Written by Diane Gatterdam
Transcript of Li Peng’s dialogue with the students
in the Great Hall of the People – May 18th 1989
“LI Peng Holds Dialogue with Students” (May 18, 1989) A Transcription of Beijing Television Broadcast.
Beijing Television Service, May 18, 1989; Foreign Broadcast Information Service, May 19, pp. 14-21. Students’ names are from Renmin Ribao (May 19:1, 4) version in FBIS, May 24, pp. 19-23.
(YOU CAN SEE THE WHOLE BROADCAST IN A GREAT MOVIE CALLED “GATES OF HEAVENLY PEACE”)
[Video reports Li Peng and Others Meet Representatives of the Fasting Students: meeting between Li Peng, member of the Standing Committee of the Politburo of the CPC Central Committee and premier of the State Council, and fasting students at the Great Hall of the People this morning.]
[Unidentified announcer:] Li Peng, member of the Standing Committee of the Politburo of the CPC Central Committee and premier of the State Council, and others met with representatives of the students, who have been fasting at Tiananmen Square, at the Great Hall of the People this morning.
[Video opens with a long shot of Li Peng entering a large conference room, zooming in to focus on Li Peng shaking hands with each student as he or she is introduced to Li by an unidentified official carrying a name list of the students. Li is seen shaking hands and briefly chatting with a total of eleven students. Most conversation is inaudible, except for the sixth and seventh students who are identified as Wang Dan, wearing a headband, and Wu’er Kaixi, in hospital pyjamas. Next, camera cuts to show Li Peng, seated on a sofa and with Li Tieying on his left and Yan Mingfu on his right.]
[Li Peng:] Delighted to meet you. This meeting came a little late. I apologize for this. Some of your fellow students are now waiting for you at the east side of the Great Hall, making me feel as if under siege [laughing]. I hope that we will have a frank conversation instead of [indistinct]. I would like to discuss only one topic today and shelve other topics until some time in the future. The topic I would like to discuss is how to relieve the fasting comrades of their predicament as soon as possible. The party and the government are very much concerned about the students. Therefore, I would like to exchange views with you mainly on this question, and on how a solution can be found so that we can discuss other questions. It is not that we do not want to [indistinct], but that we are mainly [indistinct]. Frankly, I guess that the oldest of you is about 22 or 23. My youngest child is even older than you. None of my three children is engaged in official profiteering. None. They are all older than you. We look at you as if you were our own children, our own flesh and blood.
[Wu’er Kaixi:] The time is pressing. We can sit down and have a drink here, but the students are sitting on the cold ground and starving on the square. I’m sorry I had to butt in. We hope we can enter into a substantial dialogue as soon as possible. Sorry I have to interrupt. Yes, you are like our elders to us.
[Li Peng:] It does not matter [if you wished to be the elder?] …
[Wu’er Kaixi:] It certainly does matter. You have just said that this meeting is a little late. The fact is that we asked for a meeting with you as early as April 22 at Tiananmen Square. Therefore, this meeting is not only a little late, but too late. However, it doesn’t matter because you have already met us [indistinct]. You said we are going to discuss only one question. In fact, it is not that you asked us to come here for discussion, but that the great number of people at the square asked you to come out for a talk. The topics of discussion should be decided by us. Fortunately, we share an identical view that there is only one, just one question that needs to be discussed. Therefore, let us discuss just this question. Many students have already fainted. But this is not my point. What is impor-tant is to solve the problem. How can the problem be solved? I think that it is good that you have finally come out and shown your sincerity to resolve the problem. We read and listened to Comrade Zhao Ziyang’s written statement yesterday and the day before. Why didn’t the students leave? Why did we stay? You should know the reason, I believe. We regard the written statement as insufficient. It is not enough to meet our demands. Moreover, I believe you are aware of the prevailing atmosphere at the square. If such an atmosphere continues, then it is likely that there will be no room for discussion here. Premier Li, it may sound like I am exaggerating a bit. Please think about this: Should the slightest error occur at the square, or should a student …. I do not want to elaborate further. [Wu’er Kaixi motions to Wang Dan, seated next to Wu’er, to speak.]
[Wang Dan:] [Indistinct] So far, some 2,000 have fainted. [Indistinct] On the contrary, the students’ emotion is rising to a high level. It is necessary to [indistinct] so that the students will leave the scene. Moreover, several million people [indistinct] in order to solve the problem as soon as possible. Therefore, our stand is clear [indistinct].
[Wu’er Kaixi:] Let me tell you, Teacher Li. First of all, the problem now lies not in dissuading us — a handful of student representatives. We have already stated clearly that you need not dissuade us because we too wish very much for the students to leave the square. Second, even if you succeed in utterly rebuking us here, it is still useless. The situation at the square now is dictated by 99.9 percent of the students who rule over the remaining 0.1 percent. If a student refuses to leave, then thousands of others will also stay.
[Wang Dan:] [Video shows shots of Wang Dan speaking, then being interrupted by the arrival of Li Ximing and some college teachers. Li Peng and others stand up to greet them, shake hands, and introduce them to those present; one of the teachers walks up to shake hands with Wu’er Kaixi.] [Indistinct] We have agreed to discuss just one question: that is, how to persuade the students to leave the square [indistinct]. I would like to take this opportunity to clearly state once again our demands. First, the current student movement should be evaluated as a democratic, patriotic movement and not unrest. Second, [indistinct].
[Wu’er Kaixi:] I would like to add my explanation to the above two demands. We hope that the verdict will be reversed and that the editorial will be negated immediately. First, we demand that the current student movement be given a positive assessment and that the April 26 Renmin Ribao editorial be negated. So far, no one has declared that the student movement is not unrest. Second, we demand that the actual meaning, or the great significance, of the May 4th Movement be defined. As for concrete measures to be taken, we suggest that Comrade Zhao Ziyang or Li Peng — better if it were Comrade Zhao Ziyang– make a speech to the students at the square and not in the official residence.
Another point: There is another solution to the problem: that is, the use of the Renmin Ribao editorial. As Minister Li has just said, and Director Yan has stated before, an immediate solution to the problem, a resolution of the problem within a very short time, is impossible. In that case, I have a question: Was the decision to publish the April 26 editorial made after a very big meeting had been called? If that was not the case, then I sincerely request that Renmin Ribao quickly publish an editorial today or tomorrow to negate the one on April 26, that it offer a full apology to the people of the entire country, and that it immediately recognize the great significance of the student movement. Only by so doing, I think, by fulfilling this point, can we try our best, I mean the Renmin Ribao editorial, to persuade our fellow students to change their hunger strike to a sit-in. Only under this condition can we continue to solve the problem. We will try our best. We dare not guarantee that we will surely be able to persuade them. But if it cannot be done, then it will be hard to say what will happen later.
With regard to dialogue, we mean an immediate, open, equal, direct, and sincere dialogue with the real representatives of the broad masses of students [indistinct]. Is there any need to go into such trouble? I can answer for several thousand people who have fainted at the square: There is such a necessity. Regarding equality, I think that leading comrades in real decision-making power should hold a dialogue with representatives directly elected by the students. This indeed is the meaning of equality. I think that I must mention one thing. Such things as saying that I cannot answer this or that question, that this is only my personal opinion, and so forth, should not occur again in a dialogue. If problems that have not been discussed at Politburo meetings are pointed out by us, then a meeting should be called immediately to study them. This is the attitude that must be adopted to really solve the problem. This is my view [indistinct].
[Wang Dan:] We can discuss these technical problems he has just raised later. Now we, the representatives, have come here while our fellow students are fainting one after another. In fact we have come here bearing in mind that we are responsible for their lives. Therefore, we hope that you leaders, who are present here, will quickly and explicitly make known your position regarding the demands we have submitted, I say that you should explicitly make known your position because the situation is very serious. While we are here as initiators and organizers, we are worried about the safety of the students. I think that some individual leaders may think along similar lines. If they do, then there is a need for quick solution to the problem. It is not very hard to resolve these two prob-lems. Do other students have different opinions?
[Wu’er Kaixi:] I think that if other students have something to add to these opinions, then they should say so quickly because we do not have much time left.
[Zhen Songyu, University of Political Science and Law:] I want to say something, I am one of the representatives of the students who are participating in the current hunger strike [indistinct]. I have taken part in the hunger strike directly. I have witnessed our students being carried away on stretchers, one after another. I think that you have heard about this. One student after another has been carried away on a stretcher continually since last night or since the day before yesterday, or even the day prior to the day before yesterday. Therefore, I hope that a discussion will be held as quickly as possible. I have nothing else to say.
[Xiong Yan, Beijing University:] I want to say a few words. We hold that whether it is recognized by the government or other sectors of society as a great patriotic democratic movement or not, history will recognize the current student movement as a great patriotic democratic movement. But why do students still want the government to particularly recognize it as a patriotic democratic movement? I think that their desire is the same — all want to see whether our own government is still our own government. In fact, herein lies the problem. This is the first point. Second, comrades, we all are fighting for communism. To save one life is already a job of prime importance, let alone saving thousands of lives. Many of our students have fainted. We are all people of good conscience. We are human beings. To solve this problem, we should forget face and other things of secondary importance. Even if the people’s government admits its own mistakes, the people will still support it. I think that the masses of people will do so. This is the second point. Third, our criticism of Premier Li Peng is not directed at you personally. We criticize you because you are the premier of the Republic. In fact, you have just said that your coming out is too late. I have nothing more to say.
[Wu’er Kaixi:] Fellow students, I think that if you have any essential ques-tions to discuss, you had better discuss them quickly.
[Unidentified student:] Quickly ask the leaders to make their position known.
[Wang Chaohua, China Academy of Social Sciences:] I agree with what my fellow student has just said. I just want to add the following: It has just been said that even if we adopt a resolution here, it is of no effect if we cannot persuade our fellow students. But the detailed points expressed by Wu’er Kaixi just now, are not entirely meaningless. If they can be carried out, then we might be able to persuade the students to withdraw.
[Wang Xuezhen, secretary of the Party Committee of Beijing University:] I work at Beijing University. I think I understand the students of Beijing Univer-sity. As teachers, we are very deeply distressed when we see the students of Beijing University taking this kind of action at Tiananmen Square. I believe that our students are patriotic. They hope to advance democracy in our country. Therefore, I hold that our students are not trying to create unrest. I hope our government will affirm this point — that our students are not engaged in creating unrest. The second point is that I hope our government leaders and even our general secretary will go to the square to talk to the students to show that they understand the students’ feelings. With regard to the matter of official profiteer-ing and corruption, I think that our government has indicated on many occasions that it is determined to solve these problems. These problems must be solved. The government should make up its mind to solve these problems. In addition, as a functionary, as a responsible person of the school, and as a teacher, I also hope that the government will cooperate with the students and persuade them to return. If this continues, it will have an adverse effect on the health of the students. The burden of developing China and of promoting democracy in China in the future all falls on the shoulders of our young people. It is bad to ruin your health. This is my three-point view. I hope that you give it consideration.
[Li Peng:] Any other student who wants to ….
[Wang Zhixin, University of Political Science and Law, interrupting:] If this is put off any longer, not only the students but also citizens in general will not be able to control themselves. [Video shows Li Peng nodding his head.] I think that these questions should be clarified. First, the current movement is no longer simply a student movement; it has become a democratic movement. The move-ment concerns the slogan of democracy and science, which was shouted out seventy years ago. However, this goal has not been achieved in the last seventy years. Now the slogan is being shouted out once again, with much more force than it was in the past. Today’s situation is this: since May 13, many students have joined our ranks. This is not something that the students are in a position to control. I want to point this out first of all. Besides, we are not obligated to assume responsibility for maintaining order in the square.
I have another question to ask the government. On April 22, we went down on our knees for a long time to present our petition. However, you did not show up despite our repeated request for you to do so. Another question. We began the hunger strike on May 13, a strike which now has entered its sixth day. There is a practice in the world that when a hunger strike enters its seventh day, the govern-ments in general will respond. This is true even in the case of countries like South Africa. I wonder if the Communist Party and a great country like ours can restore and cultivate our original image. One more question. I wonder how the government is going to respond to this. At present, different types of people, including aunts, grandpas, and whole families, have joined our ranks. I wonder what the government thinks of this. There are people as old as eighty and as young as just a few years old. Small children formed a line marching in an orderly way, shouting slogans, and crying: Big brothers, big sisters, drink some water, eat something.
[Wu’er Kaixi:] Fellow students, fellow students. I feel that we are almost finished with things of a practical nature. With a sense of responsibility toward the students in the square, we must try to make it as brief as possible.
[Li Peng:] Any other student? Since you are here, speak as much as possible.
[Wang Chaohua:] I am sorry, This leading comrade just now…
[Li Peng, interrupting:] He is the secretary of the Party Committee of Beijing University.
[Wang Chaohua:] Oh, Comrade Wang Lizhi [Xuezhen, sic] How are you? I feel that the leading comrades seem to agree with the views expressed by him, That is, that the vast number of students are not acting to create disturbances. Am I right? The leading comrades here seemed to nod their heads just now. However, I would like to point out that the vast number of students are indeed launching a movement. They indeed are fairly consciously launching a democratic movement, trying to fight for the rights given to them by the Constitution. I would like to have this point clarified. If we today call our action simply an act of ardent patriotism, then there is no way to explain the reason, coolness, orderli-ness, and observation of law characteristic of the movement. Many things can be done in the name of ardent patriotism.
[Li Peng:] Is there anyone else?
[Unidentified voice:] No one else. Please go ahead.
[Li Peng:] If there is no one else, I will make this demand. Please do not interrupt as we speak. We have already fully …. If you interrupt when we speak, then it will be difficult for us to continue….
[Yan Mingfu, interrupting:] If you do not have any more questions ….
[Li Peng, interrupting:] If you still have questions, then I hope that you will continue to speak. Since you have this many representatives here, fully air your views.
[Wu’er Kaixi:] Does this mean that when you finish talking, we can no longer talk? Is that what you mean?
[Li Peng:] What I mean is that when we are talking, do not interrupt us.
[Shao Jiang, Beijing University:] Yes, yes. We hope that the current state of affairs will not become more serious, for China really should maintain a stable social order to develop itself and to become prosperous. At this stage, however, the student movement has already begun to change directly. Perhaps it has be-come a movement of the whole people. The student movement itself, as the central authorities have admitted, is relatively reasonable. However, we cannot guarantee that this movement of the whole people is a reasonable one. Thus, I would like to ask you gentlemen to calm this situation down as soon as possible by meeting our two demands.
[Li Peng:] Finished? Li Tieying, you say something about this.
[Li Tieying:] As the minister of the State Education Commission, I have talked with everyone twice before. I already expressed my views [on the first issue] the last time; that is, the State Education Commission from now on will develop more channels for dialogue to listen to the views of those in the education field, as well as those of the broad masses of teachers and students, and bear, through you, the opinions of all sectors of society with regard to our work and problems. On this issue, we at the State Education Commission were unable to establish a regular multilevel or multichannel system through which everyone has the opportunity to speak and to express his views on state affairs. If we have not done enough in this regard, then we should sum up our experience.
On the second issue, the student strike has already become a major nationwide event. We should [make it clear?]. Moreover, the demands of the students not only involve students, but also include some political issues. Therefore, all these issues have created enormous repercussions. The state of affairs is still developing. This event is still developing. Therefore, we call the student parades and demonstrations a student strike. I have already expressed my views on this issue in two previous official talks with you people. I am sure that those students who are present here today understand my views clearly. It should be said that the broad masses of students have demonstrated the spirit of patriotism, have voiced their criticisms and opinions, have offered many suggestions, and have expressed their patriotic aspirations during this event. However, many things do not develop in a way that accords with our own subjective views and wishes. The development of such an event in one way or another can only be verified by the final result of the development itself and by history. Right now, the state of affairs is spreading. We are quite worried.
I myself am very worried about what is going on now. Things may possibly develop in such a way that they will turn out to be inconsistent with what our fellow students thought and wished in the beginning. We oppose it, and so do the students and people throughout the country. Moreover, we all wish to have a stable situation. In today’s China, if we do not have a stable situation, if we do not have a situation of stability and unity, then, in my opinion, everything will go down the drain. If there is not a stable situation in the country, if we cannot continue to establish through the reform a stability mechanism for a lasting period of peaceful rule, if there is not a stable and peaceful international situation, then, whatever it may be, whether it is economic construction, or reform of the economic and political structure, or any other cause that we are undertaking, or the four cardinal principles, in short, our wish to invigorate the Chinese nation, in my view, will remain only a wish or empty talk. So, we must stay within the confines of the legal system and democracy in discussing or arguing among ourselves about all problems, no matter how numerous they are. We have National People’s Congress deputies, don’t we? We have the NPC and all kinds of mechanisms, don’t we?
If you want to show the greatest love and care for the students who are at the square now, as well as for all other students, then I think that they wish we could undertake joint efforts to create, on the basis of the legal system and gradually in the course of the reform, a kind of system that will really enable us to realize the goal of invigorating the Chinese nation. This is our historical mission. It is also the goal set forth by the Thirteenth CPC Congress for us to attain in the initial stage of socialism. Well, the way things are developing now may not be decided entirely by the subjective wish of our fellow students, by their fine and warm patriotic sentiments. Things have already evidenced further developments in various aspects. Take yester-day, for instance. Parades and demonstrations at different levels and to varying degrees took place in about nineteen cities across the country. There are many students from various cities who have ridden into Beijing. Already, not all the students now at the square are from Beijing alone. There are some students who have come from other localities. So, we now have a kind of order, a kind of situation that is no longer completely in accordance with our subjective wishes.
As for solving the problems pointed out by our fellow students, we have already held dialogue and consultations between us several times now. It seems that the wishes of our fellow students can no longer be satisfied merely by holding dialogue. Do you not think that we should now study the most important, the most pressing problem? There is no problem that we cannot discuss and study. We can solve all problems by resorting to the means of democracy and the legal system. It is hoped that our fellow students will keep to reason and think seriously in order for the students here today to be able to do their work and for the students at the square to leave and return to their schools as soon as possible.
[Yan Mingfu:] Let me say a few words. I will speak very briefly. In the past ten days or so, I have had many contacts with our students. My primary concern is to save the lives of the students who have been on a hunger strike at the square for many days. They have become very weak. The lives of these children are in danger. I think the final solution to the problem must be separated from saving lives, that is, must be apart from the saving of lives. Do not take … [changes thought] in particular those students who are not on a hunger strike, should not take the lives of … [changes thought] should care about the lives of their fellow students who are on a hunger strike. I believe that the problems will be solved in the end. However, now we must immediately send these very weakened students to the hospital. I think that we should reach an agreement on this problem. Let us solve these two problems separately. As I mentioned to Wu’er Kaixi and Wang Dan on the night of May 13, the development of the situation has already over-taken the good intentions of those who initiated the event, The event has gone beyond the control of the students. When I went to the square that day to exchange views with the students, I proposed three things. I said: First, I want you to immediately leave the square; that is, the students on a hunger strike should go to the hospital as quickly as possible to receive medical care. Second, I announced on behalf of the CPC Central Committee — that is, I was empowered by the CPC Central Committee — that the central authorities will absolutely not persecute the students; in other words, I addressed the problem of later punish-ment raised by the students. Third, if the students do not believe me, I offered to go with the students to their schools before the opening of the NPC session. After I left the square, I heard that Wang Dan and others presided over a discussion. Some agreed with my views, but the majority of the students disagreed. Due to the circumstances, central leading comrades, who on several occasions have wanted to visit students at the square, have been unable to enter the square because of the inability to get in touch with you students. Perhaps you know about this. Now more and more signs show that [the three organizations spontaneously set up by] the students are having less and less influence on the situation. More and more of the masses will not follow your intention to continue your action. How the situation will develop worries us. The only thing you can influ-ence is to decide when the hunger strikers will leave the scene. The CPC Central Committee and the State Council are sincere and determined to solve the problems raised by the students. The problem people care about right now — and the crux of the matter — is the lives of these children. This is one of the most impor-tant issues. Do not take the lives of these children … [changes thought] not attach high importance to it … [changes thought] someone will have to take responsibility for the lives of these children. This is all I want to say.
[Li Peng:] Will Comrade Xitong say a few words?
[Chen Xitong:] I came to this meeting on short notice, We could not drive our car over here for this meeting. Finally, we came here by holding a Red Cross flag. This made me feel that it was very difficult to come here. This is why I am late. I was the last one to arrive here.
[Li Ximing:] Eighteen teachers were frustrated. I had to bring them here.
[Chen Xitong:] Comrade Li Peng wants me to say a few words. I would like to say something in my capacity as a mayor. The students have seen the development of events in the last few days. The broad masses have also seen them. At present, many people are very concerned about this. Our workers, peasants, intellectuals, and cadres of various organs are all very concerned about the events that have occurred. Many city residents, workers, and peasants, as well as workers in Xi’an, Hunan, and other localities, have telephoned the municipal government and Party committee, asking us to convey their opinions. They hope that the issue can be solved along the track of democracy and the legal system, as mentioned by Comrade Zhao Ziyang. This is one opinion. Another point is that traffic throughout the city is now paralyzed, or is basically paralyzed. Production has been seriously affected. Some factory workers have come out in support of the students, but many workers now hope that the present situation will not continue but will calm down. Only in this way will it be possible to better solve the issue. If the traffic in the whole city remains paralyzed and supply is discon-tinued, there will be a serious impact on our people and the country. The students are very clearly aware of this. I have conveyed the opinions people want me to convey. This is the first thing.
Another thing is the deep concern about the students on a hunger strike. Medical workers, doctors, and staff members of the Red Cross are very concerned about the health of those students who are on a hunger strike. These people request that they be provided with the greatest cooperation so that they can get assistance in transporting to the hospital all weak students among the hunger strikers. They presented a demand to me: The political question is the political question, but the lives of our children, the students, should not be played around with or used in exchange for something — these are their exact words. Comrades of the Red Cross Society, many other people in society, and city residents have all expressed this opinion. I hope that this will be understood by the students.
First and foremost, it is necessary to guarantee the health of our children and the students of the whole municipality. By holding this hunger strike, you may adversely affect your health or even
sacrifice your lives. What is the advantage to you? What will you gain by doing so? In my opinion, if you do not use this method, you can still solve many problems. Isn’t this so? You can solve problems in accordance with the law and democratic procedures. As mayor, I would like to convey these two points. I hope that the students will give more assistance so that the Red Cross Society can fulfill its humanist duty and responsibility and ensure that not a single student’s life is threatened. The municipal government is determined to provide all the necessary means to help the students, including provisions against rain and equipment to protect against cold. We have now made full preparations for this. Thank you.
[Li Ximing:] I do not have much more to say. Right now, our major task is to ensure that nobody’s life is in danger. Let us unite as one to tackle this issue first. This issue brooks no delay. I hope that all of us will pool our efforts to tackle this issue. There is nothing else I would like to talk about. This is the most urgent issue.
[Li Peng:] I would like to express my views on several points. Everyone is interested in discussing essential issues. First I want to discuss one essential issue. I propose that the China Red Cross Society and its chapter in Beijing responsibly and safely send those on hunger strike to various hospitals. I hope that all other students at the square would help and support this operation. This is my concrete proposal. At the same time, I urge the medical workers in Beijing Municipality and in all units under the central government to join this rescue operation, care for our students on hunger strike, save their lives, and ensure their maximum safety. No matter how many common views we share and how much we differ in views, our primary task at present is to save lives. This is the government’s duty. The government is responsible for doing this. Allthe students at the square must show comradely concern for the students on a hunger strike. My proposal does not mean that only those comrades on a hunger strike who are critically ill should be sent to the hospital. What I mean is that all of them should be sent to the hospital right now. I have already instructed all major hospitals to vacate more beds and spare the necessary medical facilities to take care of these students. During the past few days, our medical workers had al-ready worked very hard. For days and nights, they had meticulously taken care of fasting students. Myself, Comrade Ziyang, and other comrades visited some of the students this morning.
Another point is that neither the government nor the party Central Committee, has ever said that the broad masses of students are creating disorder. We have never said such a thing. We have unanimously affirmed the patriotic fervor of the students. Their patriotic aspirations are good. Many of the things they have done are correct. A considerably large number of their complaints are also prob-lems that our government seeks to solve. I will tell you in all honesty that you have played an excellent role in helping us solve these problems. We plan to solve these problems, but there will probably be many obstacles. Some of the problems are difficult to solve. The students have actually helped the govern-ment overcome the difficulties on our road of advance by pointedly bringing up these problems. Therefore, your efforts are positive. Nevertheless, things often develop independently of your good will, fine ideas, and patriotic fervor. No one is able to control this objective law.
There is complete chaos in Beijing. Moreover, chaos has spread throughout the country. I can tell you students that yesterday our lifeline, our railway life-line, was blocked for three hours in Wuhan, suspending our important means of transportation. At present, many urban students have come to Beijing. Others who are not students but who are people without fixed duties in society have also come to Beijing under the banner of students. I can state that during the past few days, Beijing has been in a state of anarchy. I hope you students will think for a moment what consequences might have been brought about by this situation. The government of the People’s Republic of China is a government responsible to the people. It is impossible for us to be indifferent to this phenomenon. It is impossible for us not to protect the safety and lives of students, not to protect factories, and not to protect our socialist system. Whether or not you are willing to listen to what I have to say, I am really pleased to have the opportunity to say it. I want to tell you that it is absolutely not my intention to impose anything on you, because some things are independent of man’s will. Much unrest has occurred in China. Many people did not want unrest to occur, but it occurred anyway.
The third point is that currently there are many personnel from government departments, workers, and even staff members of some of the State Council departments who have taken to the streets to demonstrate to show their support. I hope you will not misunderstand their support. They have done so out of concern for you. They do not want any harm done to your health. However, I do not totally agree with the actions taken by many people. In other words, if people advise you to eat some food and drink some water to maintain your health, or if they advise you to quickly leave the square and hold a discussion with the government, then this is entirely correct. However, many people have come to encourage you to continue your hunger strike. I cannot say what their motives are, but I do not agree with this action. As head of a responsible government, I cannot but make my position known regarding this matter. I have not finished yet. Some … [changes thought] of course, two questions have been raised by students. We are very concerned about these questions, and we understand them. As the premier of the government and a member of the Communist Party, I do not hold back my viewpoints; however, I do not want to talk about these questions today. I will talk about these questions at an opportune time, but I think I have already talked quite a lot about my point of view.
Yes, I have made my point of view clear now. If we insist on endless quibbling over this issue today, in my view, this is inappropriate. This is unreasonable. I want to appeal to you for the last time: if you think that you comrades present at this meeting cannot, well, either command or — however you may describe it — your partners, if you cannot have complete control over their actions, then I would like to appeal, through you, directly to our fellow students on the hunger strike in the square. I hope that they will stop their hunger strike and go to the hospital for treatment as soon as possible. Once again, on behalf of the party and the government, I extend cordial greetings to them. I hope that they will be able to accept this very simple, but also very pressing, request made to them by the government. I have finished what I wanted to say.
[Wu’er Kaixi:] Premier Li, I am very sorry for having written you a note a while ago telling you that in case you do not get to the essential matters I may have to cut you short. Respecting our agreement, I did not do so. I would like to remind you about the question of quibbling about which we have just heard. In the view of us students, we are only seeking a solution to the problem from the standpoint of humanitarianism. As for quibbling, that is about some specific questions. This has nothing to do with us. It is not us, the representatives of the students, who are quibbling. I have another point to make. I first thought that there was no need to repeat what I said right at the beginning of this meeting. However, it seems that some of you leading comrades still do not understand me. Therefore, I am now willing to repeat what I said once more. The key to solving the problem now does not lie in convincing those of us present at this meeting. The key lies in how to make the students leave. The conditions for them to leave [changes thought] I have, well, I have already made it very clear just a while ago about the conditions for them to leave. There is only one possibility, and this is objective reality, objective fact. If there is even one last person who does not leave the square and who continues his hunger strike, then it will be very difficult for us to guarantee that the thousands of people who choose to remain will leave. Furthermore, with regard to the issue of the Red Cross, I believe, well, I want to ask Premier Li and other leading comrades present here to consider its feasibility. Moreover, Premier Li, let me repeat once again what I have just said. Let us avoid endless quibbling. We also think this should be avoided. Please quickly respond to the conditions we have presented, because our fellow students in the square are suffering from hunger right now. If this meeting leads nowhere, and if we continue to quibble on this question, then, in our view, the government does not have any sincerity, not the slightest sincerity, to solve the problem. In this case, there is no need for us representatives of the students to remain sitting here any longer.
[Wang Dan:] Let me add one point. If Premier Li believes that this will create a disturbance or have a very adverse effect on society, then I can speak for the vast numbers of students that the government should take absolute, full responsibility.
[Xiong Yan:] I will repeat once more. Dear Comrade Li Peng, just now you brought up the point that there are signs of a disturbance in society. I have spoken for three minutes, explaining in the most simple way the difference between a student movement and a disturbance. If a disturbance occurs in a country or a society, does it have a direct cause-and-effect relationship with a student demonstration? I say no. A disturbance in a country or society is not caused by student demonstrations, but by the social system in existence, the ills of society. It does not have a direct cause-and-effect relationship with student demonstrations. The very purpose of student demonstrations is to expose the ills of society at an early date so that the government can deal with them and overcome the ills without delay. Thus, the student movement or the movement to promote democracy will indeed serve to prevent society from falling apart and avoid a real disturbance. The argument is quite simple. This is what I want to say.
[Yan Mingfu:] I would like to ask your view on this. Someone just gave me a note, saying that the students of the provisional headquarters of the fasting students are in danger of losing control of the situation and they hope that you will return immediately. At today’s dialogue, you have presented your views to the party Central Committee and the State Council. On behalf of the State Council and the party Central Committee, Comrade Li Peng has expressed our views on these issues. The most pressing issue that needs to be resolved at present is to have fasting students go to the hospital for treatment with the help of the Red Cross. Regarding other problems, there will be enough time to resolve them. Shall we end our dialogue here? Comrades of the provisional headquarters of the fasting students are asking Comrades Wang Dan and Wu’er Kaixi to return as soon as possible …
[Unidentified student, interrupting:] I want to make one point. At the beginning it was said that this is a meeting, not a dialogue.
[Li Peng, interrupting:] Yes, it is a meeting. See you again.
[Yan Mingfu:] Premier Li Peng is having talks with a foreign delegation in the next hour.
[Video shows Li Peng standing up and shaking hands with the students.]