23 Year Remembrance of Tiananmen Square – May 2nd 1989, Beijing China

Written by Diane Gatterdam


Students mimeographing petitions at Beida

Twenty-three years ago on this day, Tuesday May 2nd 1989, another election for the Preparatory Committee was held at Beida and the newly elected members were: Yang Tao, Xiong Yan, Feng Congde, Chang Jin and Wang Dan.

It was announced over the PA system that these 5 students were now in charge of planning the activities to commemorate May 4th.



21 years ago today: I chaired a press conference held jointly by “gaozilian” (Independent University Student Union) and the “Beijing University students’ Autonomous Federation” at the Beijing University Stadium. We announced our plan to organise a demonstration to commemorate the May Fourth Movement. We also called for a nation-wide student strike. At the press conference I read out a statement to denounce the dialogue held on the 29th of April. Also read out were: “gaozilian’s demands for dialogues”, “a letter to compatriots in Hong Kong” and “a letter to all universities students in China”, etc. I still have in possession a photograph taken at that time. Also captured on the photograph is a person who is now a famous Beida professor. The gaozilian had adopted a petition, which was meant to be submitted the next day. Listed in the petition were these conditions for dialogues:

  1. Student representatives had to be nominated by university students. Previous representatives from the student union and graduate council were not endorsed;
  2. Government representatives had to be party cadres from the ranks of vice chairmen, deputy premieres, Politburo Standing Committee members or above;
  3. Domestic and international journalists would be allowed to conduct live interviews and the meeting would be broadcast live on both Central Television and Central People’s Radio;
  4. Time and venue for this meeting will be set jointly by government and student representatives through consultation;
  5. The result of the dialogue, including the date and venue for the next meeting, will be published in all major newspapers the next day.

The Party Central and the State Council were given until noon on the 3rd of May to respond to the demands listed in the petition. The students reserved their right to demonstrate, should their requests be not granted by the due day.


Wang Dan

The petition was drafted in my dormitory and was finalised after Wang Chaohua had edited it.”

At 2:30 pm on May 2nd 1989, a group of more that 70 students from more that 40 universities presented a petition at the combined “Letters and Visits Bureau of Party Central and State Council” (This office handles appeals and petitions from citizens).


Wang Dan

The petition was immediately forward to the members of the Politburo Standing Committee and to Yang Shangkun. The politburo Standing Committee decided to have Yuan Mu (Spokesperson of the State Council) hold a press conference the next day to counter the student’s demands.

That evening the State Security Ministry reported on some noteworthy developments on the Beijing Campuses, particularly Beida’s Campus:


An announcement was posted that Chinese Students from 16 California Campuses had raided $8,477.00 to contribute to the students’ movement.

A broadcast over the PA system listed a series of political demands:

  • They called Deng Xiaoping’s Four Basic Principles the main obstacle to the Democracy Movement, and urged students to carry out a nationwide demonstration later in the month when Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev arrives in China for the Sino-Soviet summit.
  • Students also demanded that the top leaders should move out of *Zhongnanhai and turn it into a park.
  • Mao’s body should be removed from it’s Tiananmen Square Mausoleum and buried in the **Babaoshan Cemetery.
  • They asked for Tiananmen Square be turned into a place for free speech like London’s Hyde Park.

The state security Ministry reported also that in Shanghai students gathered on their campuses and marched toward Shanghai’s People’s Square, where they conducted a “sit-in,” heard speeches, and presented petitions. About 8000 people demonstrated and in the evening they marched from the square to the ***Bund where they conducted a “sit-in” in front of the offices of the Peoples Municipal Government.


Beautiful complex used to be part of the Forbidden City


Mao’s Mausoleum in Tiananmen Square


Entrance to Zhongnanhai


The Bund in Shanghai

* Zhongnanhai is part of the Forbidden City and was taken over by the Communist Party in 1949. Mao lived there as well as many of the top leaders lived and worked in this part of the Forbidden City.
** Babaoshan Cemetery is where many officials and some Imperial family are buried.
*** The Bund is the riverfront avenue where, at the time major government offices were located.
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