Written by Diane Gatterdam
Twenty-three years ago on this day Wednesday April 19th 1989, the procession of students continued to the square including students from Beijing Normal University who carried huge banners and shouting slogans such as “ Yaobang will not die”, “down with dictatorship”, “down with autocracy”, “people loved the peoples secretary and the secretary loved the people”.
By now workers including Han Dongfang and Zhao Hongliang entered the square as well. They were not welcomed by the students and asked to move along which annoyed them, as Beijing was full of angry unemployed young men.
The workers walked out of the square and crossed the street to an area know as Xiguanlitai, the West Reviewing Stand, the great gate and portrait of Mao at it’s center. The workers decided this place was where they would set up their headquarters. They posted a notice on the wall inviting people to join the “New Independent Workers Organization”.
By nightfall roughly twenty thousand people including three to four thousand students had congregated in the square and had placed 55 large wreaths and 12 funeral banners in front of the monument.
Beijing public security summoned 1000 policemen to maintain order on the square.
That evening the Beijing Government broadcast a “public notice” directing that at 5:00am on April 20th Public Security would cordon the monument off and that the Youth League was to organize 300 people to present the wreaths.
About 11:00 pm students from Beida, Normal, People’s University as well as U of Political Science and Law gathered at Xinhua Gate where they were surrounded by 7000 on lookers. The students shouted “Li Peng come out! “Li Peng come out!”
Han Dongfang observed the protest with concern, and told the students that it was absurd to think that Li Peng would come out and talk with them. He pleaded with the students to show restraint.
Students made six failed attempts to break through the police lines.
At 11:40 pm Beijing Public Security vehicles arrived to broadcast a proclamation from the city government, and the People’s Armed Police separated student from the onlookers.
From 1:00 to 5:00am the students maintained a confrontational position in front of the police cordon.
This siege of Xinhua gate heightened leaders alarm and the Beijing Government decided to declare temporary martial law and sent in buses to bus the students back to their campuses. More that 100 students were unwilling to board the bus’s and were heard shouting “Down with the Communist Party”.
Eyewitness account from Tiananmen Square April 19th 1989:
On April 19, we were on our way to Xinhuamen when the police stopped us on Changan Avenue. Three hundred of us were in front of Xinhuamen. Earlier, there had been a few thousand, but most of them had gone. I jumped on top of the bicycle cart and led the crowd; it was the first time that I actually stood up to lead. The police beat all of us, including me, but I hit back.
None of these several hundred people had known each other before, yet they were orderly and shared a universal aim to carry the demonstration through to the end.
I was greatly encouraged, because I realized the strength of these people. We know we were doing the right thing.