Beijing Spring, 1989: Confrontation and Conflict: the Basic Documents

By Michel Oksenberg; Lawrence R. Sullivan et al. | Go to book overview
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Polarized China Two Conflicting Views of Beijing Spring

The two documents in this section provide sharply contrasting perspectives on the events of April and May. Document 1 was written by Li Qiao and several participants in the demonstrations, who took their title, "The Soul of China" (Zhongguo zhi hun), from the elegy on Hu Yaobang's Tiananmen funerary wreath. This document presents the student view of developments from the April 15 death of Hu Yaobang until May 16, the third day of the hunger strike. Emphasizing the enormous impact on China of the revolution in international communications, the authors express tributes to Hu Yaobang that contributed to the dismissal of Qin Benli as editor of the liberal Shanghai newspaper World Economic Herald after they were published there. In addition, there are vivid descriptions of the public mourning for Hu Yaobang; the galvanizing effects of the provocative April 26 People's Daily editorial; the exuberance among participants in the April 27 parade that openly defied CPC and even Deng Xiaoping's authority; and, of course, the dramatic impact of the hunger strike. Also included are texts of the May 2 twelve-point petition from the Beijing Autonomous Union of Students setting forth student terms for a dialogue with the government; the May 16 declaration signed by thirty leading intellectuals who favored student demands for freedom of the press; and a letter to the nation and declaration of purpose by the hunger strikers.

"The Soul of China" clearly portrays the spontaneity, courage, and sense of adventure and optimism that characterized the demonstrators before the May 19 proclamation of martial law. The authors of the document do not, as Communist Party leaders claimed, convey any sense of conspiracy or a plan to bring chaos to China. Their patriotism is palpable. Written before martial law and the massacre on June 4, the documents lack the rage toward the regime that followed the

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