Written by Diane Gatterdam
Twenty-three years ago, on this day Friday April 21st 1989, was the day before the funeral and memorial service for Hu Yaobang. Students heard that the police intended to close Tiananmen Square beginning at 5am, so they gathered from various schools and decided to occupy the square before it was closed.
Around 10:00 pm, over 10,000 students from Qinghua and nine other universities came from Xueyuan Road and moved along Xidan North Avenue toward Tiananmen.
Participating schools were:
-Peking University (Beida)
-Beijing University of Sciences and Technology
-Beijing Institute of Aeronautics
-Beijing Institute of Post and Telecommunications
-Beijing Agricultural University
-Beijing Normal University
-Beijing Engineering University
-North China Jiaotong University
-Central Institute for Nationalities
As the students walked, they shouted “Down with official profiteering”, “Down with Corrupt Officials”, “Freedom of the press”, “ The press must tell the truth”, “Long live democracy”, “Violence is shameful”, “Oppose dictatorship”, “Down with authoritarianism” and “Patriotism is no crime”.
The masses lining the roads often applauded the students, stimulating them further and causing them to shout: “Long live the people” and “ What are we doing? We are telling the truth”. Onlookers gave the students cups of hot water as they walked.
China’s leaders now hardened their views on the emerging situation.
These are a few conversations from those leaders:
“With Beijing in chaos like this we’ve got to guard against a second Cultural Revolution. There must be some “Black Hands” behind these students, so we’d better get to the bottom of things”
- Peng Zhen
“These students are in rebellion Comrade Xiaoping. They have attacked Xinhua gate. We’ve got to do something right away”
- Wang Zhen to Deng Xiaoping
“This protest in Beijing and other cities around the country is getting worse. We need a Politburo meeting!”
- Li Peng
Except for the moderate voice of Zhao Ziyang:
“The protests were triggered by the death of Comrade Yaobang. To judge from the slogans, the majority of the students love the Party and the country. The student mainstream is good. I’ve already told Comrades Tieying and Ximing several times that they should give better guidance to the students. Our main task right now is to be sure that memorial ceremony for Comrade Yaobang goes off smoothly.”
The stage is now set…..