25 Years Ago: Tide Turns Toward Hard-Liner

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.

From the May 26, 1989 New York Times:

Prime Minister Li Peng appeared on television today, declaring that his Government was in control, and there were more signs that at least for now he is gaining in the power struggle that is racking China.

In an indication that a military solution to the political crisis remains a possibility, Mr. Li also sent a letter to troops encircling Beijing, expressing the hope that ”the troops will overcome the difficulties confronting them” and ”successfully impose martial law.”

Mr. Li’s public appearance was the first by any of China’s top leaders since the Prime Minister made a speech Saturday morning calling for a military crackdown on the nation’s democracy movement. Demonstrators in Beijing and other cities have been holding large rallies calling for Mr. Li’s ouster, and there were hints in official news reports earlier in the week that he might be in political trouble.

[...] In his television appearance tonight, Li Peng (pronounced lee pung) seemed relaxed and confident as he met three newly arrived ambassadors to Beijing. The opening segment of the evening news program showed Mr. Li saying the troops called to Beijing had not yet reached the downtown area because they had been blocked by people who do not understand their purpose.

”Anyone with common sense can see that this is not because the troops are unable to enter the downtown area,” Mr. Li said, ”but because the Government is the people’s government and the People’s Liberation Army is the people’s army.

wang danStudent leader Wang Dan at a press conference on May 26, 1989 in Tiananmen Square announcing the student’s call for a city-wide march to take place Tuesday, after which the students would end their occupation of the square (via CND)

See also a report from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, and “Wishful Thinkers?” from the New York Times.

[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 cdt@chinadigitaltimes.net and we’ll consider including them in this series. Many thanks.]

May 26, 2014 12:01 AM
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