Written by Diane Gatterdam
Twenty-three years ago, on this day April 15th 1989, Hu Yaobang died.
This news of Hu Yaobang’s death shocked Beijing and China.
Wen Jiabao was asked to work on the funeral arrangements that were normal for standing members of the Politburo. There was already talk among top leaders about how Hu’s death would possibly impact society and worries were brought up about organized disturbances.
Spontaneous mourning started on campuses. Some students started to gather at the Monument to the People’s Heroes in Tiananmen Square with wreaths, flowers, and poems praising Hu as a reformer and a democrat.
That evening Premier Li Peng telephoned the mayor of Beijing, Chen Xitong, as he had just read a batch of material that stated there was a large gathering of students in Tiananmen Square. He wanted to know what was going on.
In Shanghai as well as other cities, protest posters started to appeared on university campuses.
By that night, province-level Party Committees sent reports to Party Central describing the mourning activities for Hu that were occurring in their jurisdictions and reported how they were handling them. In Shanghai, groups of up to several thousand students conducted spontaneous demonstrations, with one group unsuccessfully demanding to be received by officials of the Municipal Government. After holding an urgent meeting, the Municipal Party Committee, headed by Jiang Zemin, issued a notice ordering that mourning activities be carried out within work units and not beyond, in order to avoid effects on public order.