30 Years Ago: Workers Join Students In Beijing

30 Years Ago: Workers Join Students In Beijing

This year marks the 30th 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. 

From the May 5, 1989 New York Times:

Not only a call for democracy, but also anger over inflation and corruption, seemed to impel the tens of thousands of workers who joined students today in demonstrating in Tiananmen Square in the center of the capital.

So far most of the workers seem bitter enough to be willing to join the students, but not so angry that they will stage demonstrations or strikes of their own.

In interviews today, many of the workers said that while they believed in the students’ cause, they are reluctant to join formally in the march for fear of losing their jobs.

Many workers said their supervisors had warned them not even to watch the demonstration for risk of punishment. But the workers’ dissatisfaction with pocketbook issues, and in some cases the lack of democracy and freedom of the press, carried them into the streets today to shout and shove alongside their junior comrades. [Source]

See also an editorial from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette from the same day and a report from the Washington Post, “Journalists Cheer Students Demonstrating in China“:

As student demonstrators marched toward the center of Beijing today, several hundred Chinese journalists applauded them, shouting, “We want a free press!”

Today’s protest by journalists was the first organized activity in support of the students by other residents of Beijing. Some Chinese have shown their support in more disorganized ways, lining roadways, shouting, clapping and donating money and food to the students. [Source]

[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 [email protected] and we’ll consider including them in this series. Many thanks.]

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