Written by Diane Gatterdam
Twenty-three years ago on this day, Thursday April 20th 1989, security agencies and Beijing municipal authorities were now keeping close track of the intensifying student movement. In a bulletin they put out on April 20th the authorities stated that students were preparing to establish a “United Student Association”.
And they were correct.
Back at Beida, a group called the “Democracy Salon” headed by Wang Dan (a student who would soon become the number one leader in the Tiananmen Revolt, as well as number one on China’s most wanted list afterwards) was meeting to review past student protests and had attributed their failure to the lack of leadership.
Around midnight Wang Dan announced the abolition of the current official “Planning Committee of the United Students Association of Peking University” and the creation of a new “Planning Committee”.
Seven students, including Wang Dan, Yang Tao, Xiong Yan, Feng Congde, Chang Jin, Ding Xiaoping and Ti Bo, were chosen as a leadership committee under which eight departments were formed.
A program of 11 demands was announced including the original demands on the petition presented on Tiananmen Square days earlier. Also added was the demand for the release of Wei Jingsheng (China’s number one dissident from the 1978 democracy wall, in prison then for 11 years.) They also insisted that Deng Xiaoping be specific about what he meant by the failure of education during the last 10 years of reform.
They announced that they would lead all student movements between April 20th and May 4th, and that anyone who had the courage to stand up, give his or her real name and major, would automatically become a member. Shen Tong also joined the group as well as others. The students took turns to give their names and speeches.
“Beida is a school of honorable tradition, said Shen, a tradition of leading democratic movements. But recently Beida has fallen behind other universities. Hu Yaobang’s death is the perfect moment. We should seize the chance to recapture our tradition of democracy and science, but we must proceed with reason and planning.”
During the day on April 20th in the square, crowds continued to gather and swelled into the tens of thousands.
Police then started to detain students, 400 from Beida, 200 from Beijing Institute of Aeronautics and more than 200 from the Central Institute of Finance who were carrying banners that read, “Summon the spirit of democracy and freedom.”
The first reports then surfaced of extreme violent actions by the police.
Three students who went to the square for the memorial activities that day decided to take the #22 bus back to school, but because of the crowding on Chang’ an Boulevard they opted for the subway instead.
When they reached the street south of the Great Hall of the People, they were met and driven apart by two columns of PAP (Peoples Armed Police).
One student, Wang Zhiyong, was surrounded by PAP officers and beaten unconscious with leather belts. Two students helped him get back to campus where he was treated at the school clinic and then sent to the hospital. The hospital report said that he had suffered scalp wounds, concussion and external eye injuries.
Next day Wang’s bloody clothes were displayed on the campus and the students called for a strike. Many other universities also started boycotts and protested the violence of this beating. Posters that read “Boycott” appeared in the Triangle area on Beida’s campus.
A communiqué signed “Wu’er Kaixi” appeared at Beijing’s Normal University listing these demands:
1. Strip the official student Association and graduate student Association of all their powers
2. Join the Provisional Student Federation of Beijing University
3. Begin a campus-wide boycott of all classes and examinations
4. Come to a “oath–taking” rally for all universities that will be held on campus at 10 pm