25 Years Ago: Li Peng Tightens Grip
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the nationwide, student-led democracy movement in China, and the subsequent June 4th military crackdown in Beijing. To commemorate the student movement, CDT is posting a series of original news articles from 1989, beginning with the death of Hu Yaobang on April 15 and continuing through the tumultuous spring. The full series can be read here.
With Prime Minister Li Peng apparently winning China’s power struggle, documents criticizing his rival, Zhao Ziyang, have been circulated among senior officials, evidently in preparation for a formal decision to dismiss Mr. Zhao as Communist Party leader.
The criticisms were unusually harsh, and many Chinese said they feared that they heralded a campaign of repression against those like Mr. Zhao who favor more rapid political and economic liberalization and more conciliation with pro-democracy demonstrators.
A speech to the Politburo by former President Li Xiannian particularly worried some party officials because it borrowed from the long unused vocabulary of the Cultural Revolution by calling this a ”struggle between two headquarters.”
By day, about 20,000 student demonstrators continue to occupy Tiananmen Square, in the heart of Beijing, but the numbers are diminishing and many of the students are from other parts of the country. Somewhat fewer spend the night at the square.
The declining numbers seem to reflect mostly weariness after almost six weeks of nearly continuous protest, and disgust at the increasing filth on the square, rather than intimidation by the Government polemics.
[This series was originally posted by CDT in 2009 to mark the 20th anniversary of the protests. If you have access to additional sources of original reporting, video, accounts or photos from the spring of 1989, please send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll consider including them in this series. Many thanks.]