Written by Diane Gatterdam
Twenty-three years ago on this day Friday April 28th 1989, many students that marched the day before to Tiannamen knew it was a slap in the face to Deng Xiaoping and his allies.
“It was as if hundreds of thousands of people in Beijing had thrown cold water in the faces of the leaders and woken them up.”
But the truth was that the Party itself was deeply divided. While all leaders were dedicated to maintaining Party power, and most were in favor of certain kinds of economic and even political reform, some stubbornly resisted any changes that fundamentally altered the status quo. Some leaders thought it a good idea to hold dialogue meetings with the student leaders, but hard-liners thought that by doing that it would only encourage other elements of society such as the workers to establish there own independent organizations in solidarity.
Although Deng was bent on taking severe measures to stop the students, two upcoming events made it inauspicious for him to launch an immediate crackdown.
The first was the anniversary of the May 4th Movement which was the cultural and political Movement that had grown out of student demonstrations in Beijing on May 4, 1919. Students protested the Chinese Government’s weak response to the Treaty of Versailles. FYI, the last Emperor Pu Yi was still living in the Forbidden City, and China was being run by warlords.
The second was the arrival of President Mikhail Gorbachev who was scheduled to be in Beijing on May 4th. With the glare of world’s attention on Gorbachev’s visit, the last thing Deng wanted was to have fighting in the streets, much less Tiananmen Square itself with protesting students.
At Bieda the first formal press conference was held, more than 50 media organizations from different countries filled the 300 seat lecture hall. The students talked about the beatings of April 20th and answered reporters’ questions about the rally the day before. Students put together an eight-page report, and an open letter signed by more than one hundred intellectuals and professors asking the government not to use force against the students. They gave out 80 copies to reporters.
The students were also contacted by Chinese students in New York who wanted to raise funds for them.
Student leaders met later that day and Wu’er Kaixi was made chairman of the Federation. Wang Dan and Feng Congde were both elected to the standing committee.
Wu’er Kaixi called again for an open dialogue between the students and the government and reissued the 7 demands the students had made on April 17th.
He pointed out that the Students’ Federation leaders were in danger of arrest because the authorities had accused them of planning to overthrow the government.
*** Note from Wang Dan April 28th 2010 on Facebook:
“21 years ago today: the Standing Committee of the “Gaozilian” in Beijing decided to officially change its name into “Beijing University Students’ Autonomous Federation”. The original chairman of the organization Zhou Yongjun was removed from office, and Wu’er Kaixi was made the new chairman. Membership of the Standing Committee was to be rotated every 5-7 days. Liu Gang proposed to add Wang Chaohua, a student from the Graduate School of the Academy of Social Sciences, to the Standing Committee. A decision was also made to form a delegation through which dialogue with designated government organizations will be conducted.”