Written by Diane Gatterdam
Twenty-three years ago on this day, Tuesday 25th 1989, with Zhao Ziyang on a state visit to North Korea, Li Peng called a meeting of the Politburo, a meeting dominated by Party members antagonistic to the students. They convinced Party elder Deng Xiaoping that the students aimed to overthrow him and the Communist Party.
Deng decided that the time had come for action. “We must explain to the whole Party and nation that we are facing a most serious political struggle. We’ve got to be explicit and clear in opposing this turmoil.”
Deng decided to run the speech he made the day before (See my note from yesterday) in the state run newspaper the People’s Daily the next day on April 26th, but an advanced text of the speech ran on official State Radio on the 25th.
This editorial was called “The Necessity for a Clear Stand Against Turmoil”.
At Beida the news center rebroadcast the editorial over and over, which made the already tense atmosphere on campus even worse.
” We had been continuously broadcasting the People’s Daily editorial all day long. And the news center was jammed with people we didn’t know who came in to tell us about various developments we had no way of checking. One person told me that the government had begun moving troops into Beijing. I didn’t know whether to believe him or not, but late that night when I finally went to bed, I had time to wonder briefly whether I had made the right decision in joining the Preparatory Committee.”
– Shen Tong
“I was in the hospital on the night of April 25th. When I heard the People’s Daily editorial on the radio, I knew everything had gone wrong. I immediately called several leaders and told them that if the government tried to persecute some of the student leaders, it was the Party that would really suffer most of all. I said that if that happened China would be in for a period of serious turmoil. Some of them agreed with me; others told me that I was being simplistic.”
– Chen Yizi, Leading Advisor to Zhao Ziyang
“The Beijing Students Union met again on April 25th. During that meeting the government-controlled radio broadcast the infamous People’s Daily editorial condemning the students movement as “turmoil aimed at overthrowing the government.” I pressed for a rally and advocated marching on the 27th. After heated debate, my proposal was passed by a vote of about 25 to 15. The next day authorities put a tremendous pressure on the various schools to repudiate the march.
But march we did.
We broke through every police barrier peacefully; we gave them no excuse to use force or to criticize us later.
This was why the officials had such a headache over us”
– Wu’er Kaixi