau Premier and vice premiers of the State Council:

In 1989, students in Beijing, in view of the corrupt government at that time, voiced their just demand for fighting corruption and bureaucratic racketeering and for promoting clean and honest government. The students’ patriotic acts had the support of the overwhelming majority of people in Beijing and the country. However, a small number of leaders who supported corruption resorted to means unprecedented in the world and in China. They acted in a frenzied fashion, using tanks, machineguns, and other weapons to suppress the totally unarmed students and citizens, killing hundreds of innocent students in Beijing, and injuring and crippling thousands others. ”


“Then, the authorities mobilized all types of propaganda machinery to fabricate lies and used highhanded measures to silence the people across the country. Now 15 years have gone by and the authorities are expecting the people to forget the incident gradually. In the past they called this Tiananmen incident a “counterrevolutionary rebellion,” and then they called it the “1989 political storm.” Giving the incident a different name specifically indicates the perpetrators’ guilty conscience. If it was a storm, why did they have to mobilize hundreds of thousands of troops to suppress it? Why should they use machine guns and tanks to kill innocent ordinary people? Thus, I propose that we must correctly characterize the students’ patriotic movement on 4 June 1989.

I am a surgeon at the PLA Number 301 Hospital. When the June 4th Incident took place in 1989, I was the director of the hospital’s department of routine surgery. On the evening of 3 June, I heard repeated radio broadcasts urging people not to go to the streets. At about 2200 when I was in my dormitory, I heard continuous gunshots from the north. Several minutes later, my pager beeped. It was the emergency room’s call. So I rushed there. I could not believe my eyes–lying on the floor and the examination tables were seven young people with blood all over their faces and bodies. Two of them were later confirmed dead after an EKG test. My brain buzzed and I almost passed out. I have been a surgeon for more than 30 years. When I was a member of the medical team of the PLA Railway Corps that built the Chengdu-Kunming Railway, I also saved many wounded soldiers, but they were injured by inevitable accidents during the construction process. However, lying before me this time were our own people, killed by children of the Chinese people, with weapons given to them by the people, in Beijing, the magnificent capital of China. But I could not afford the time to think at that time. After another salvo of gunshots, more wounded young people–I didn’t know the exact number–were brought to the emergency room by people in the vicinity with pull carts and pedicabs. While I examined the injured, I also requested my staff to notify other surgeons and nurses to come to the emergency room. All 18 surgical rooms in our hospital were used for emergency treatment for the injured. My job in the emergency room was to determine the nature of the injuries and treat the injured. During the two-hour period from 2200 to midnight, our hospital’s emergency room accepted 89 patients with bullet wounds. Seven of them later died despite emergency treatment. In the 18 surgical rooms, doctors in three groups spent most of the night performing surgical operations to save all those who could be saved.

I can never forget the one who died. He was a young man in his twenties, whose parents were cadres retired from the Seventh Machine-Building Ministry located across the street. They had four or five children. When they heard the radio broadcasts that asked people not to go to the streets, they forbade their children from leaving home, and they sat down to play mahjong. When it was about 2200, the elderly couple became sleepy and was about to go to bed. But this young man (he was the youngest in the family, who just received his wedding certificate) and his “fianc” went to the streets when they heard the gunshots outside. When they ran to the Five Pines Crossroad, a salvo of gunshots sprayed on them. The girl turned and ran. She yelled at her boyfriend to return immediately. A little while later when she found her boyfriend did not follow her, she went back. Soon she found her boyfriend lying on the roadside in a pool of blood. She called his name. There was no response. She pulled him, but he would not move. The people nearby immediately came forward to help. Several of them held him up and brought him to our emergency room. A nurse checked his blood pressure. There was none. When she performed an EKG test on him, the line on the screen was flat. When I examined him, I found a bullet hole in his left arm, but I could not find the hole from which the bullet exited. His girlfriend begged us to save him. But we could not, because, as the flat EKG line showed, his heart had stopped. We assessed that the bullet had entered his heart. The girl cried as if she had gone crazy, but she immediately went home and brought her boyfriend’s mother to the emergency room. After the mother came, she searched all over her son, but all she could find was one bullet hole. Then she kneeled before me. She held my leg and begged me to save her son. With tears all over my face, I was speechless. Then I quatted beside this totally shattered mother and told her that her son’s heart was smashed and he could not be saved. The mother, after calming down for a little while, began to break into a torrent of abuse, saying: “I joined the military when I was very young. Then I joined the party and followed the CPC in fighting Japan and Chiang Kai-shek. Now the PLA killed my dearest child, I am going to settle the score with them.” Later her son’s body was placed on the floor in our hospital’s morgue along with other bodies. Some PLA soldiers were there to watch them. The deceased were vilified as “ruffians” and their bodies were not supposed to be picked up [by their families]. The next day, the young man’s family member came to pick up the young man’s body, but they were not allowed to do so. However, they were relatives of a high-ranking general and so they were allowed to take away the body soon afterward.

Another deceased person was a physically robust motorcyclist. After practicing in Fengtai that afternoon, he came to the Five Pines Crossroad in the evening. He was injured by a bullet before he could dismount from the bike. Several people put him on a pull cart and brought him to our emergency room. When I examined him, his blood pressure was still normal, but there was a big bullet hole on the left side of his pubis and blood was gushing out from the hole. We could not stop the bleeding by applying a tourniquet to that part of the body. Because of the loss of a great quantity of blood, his blood pressure soon plummeted. Then he went into shock and began to have difficulty breathing. Then, with his mouth wide open gasping for air, he soon stopped breathing and died before my eyes. As a surgeon, I can never forget that scene where a patient died before my eyes owing to the fact that we could not save his life under conditions at that time.

At about midnight, a military officer with the rank of major (the only serviceman we saved that night) was brought to our emergency room. A bullet pierced through his upper left arm. The X-ray picture showed his humerus was crushed and there were many tiny metal fragments (I sensed that the bullet was a lead-made fragmentation bullet) in the surrounding soft tissue. The military officer told us that he came to Beijing to visit his relatives. At night when he was at a street by the Military Museum (the place where he worked), he was injured by the passing troops that fired a salvo of bullets. The elderly man on his right and the small boy on his left were both killed instantly by bullets. He was fortunate because only one of his arms was injured. The man who brought him to the emergency room for treatment was a retired serviceman who had fought in the Vietnam War. He said this to the many wounded persons and medical persons in the emergency room: The PLA’s support for the left during the Cultural Revolution significantly tarnished the PLA’s image on the minds of the people. The troops’ use of machineguns and tanks to kill fellow countrymen is something that even Heaven would not tolerate. He said it would not be possible for the military to rebuild its image among the people.

After midnight, the troops had passed through our hospital and no more wounded people were brought to our hospital. Then I proceeded to the surgery room to check the situation there. I saw one man who had his liver smashed and the smashed liver still had tiny fragments of metal. We took pictures and videotaped the scenes like that. In other cases, our doctors also found large amounts of tiny bullet fragments in the wounded persons’ intestines. It was clear that the injuries were not caused by ordinary bullets, but by the so-called fragmentation bullets, the kind of bullets banned by international convention.

Martial law in Beijing began on 19 May. Because the troops sent to Beijing [to impose the martial law] were stopped by the people along the way, they could not go downtown. So they were stationed at our hospital, the Armored Corps, the Telecommunications Corps and other military units located along the Fuxing Avenue. From our medical staff’s conversations with the troops stationed in our hospital, we gradually learned the truth of the student movement and so our medical personnel clearly stated that they would never take part in suppressing the students. In those days, at about 0600 early in the morning each day, a helicopter from the Xijiao Airport would take off and fly slowly eastward along Fuxing Avenue to contact the responsible persons of the troops stationed in various units (the person in charge in our hospital was a regiment commander) to make sure the troops were ready for assignments. At this time the troops would get everything ready and wait for the arrival of the helicopter and the regiment commander would contact the helicopter via radio, saying that his unit was prepared. Soon after the helicopter left, the officers and men of the unit would go here and there to chat with the comrades in our hospital. Specifically because these units could no longer be assigned to suppress the students, they were withdrawn in late May and early June. I heard that the troops which later took part in suppressing the students were hurriedly deployed from Shandong. Many of the soldiers in those units had fought in Vietnam and had opened fire and killed people during their confrontation with the enemy. When they were shipped to Beijing, they had no newspapers to read and no radio to hear on the trains. They were totally in the dark regarding the situation. Soon after they came to Beijing, they were told that their mission was to suppress the counterrevolutionary rebellion in Beijing. Under that circumstance, the ignorant soldiers did what they were told, causing the tragic June 4th Incident.

On the evening of 3 June, each and every medical worker in our hospital who took part in saving lives could not imagine that such a tragedy that no normal person could understand could have occurred. At that time I even thought that it could have been an incident caused by a certain military leader who had gone reckless. At that time I also talked to the president of our hospital, surnamed Liao, asking him whether we could call the higher authorities to immediately put a stop to the situation that was happening before our eyes. Like me, President Liao, with tears in his eyes, did not know what to do. On the morning of 4 June, a tank drove up to our hospital’s outpatient clinic and some soldiers brought down two soldiers who were in a coma. At that time I was still in the emergency room. I learned from the soldiers who brought the unconscious soldiers that they could have been intoxicated. So I told President Liao that the Academy of Military Sciences across the avenue should know how to treat people injured by poisonous gas. When we were establishing contacts [with the academy], we also tried to transfer the two soldiers to Hospital Number 307 across the street through an underground tunnel. President Liao, myself, and other comrades in our hospital were very sorry to know that our people and soldiers were injured in such a manner.

On 9 June, Deng Xiaoping summoned the leaders of all units and talked to them. Then the investigations began. One day, Prof. Zhu Ke, who was my classmate and director of the neurology department of the hospital, visited me, saying that the hospital had asked him to talk to me about the trip I made to Tiananmen in mid-May with some medical students pursuing advanced training in our hospital. I told Zhu: You stay out of this. Whoever in the hospital wants to know about the trip should talk to me in person. Soon, one comrade of the hospital’s political department visited me. He told me that in a videotape the higher authorities saw me and the medical students going downtown along Fuxing Avenue. He said the students were on a truck, holding high a streamer with characters that read “Support Group of the PLA Medical College for Advanced Studies” and beating gongs and drums; and that I was following them on a bicycle. He asked me to explain what was going on. I told him this: That day was a Wednesday. Our department was scheduled to go downtown that afternoon to attend an academic symposium sponsored by the Beijing Surgery Society, and we had reserved transportation. When we went to the motor pool, we were told that it could not dispatch any vehicles because the road was congested with demonstrators. Then I saw many medical students inside the hospital gate. They all put on white gowns and were ready to go to Tiananmen to voice their support for the students. When these students saw me, they asked me to join them. I asked them what time they would return and they said they would camp at the Tiananmen Square. So I told them that in that case I could not go with them. Then I rode my bicycle and biked slowly with them. On our journey, we chatted. When we reached Lishi Road, no motor vehicle could proceed. Then they disembarked and walked downtown and I continued to ride on my bicycle. Because of a sudden rainstorm, I hurried back to the hospital after making one round of the square. I told the comrade that everybody knew about my trip to Tiananmen Square and that I had made no mistake on the trip. Then the comrade who had had the heart-to-heart talks with me reported what I told him. Later, whenever the June 4th Incident was discussed, I insisted that the suppression of the student movement was wrong. Because of that, I did not receive the promotion I deserved that year.

Following the June 4th Incident, everything was measured by one’s attitude toward the incident, such as the reorganization of the leading group of our fraternal unit, the Academy of Military Sciences. When higher authorities interviewed Prof. Qin Boyi, the president of the academy at that time, he candidly indicated that he had done nothing wrong in approaching the incident. For example, when the martial law troops could not go downtown and had to be stationed in some of the military units along the way, President Qin said that, according to the academy’s assignments, if the troops wanted to be stationed in the academy, they should also bear the responsibility of safeguarding the academy’s security; otherwise other people would also want to be stationed in the academy and that would cause unnecessary problems. Consequently, the troops were not stationed in the academy. As to the delivery of drinking water to those students who were on a hunger strike in Tiananmen Square, Qin said he approved the move and even approved the use of a motor vehicle for that purpose. That was because many other units did the same thing, he said. The consequence of these investigations was the dismissal of Qin from office. Prof. Tang Peixuan, a vice president [of the academy] and also my classmate, was also dismissed from office after he said to his superiors that when he took part in student movements before Liberation, the Guomindang [KMT] government at that time only used fire hoses to spray water on the students and did not use guns for the suppression. He said it was incomprehensible that the people’s troops this time killed countless [wu shu de] students and ordinary people with machineguns and tanks. Then, another vice president of the academy was promoted to president of the academy because he said things the superiors wanted to hear and because he performed well while stating his position.

Following the June 4th Incident, the overwhelming majority of my friends in all walks of life clearly understood that the June 4th suppression was absolutely wrong. However, because of the higher authorities’ pressure, they did not want to speak their minds. In this respect, the claim that people were in unity with the central authorities was entirely untrue. On all occasions over the past 15 long years, I always stated clearly that I believed the June 4th suppression was absolutely wrong. I also hoped that this mistake would be corrected by our party with firm resolve. Because of the Cultural Revolution, China was on the verge of total collapse. Then Deng Xiaoping emerged and our party corrected the mistakes made in the Cultural Revolution. China was not thrown into chaos. Rather, the people gained more confidence in the party. In those days, China had serious food shortages. We needed ration coupons to buy everything. But the people still supported the party in surmounting all sorts of difficulties. In only 20 years, our country has significantly changed. Now our country has plenty of goods and the people’s living conditions have significantly improved. Moreover, correcting the mistakes made in the June 4th Incident is the common wish of people in the country and also the wish of people throughout the world. As long as the leaders of our party act with firm resolve to correct the mistakes, I believe they will have the support of the whole nation and there will not be chaos in the country.

One day in 1997 I visited Comrade Wu Zuguang in his home. He told me that he had wanted to speak at the CPPCC National Committee session that year but the session’s chairman wanted his written speech in advance; consequently the chairman did not let him speak at the session and he could only speak at the literature and art group discussion. He said he endorsed China’s earthshaking economic changes in the past 20 years as a result of Comrade Deng Xiaoping’s reform and opening up policy. He said the Chinese people would not forget his meritorious contributions in this respect. But he pointed out: Deng Xiaoping’s way of handling the June 4th Incident was mistaken [you cuo de]. Now that Deng is dead, we should reassess the incident. Deng was a very old man in 1989 and he learned the outside world primarily through second-hand information. At that time Beijing’s Chen Xitong gave him false information, claiming that reactionary forces at home and abroad were behind the students. That was why Deng was fooled. He was deceived by Chen. Now Chen is a felon found guilty of corruption. So Chen should be the one to be held criminally accountable, and the true nature of the incident should be made known. Wu told me that after he finished his talk at the group discussion, no one at the session expressed disagreement (and of course no one could come up with any legitimate reason to disagree), but no one supported his view either. That hurt him tremendously. That was because he knew those at the session were very smart intellectuals but who nevertheless were afraid to speak their minds even though they shared his view in private. That pained his heart totally. His wife, Xin Fengxia, said to me that she always urged him not to express any views, but it was useless because Wu would not listen and would seize any opportunity to state his views, saying: Everybody has a mouth, which serves two purposes: eat and speak. Whenever I speak, I must speak the truth. If this mouth is used to tell lies and if I don’t want to use it to speak my mind, then its only purpose is to eat. What’s its usefulness in that case? Wu’s talks educated me greatly. A man must talk and tell the truth. Later I visited my teachers, Lei Jieqiong and Wu Jieping. They were my teachers when I was a student at Yanjing University. I told them my experience in saving the injured people at Hospital Number 301 on the evening of 3 June. They both indicated that they were not aware of the specifics of the incident, but they both maintained that the government made a big mistake in handling the incident. They added that while they couldn’t do anything now, they believed the issue would be resolved in the future.

In 1998, I and some comrades, as CPC members, wrote a letter to state leaders, NPC deputies and CPPCC National Committee representatives, proposing that the June 4th Incident be reappraised.

In 1998, I called on Comrade Yang Shangkun at his residence and reported to him my visit to Taiwan (Yang had always been the principal person in charge of the Taiwan issue) and I talked to him about the view of my cousin, Jiang Yanshi [Tsiang Yen-si, a senior KMT official who held many important offices in Taiwan] about reunification. Then I told Yang that I was the surgeon in charge of treating the injured persons brought to Hospital 301 and asked him whether he wanted to hear my view. He said he wanted to hear. And so I told him what I saw. I also gave him a copy of the letter that I wrote to the central leaders. Yang indicated that the June 4th Incident was an incident in which the CPC committed the most serious mistakes in its history. He said he could not do anything to correct the mistake, but said that the mistakes would be corrected in the future.

Comrade Yang Shangkun’s view was also the view of many other elderly comrades. After the June 4th Incident, the Central Advisory Commission chaired by Bo Yibo held a session to criticize four elderly comrades: Yu Guangyuan, Du Runsheng, Li Rui and Li Chang. Some people even plotted not to let these four party members reregister their membership. Later, Comrade Chen Yun wrote a letter to the Central Advisory Commission, and Bo Yibo read the letter at a plenary session of the commission. The letter said, to the effect: We must stop handling the matter this way. We have learned a lot from things in this respect. Is it possible that we will have to rehabilitate these people in the future? After reading the letter, Bo said: This issue is finished. We will not discuss it anymore. We should stop talking about it from now on. Comrade Chen Yun has said it very clearly in his letter that he is against the handling the June 4th Incident in such a manner. I don’t know whether this important view of Comrade Chen Yun has been referred to the CPC Central Committee, the NPC Standing Committee and the CPPCC Standing Committee ["standing committee" as published].

Recently I read the book, “For the Sake of China’s Tomorrow — Those Who Are Alive and Those Who Have Died [Weile Zhongguo de MingtianSheng Zhe yu Si Zhe],” written by Ding Zilin, author of “The Tiananmen Mother [Tiananmen Muqin].” The book makes me clearly aware of the pressure and the pains that the mother of a 17-year-old warm blooded youth, who was killed in the June 4th Incident, had to bear over the past decade or so. This mother and other family members of the victims did everything possible to find and contact the families of nearly 200 victims and others who became cripples; then, in one way or another, they expressed their wish — the wish that the government should seriously and responsibly explain to them the killings of their family members. That was a reasonable request. Who among us does not have parents, children, and brothers and sisters? Like them, anyone whose family members were unjustly killed should voice the same request. Each CPC member, Chinese citizen and human being must courageously support their just demand. Beginning in 1995, they have made it a practice each year to write an open letter to the NPC Standing Committee stating their just demand. Regrettably, however, this supreme power organization of the state has turned a deaf ear to this serious request and made no response whatsoever. This is an extremely irresponsible attitude. We will never be able to justify this before the people of the world.

I have written quite a lot already. What I want to say is this: Since the new party and state leading collectives formed after the 16th National Party Congress have stressed on all occasions the need to act on the Constitution and be people-centered, then the NPC Standing Committee, the CPPCC Standing Committee ["standing committee" as published], the members of the 16th CPC Central Committee Political Bureau and members of its standing committee must reassess the June 4th Incident in light of the criteria in the PRC Constitution and the party’s three most fundamental principles — “integrating theory with practice (or seeking truth from facts), maintaining close ties with the masses, and making criticism and self-criticism.” Our party must address the mistake it has made. The earlier these mistakes are resolved and the more thorough they are resolved, the better. I believe that correct assessment of the June 4th Incident is what the people want and it will never cause unrest among the people. The claim that stability is of overriding importance can in fact cause even greater instability. For years, each time before June 4th, some people, like sitting on thorns, are in a state of extreme nervousness. They would not know how many people would be mobilized this time to prevent disturbances. This has been the case year after year. The uneasiness has not gradually diminished just because the June 4th Incident has become farther and farther away. On the contrary, the people have become increasingly disappointed and angry.

After repeated deliberations, I think I must write you this letter. Of course I have considered the consequences that I might encounter after writing this letter. But I have decided to tell you all the facts. If you think it is necessary, please talk to me at your convenience.

If you receive this letter, please acknowledge the receipt.

My address: No. 26, Zhuge Zhuang, Wanshou Road, 5-1204

Zip code: 100036

Tel: 68134451

[Signed] Jiang Yanyong, Department of Surgery, Beijing 301 Hospital

[Dated on] February 24 2004 ”