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

By Michel Oksenberg; Lawrence R. Sullivan et al. | Go to book overview

V
The Crisis Begins

The next set of documents covers the period from the April 15 death of Hu Yaobang to the beginning of the hunger strike on May 13. Readers should note that the documents above by Li Qiao et al. (Doc. 1) and Chen Xitong (Doc. 2) also cover this period in some detail. Provided here are ancillary materials referred to in the Li and Chen accounts.

The first document (Doc. 23) is Hong Kong correspondent Lo Ping's account of Hu Yaobang's death. It claims that Hu suffered a heart attack during a heated Politburo meeting on April 8 when either Zhao Ziyang or Li Peng asserted that Hu had "no right to speak" to the policy issue of education then under review.1 This charge was explicitly repudiated, however, in Chen Xitong's report, and by knowledgeable sources inside China. Yet the regime still has not provided a detailed account of Hu's last days. Hu's family and relatives have had difficulty contacting foreign friends and have suffered harassment since June 4. Although Document 23 may not be totally accurate, the conflicting versions of Hu's death all agree that he died of heart failure on April 15, and that he had suffered attacks earlier, in 1987-88. This document thus exemplifies the lively gossip network at the time, which, irrespective of its possible distortions, made Hu into a folk hero and indicated how willingly people accepted reports of villainous behavior by Li Peng and Yao Yilin. The article's possible authenticity is further strengthened by its credible descriptions of procedures at Politburo meetings, which coincide with the way former Politburo members have privately described them. Chen Xitong's explicit condemnation of the rumors surrounding Hu's death also reveals a sense of vulnerability among the postcrackdown leadership to charges they had mistreated Hu.

Document 24 reports on the April 25 meeting of Deng Xiaoping with Li Peng and Yang Shangkun. The intervening events of April 15-25 are fully described

____________________
1
This information comes from sources inside the PRC, who also suggest that Hu Qili--later depo--was the offending party.

-189-

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