Written by Diane Gatterdam
Twenty-three years ago on this day Monday May 8th 1989, no one was pausing for a breath. Every day, around the clock, the meetings went on. Student leaders, both moderate and radical, met to ponder their next steps.
The Standing Committee of the Politburo met in an emergency session. The meeting ended in a shouting match between Zhao Ziyang and Li Peng when Zhao announced that he intended to visit the students in the square. “Do that,” Li Peng warned, “and you will be held responsible for splitting the Party.”
Knowing that the government wanted the class boycott to ended, the Beida Preparatory Committee posted a dazibao (large letter poster) stating five conditions that the authorities should meet before the students would return to classes.
- An apology from the Peoples Daily for its April 26th editorial and a fairer assessment of the student movement
- Recognition by the government of the democratically elected student organizations
- Disclosure by the State Council of official corruption cases and the establishment of a department to investigate and punish the guilty
- The reinstatement of Qin Benli as editor-in chief of the World Economic Herald
- Repeal of the ten requirements that had been imposed by the Beijing municipal government for a permit to demonstrate
Another list of demands was also posted and this was creating problems for the Dialogue Delegation, another indication of how the student leaders of the movement had the same goals most the time, but were unable to organize enough to speak with a united voice.
There were so many groups often going off in different directions, the government couldn’t be sure what they were asking for and who was asking for it.
That afternoon Xiang Xiaoji, Shen Tong and two others went back to the liaison office of the Party Central Committee for their reply. They took a taxi again and again were followed by a crowd of reporters.
This time the head of the liaison office for the Central Committee greeted them.
“We don’t have a reply for you,” he said. “But the government feels that dialogue is good, and we are working toward that.”
He gave them the impression that the government was stalling for the time being, but hadn’t ruled out the possibility of meeting with them. The students also felt that there would have been internal struggle within the Party.
The reporters rushed the group as they left the liaison office and asked what had happened inside.
The student responded with “We have no formal reply” and said they were going back to discuss what to do next.