Written by Diane Gatterdam
Twenty-three years ago on this day Wednesday April 26th 1989, the Peoples Daily published the damming speech made by Deng Xiaoping in a front-page editorial titled “Uphold The Flag To Clearly Oppose Any Turmoil.”
Attempting to rally the public behind the government, it accused “an extremely small segments of opportunists” of plotting civil unrest. It called the student protests “a well planned conspiracy”.
Then, it put the students on notice: “Those who deliberately create rumors and spread slander must me held criminally responsible in accordance with the law.”
All day long the government broadcast warnings on the radio and television saying that the rally scheduled for the next day was illegal.
By telling the students to call it off, these warnings actually helped get the word out.
Rumors that the rally was going to be a showdown between students and police were spreading like wildfire at Beida and other university campuses.
That night student leaders met and formulated three new composite demands:
1.They called on the government to meet with student representatives on an equal footing for an open dialogue.
2.They demanded an apology for the police attack outside of Xinhuamen
3.They demanded that the government allowed journalists to cover the student movement in an unbiased manner.
If they didn’t receive immediate response, students would march again on the square.
Deng’s reaction was swift and uncompromising. “ We are not afraid to shed a little blood, or to lose face, since this will not seriously harm China’s image in the world,” he was reported to have told Party leaders.
All night long student leaders met to decide how to proceed for the next day’s rally. Some leaders were told by university heads that if they could persuade the students not to march the government would talk with them. They talked about the possibly of only marching half way to the square (Beida and other big universities are about 30 miles from Tiananmen Square).
Many students thought that this might be the last night of the movement, some shaving their heads and also writing out wills leaving them on Shen Tong’s desk to be published if they didn’t return.
Needless to say no one slept with the anticipation of the next day’s march, which just might be the turning point….
** Note added
Today April 26th 1989, Liu Xiaobo, boarded a plane in New York and flew to Beijing to join the protesters in Tiananmen Square. He has fought for Chinese freedom all these years and today sits in prison for his continued effort.