Written by Diane Gatterdam
Twenty-three years ago on this day Monday May 22nd 1989, the waiting game between the students and the government dragged on and the morale of the students started to plummet, and a growing number of students began to abandon the Square.
After 6 weeks of occupation, the Squares hundreds of acres were heaped with deepening piles of trash and garbage.
It’s makeshift shelters tattered and the buses in which the student had been living, were filthy and inhospitable. In the now, ninety-degree heat, the latrine situation had gone from bad to worse.
The Square looked and smelled more like a squatters camp than the headquarters of an idealistic political movement.
Deng Xiaoping’s son Deng Pufang was rumored to have dispatched representatives to the square to warn of another military assault and council protesters to retreat quickly if the wished to avoid bloodshed.
Fearing that the hard-liners would be harsher that ever after their embarrassing failure, and after 2 days of martial law, Wu’er Kaixi made an impassioned speech on the Square urging the students to retreat to the embassy area a dew blocks away for safety.
Although Wu’er Kaixi had been expelled from the Beijing Students Autonomous Federation earlier, most people still regarded him as the public face of that organization.
Wang Chaohua had been working hard in the last couple of days to resurrect the organization as the student leadership.
Wu’er Kaixi left the square and moved to the Jimen Hotel, about ten kilometers west of the Square, which became the new center of activity because many of the intellectuals had moved there.
Wu’er Kaixi and Wang Dan spent most of the their time there now.
The intellectuals were interested in helping set up a secret publishing system to combat the government propaganda should there be a crackdown. They thought that the government would not last more that a few days if people among the country were told about its use of violence against the peaceful students.
Canadian reporters called Shen Tong, as they wanted to interview the student leaders, and when he went to their offices to make arrangements he saw a well-known Chinese television journalist working as a translator there which meant the reporters both Chinese and foreign were continuing to work despite the martial law order.
After suggesting that they interview Wang Chaohua, he went to the Square to look for her, but was told she had left with Wu’er Kaixi and the other Federation students.
While in the Square Shen Tong saw six yellow jacket high tech helicopters, which had been used in the massacre in Tibet, flying overhead dropping leaflets warning the student to evacuate. Everyone was shocked and angered by the loud sounding blades sputtering overhead, and after reading the government leaflets, the students pointed at the helicopters and shouted obscenities.
“I am worried about the square,” Shen Tong said, most of the students left there now are from outside the city. The hunger strikers who monitor the place told me that more than 70% are from out of town. They have no place to go, no plans at all.”
During the day, former hunger strike leaders returned and Zhang Boli suggested that they needed to form a new leadership. He persuaded Wang Chaohua to take her Federation off-site for reorganization and promised her that she would regain the leadership in 48 hours with a stronger Federation.
Meanwhile, he engineered the formation of a “Provisional Headquarters” and installed Chai Ling as the Commander-in-Chief. Indeed, the new headquarters would look exactly the same as the defunct Hunger Strike Headquarters, with Li Lu, Feng Congde, and Zhang Boli acting as the main deputies to Chai Ling.
The student leaders now permanently split.
Beneath the surface appearance of inactivity, the army was busy. Having learned how difficult it would be for unarmed troops to reach Tiananmen Square by way of a frontal assault, military commanders began covertly funneling bands of uninformed soldiers into key locations.
At the same time, undercover operatives were dispatched around Beijing to gather intelligence about the student morale, the locations of barricades, the activities of the new workers federation and the general mood among the populace.
Deng Xiaoping who had made no public appearances since Gorbachev’s departure, was reported to have flown to Wuhan to gather up 200.000 fresh troops and set up a command center in Central China just in case control of Beijing was lost.
His new strategy was to mobilize detachment for all of China’s seven military regions, thereby reducing his reliance on any one group army in which an insubordinate commander might complicate his plans.
The Beijing Government and Martial Law Headquarters issued a joint announcement on May 22, describing chaotic conditions in Beijing and making five requests of the public:
People should dismiss the rumors that the tiny minority of people with ulterior motives were manufacturing. Their goal was to cause chaos.
People from outside Beijing should go home as soon as possible.
Workers of every kind are to remain on duty and concentrate on their work.
All martial law troops should serve their mission and people should cooperate with them.
Traffic police were to stay on duty, and no one else was allowed to establish checkpoints, guide traffic, or set up roadblocks.
Military headquarters issued a letter to all officers and soldiers, extending regards and seeking to boost their morale.
May 22 was also the day that Zhao Ziyang, who still did not know that the Party elders had decided to dismiss him, returned to his office after his three-day leave.
He found no documents to read and no work to do. He had already been cut off from all news of the student movement, martial law, and everything else.
At the same time the Standing Committee of the Politburo has sent out telegrams summoning important provincial leaders to Beijing to hear about Zhao’s dismissal….