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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VII Martial Law

An extraordinary meeting was convened at midnight on May 19 to announce martial law. Document 45 presents the opening speech by Beijing First Party Secretary Li Ximing. Unlike the speeches by Li Peng and Yang Shangkun that follow, Li Ximing's briefing to the gathered political and military leaders was not broadcast on central television, though the same speech is part of the June 3 People's Daily article reproduced in part VIII. Although acknowledging the large scale of the movement, Li Ximing agreed with Deng Xiaoping's earlier characterization of it as a "conspiracy" against the CPC and socialism. For Li, the evidence of conspiracy was everywhere: big-character posters at the universities attacking Deng Xiaoping, socialism, and Marxism; the democratic salons organized by students; and, of course, the purportedly instigating role of Fang Lizhi--the real "culprit" in the eyes of hard-line leaders--who had praised the students' democratic ideas and supposedly exhorted them to take to the streets.1

Like Chen Xitong's later report to the NPC, Li Ximing also discounts the allegations that Li Peng had provoked Hu Yaobang's death, and even the wild rumor that Deng Xiaoping's bodyguards had shot the ex-general secretary. Li stresses the students' attacks on leaders as proof of a conspiracy, but he also recognizes--and denounces--their call for fundamental change, such as the creation of a democratic system and the dismantling of party branches in state institutions--curiously a decision already taken by the Thirteenth Party Congress. For Li and the hardliners, the true cause of the crisis was not the institutional deficiencies of CPC rule, but the machinations of internal enemies, particularly Fang Lizhi, and external agents, such as the Taiwan government and even the United States. The "turmoil" in Beijing--traffic jams, lack of food deliveries, and halts in factory production--was evidence of a giant

Fang had consciously stayed out of the student movement to avoid tainting it, though his wife, Li Shuxian, evidently did get involved.


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