23 Year Remembrance of Tiananmen Square – May 21st 1989, Beijing China

Written by Diane Gatterdam

Twenty-three years ago on this day Sunday May 21st 1989, it was clear that most of the troops had been prevented from reaching the heart of Beijing and this news gave a great sense of euphoria to the students in the square. Just before dawn students played Schiller’s “Ode to Joy” from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony over the their public address system at the monument.

Once again the brave people of Beijing held the soldiers at bay on the outskirts of the city.

At day-break, hundreds of thousands of festive people spilled into the streets and milled joyfully though the Square congratulating each other, trading news and passing out leaflets.

But in the student headquarters the mood was different. The situation was critical.

Reports said that the army’s inability to enter the city had infuriated Li Peng, Yang Sangkung and the other old officials. If the army could not enter the city, those at the top would lose face, and a coup against them would be possible.

To show that they were in firm control, they ordered the army to be in the square by 1:00am.

Helicopters circled in the air: several hundred more were reported nearby. Civilian planes stopped flying. All underground transport closed, and the underground trains were used for moving army units.

Over 3,500 soldiers had already gathered in the railway station close to Tiananmen Square, ready to come into the Square that night.

Zhangnanhai received reports detailing unprecedented levels of protest among Chinese students overseas. In the US the Association of the Chinese Students and Scholars went to the Chinese consulate in New York to deliver an open letter urging China to block the impending military crackdown on the student movement.

Two strangers introduced themselves to Li Lu as a professor at the Air Force and a former paratrooper. Both had taken part in the suppression of the Tiananmen Incident in1976, but now they stood on the side of the students. They told him how the Square had been cleared that time, and that there was a big network of tunnels that lead in all directions from the center of the city and leaders could go and in and out at will.

An influx of new supply came to the Square via Hong Kong donations from groups there. Red and Blue tent, food, and other necessities were handed out. The Square became a sea of red and blue.

Chai Ling, Li Lu, Feng Congde and other hunger strike leaders had now taken over as the only student leaders on the Square, the Federation student leaders went back to Beida.

Chai Ling called a meeting that afternoon and discusses preparations for a compete defeat, and if that happened there would be arrests and killings.

They talked about how they would organize more strikes and soon have to go underground. They talked about setting up code names, passwords, and liaison places and would first run to an area within 100 kilometers of Beijing and then further the next day.

After this meeting things became silent as they realized that that they would soon be experiencing life as wanted criminals.

When leaving Li Lu again meet up with his girl friend who had come for Tianjin to find him. He was happy to see her and gave her a long kiss. Chai Ling suggested that they get married right then and there on the square.

The mock wedding was broadcast over the loudspeakers and the students celebrated as a symbol of hope and happiness.

That night the students were expecting the army to move in a 1:00am.

Student leaders had an emergency conference where they agreed that apart from a few key personnel, all would leave and go underground. Lu Li chose to stay, although his new wife was forced to leave with Chai Ling.

As 1:00am came and went the government announced of the loudspeakers that the army would come and clear the Square at 5:00am.

As the students woke, and still no movement by the government on the Square…..


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