Deng Is Said to Have Backed Tiananmen Violence; Generals Refused to March

A new memoir purportedly written by former Premier Li Peng describes the events leading up the June 4th military crackdown in Beijing. From the New York Times:

The diary, covering some nine weeks before and after the military action, is said to be written by Li Peng, China’s premier at the time and an ally of conservatives in the Chinese leadership. A Hong Kong publisher, New Century Press, plans to release the 279-page manuscript as a Chinese-language book on June 22.

…The newspaper said Mr. Li wrote that the protesters threatened to send China into a new era of political upheaval akin to the chaos into which Mao periodically plunged the nation during his rule.

“From the beginning of the turmoil, I have prepared for the worst. I would rather sacrifice my own life and that of my family to prevent China from going through a tragedy like the Cultural Revolution,” the newspaper wrote, quoting a May 2, 1989, diary entry.

That comparison ignores the fact that the Cultural Revolution, which began in 1966 and was allowed to continue for a decade, was orchestrated by Mao to undermine rival leaders he felt were insufficiently devoted to his revolutionary agenda. Mr. Li’s analysis is also at odds with that of Mr. Zhao, who argued that the students wanted reform, not revolution. In the memoirs, the newspaper wrote, Mr. Li states that he began to take issue with Mr. Zhao days after the protests began in April 1989.

But according to a prologue by Wu Guoguang, a University of Victoria, British Columbia, scholar, the memoir makes clear that Mr. Deng, not Mr. Li, led the drive to crush the demonstrations and oust Mr. Zhao from power.

“This book has clearly revealed that Deng was the proposer and decision-maker of enacting martial law in parts of Beijing in 1989,” Mr. Wu wrote. “And he gave the final approval to “ground clearing” operation in Tiananmen Square on June 3.”

The Sydney Morning Herald looks at the actions of PLA generals on the days surrounding June 4th, as several of them refused orders to march into the protesting crowds:

The killings around Tiananmen continue to taint the legacies of the party elders who ordered them, led by Deng, and it weighs on the generation of mainly conservative leaders whose careers advanced because their more moderate colleagues were purged or sidelined at the time.

Those internal wounds are still raw, as demonstrated by the effort that the party and PLA have exerted to ensure today’s 21st anniversary will pass without any public mention within China.

But acts of courageous defiance are kept alive by military and party veterans in private conversations and overseas Chinese language publications, in the belief or hope that those who refused to spill blood in 1989 will one day be acknowledged as heroes.

Around May 20, 1989, General Zhou Yibing, commander of the Beijing Military District, had couriered the marching orders to General Xu’s barracks in Baoding, south of Beijing. ”When he was ordered to march into the square, Xu asked a series of questions,” said a serving general in the People’s Liberation Army, answering queries from the Herald which were relayed via a close associate.

”He asked if there was an order from … Zhao Ziyang,” said the serving PLA general, referring to the Communist Party boss who had already been sidelined because of his opposition to the use of force. The answer was no and ”Xu then refused to march.”

June 4, 2010 2:15 PM
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Categories: Human Rights, Politics