Written by Diane Gatterdam
Twenty-three years ago on this day Friday May 26th 1989, even though the square had been fairly quite these past few days, the feeling was of a standoff between the government and the students, nether knowing what the other was going to do next.
“There was an underlying atmosphere of crisis.”
Shen Tong went to the square everyday, going from tent to tent talking to the students.
“I talked to my fellow students, I was encouraged. No one knew what was going to happen, but instead of talking about death, people were talking about building a better life for them and for China. They wanted to move forward from what they had achieved.”
“I was proud of my generation.”
– Shen Tong
Students had set up little camps for themselves, with pillows and blankets and mattresses that had been donated by various sourced. Those on the perimeter tended to have better provisions that those in the center, who were harder to reach.
Many people were reading, some were preparing for the TOEFL exams so they could go abroad to study, others read novels or fliers called “fast news” which were printed by the hunger striker leadership at the monument. A lot of students listened to music on personal stereos, and others brought portable stereos so music was heard all over the square. Two of the most popular singers were Qi Qin and Cui Jian, called the John Lennon of China.
One of the food stations on the Square
After dark brought impromptu concerts on the square, bringing a sense of joy.
In Chai Lings camp, they tried to carry out plans to push for a special meeting of the National People’s Congress, divide the soldiers, launch workers’ strikes, give speeches in other cities, print leaflets and set up a university in the square.
On the Square and on various school campuses, posters announced a new resolution from the Autonomous Federation of Beijing Students about a “Great Global Chinese Protest Day” to held on May 28th.
At Beida a wall poster signed by Wang Dan proposed a prolonged battle to promote democracy in China. Wang called for the formation of four groups of 200 students. The groups would take turns demonstrating on the Square.
On May 26th came the formal dismissal of Zhao Ziyang, but it seemed that the conservatives had lost too, because they were still unable to control the situation.
Shen Tong was right to be proud of his generation